After a rather slow May of new material from the Buffalo music community, June will see things get back on track, starting this weekend with the release show for "Disposable Friends," the new EP from the Tom Burtless-fronted synth pop act, Humble Braggers.
Set to drop via busy local label Admirable Traits, "Disposable Friends" is a polished collection of songs that pulls influences from electro-pop/rock acts of both past and present, which up until a few years ago was a very different sound to Burtless' musical tastes. Burtless, who has been playing guitar and performed in bands since he was about 13, explains his musical journey.
"Emo music was my jam at that age, so all of my bands up until Humble Braggers had some roots in that genre. Through the Looking Glass was my first 'real' band at 18 and lasted about a year with a few EPs and shows under our belts," he says.
"The music I listened to between that band and the next varied greatly. I started heavily listening to Radiohead, Phoenix and Washed Out, broadening my horizons with new genres and bands I would’ve skipped over prior to 2010. My next band, Streamside, lasted about a year as well, with a few shows and songs released. I joined All Blondes Go to Heaven shortly after that, which split about three or four months later."
With the shouty angst of Burtless' past projects behind him, the musician and web designer (Burtless handles web maintenance, design and production of brother Donnie's popular Buffalo Eats blog) sought to rebrand his sound from organic to electronic.
"I knew I wanted to change my musical focal point," he admits. "I started getting into keyboard tones and felt excited playing with huge-sounding synth pads and electric pianos. I started writing songs in a different way, layering keyboard sounds first and then building the rest of the song on top of them. It was a new experience and a new way of thinking."
As Burtless holds down the reins of Humble Braggers, the close, supporting cast of backing musicians has remained busy both in and out of the group, focusing on their own young individual side projects while lending a hand or two to others.
Bassist Corey Bzibziak: "I'm trying to pilot a surf-rock(ish) project called Dreambeaches among other things. We have our first shows booked for summer and an EP on the way."
Guitarist/keyboardist Bryan Zells: "I write, play and sing for two other projects. One is titled Hokan, which, genre wise, is a sort of mash-up between folk and alternative, with a bit of an experimental edge."
Guitarist Jake Galenski: "My main musical project outside of Humble Braggers is my own solo material which I just play under my name, Jacob Peter. I play for various blues acts around town when I'm needed and I also play bass in Corey’s project."
Drummer Gabe Wells: "I play drums in two other bands, Dreambeaches and Jacob Peter. Each band has its own vibe, and that's what makes one unique from another."
While each supporting member of Humble Braggers has another musical outlet to stay occupied, Burtless carries the creative load when it comes to the writing/recording process for the project, something that the rest of the band favors and supports, especially when keeping over a half dozen bands set apart.
"It's easy to keep the projects separate because Tom basically does it all himself; writing, recording, everything," Galenski says. "We respect that and let him do his thing, and he does the same for us. It's awesome and humbling to see someone take the bulk of a project and really run with it and I'm happy to be a part of it."
Bzibziak added, "Spending the time to flesh out our own ideas keeps Humble Braggers fresh and buzzing."
"He is at the helm when it comes to writing," Zells echoes. "Because I'm consistently writing for the other projects I work on, playing with Humble Braggers is cathartic in a way, because it provides me with an outlet where there is little pressure to constantly create, while still allowing for expression while playing. It's a good gig."
Speaking of that buzz, see what's it all about this weekend as Humble Braggers celebrates the release of "Disposable Friends" at 8 p.m. Saturday in Mohawk Place, 47 E. Mohawk St. Support will come from a trio of Western New York acts in Sea Planes, THICK WINTER BLUD and Sixties Future. The $8 cover will also include a copy of Humble Braggers' EP. Further details can be found here.
"The inspiration for Humble Braggers comes from all over the place," Burtless explains. "The synths and vocals of M83 and Tears for Fears. The guitar tones and rhythms of Foals. The writing and melodies of Radiohead. Its a big jumble of influence between a lot of bands, but those have been at the top for a while now. I feel any band that I latch on to for an extended period of time will end up as inspiration."