The Brew, hailing from the Massachusetts North Shore suburb of Amesbury, exemplifies the youthful exuberance of a group of teens coming together to play music.
The quartet—Chris and Joe Plante (keyboards/lead vocals bass), Dave Drouin (guitar) and Kelly Kane (drummer)—are all in their mid-twenties and have been playing together since high school.
In 2002, The Brew began to ferment releasing Tea Time followed by Deja Brew in 2004. Frequently gigging, they mixed Brew originals with a choice selection of vintage covers such as the Pink Floyd opus Echoes or Sugar Loaf’s “Green Eyed Lady.” Asked about their early influences, one commonality becomes clear.
“Our parents were into Little Feat, Steely Dan and The Beatles,” says Chris Plante of his parents’ musical tastes.
Drouin’s early exposure to music came via his older sister, “sheer pop music of the mid to late ‘80s,” he says. “She also played Zeppelin and Beatles.” He and Kane worked together scrubbing dishes to a background of classic rock. “That’s where Foreigner and all those bands came from,” he notes in reference to The Brew’s cover of tunes like “Juke Box Hero.”
Adds Kane: “I was brought up on Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Alice in Chains, The Beatles—all that stuff.”
In 2006, the band began to breakthrough as it gigged throughout New England in support of that year’s The Key, winning Relix’s “Jam Off” poll and opening for Bruce Hornsby and The Range.
Upon releasing Back to the Woods in 2008—produced by Hornsby sax man Bobby Reed at White Star Sound just outside of Charlottesville, Va.—the quartet started reaching audiences outside of New England with repeat performances at the moe.down festival and touring throughout the Midwest.
“We were down in Virginia for only eight days and we tracked the first two albums of Triptych in the first two days—one of which started off with an earthquake, a magnitude of almost six,” says Joe Plante of the events last August.
Says Drouin: “We were one mile from the epicenter in Louisa County. And it was like, for one minute, the whole world was falling apart.”
Triptych, as the name suggests, is the bands new triple-disc project that saw them release three CDs in less than three months beginning in November. With very little money and less time, the band worked on the bold project with the help of some of its strongest supporters.
“What’s amazing about the synchronicity of us deciding to do this—and then it actually happening—is great music companies such as Telefunken Microphones, Yamaha pianos, Analysis Plus Cables,” says Chris. “We created our own method [of recording a record] by getting music companies to help us get the gear, get the studio time and get the mastering and the replication.”
In February 2011, the band beta tested several new Telefunken microphones at the company’s studio in South Windsor, Conn. “The whole purpose was driven by research and development needs,” says the company’s Alan Veniscofsky. “We felt like they were a solid, well-rounded band.” In return, when the band went back to White Star, Telefunken provided a stash of microphones.
“The first record of Triptych [A Garden in the Snow] is a little bit more of our acoustic, singer/songwriter, indie, self-produced vibe,” says Chris of the band’s recording history.
“The second [Light From Below] is much heavier, much more like our live show. Literally, we are improvising in the studio and letting whatever happens—as we play live together as a band—stay in the track.”
The third, Hard Enough to Break, he describes as “more meticulous.” “[We looked] at every single part being a perfect hook and fitting in the mix right—a much harder look at the arrangements. It’s basically like pop production.” Not pop like Justin Bieber, he adds, but “pop in the sense of The Beatles.”
There’s that Beatles influence showing up again. If classic rock is slowly being diminished in favor of Top 40 radio, then The Brew is evidence that rock and roll will always live on in the aspirations and dreams of young bands everywhere.
Relix Magazine review of "Electric Opera"
Boston’s The Brew has blossomed into one of the Northeast's finest improvisational rock groups over the past few years. With three CDs already recorded, the quartet has now released Electric Opera, a concert DVD recorded at Portsmouth Music Hall. The high-definition cameras provide rich, crisp footage while the matrix audio recording boasts a loud, clear sound. Highlights include the upbeat, piano laced melody of “Chance Reaching,” the more progressive rocker "Slipping Through The City"—which features eloquent vocals and blazing, wailing guitar solos—and the gorgeous yet heartbreaking dirge "Poison Stone." Electric Opera brings the concert experience of this young but well fermented band home and offers a grand introduction for those not yet familiar to this frothy, progressive rock quartet
Dennis Cook, Jambase review of Back To The Woods
"Sophistication is rare in pop music. You don't reach the lowest common denominator adding complications or nuances. The Brew strike the rare happy balance between catchiness and cleverness, tossing out numbers that wouldn't sound out of place next to the Dave Matthews Band, but making sure much of their work has a creamy thickness (instrumentally, "Looking Down" and "First of Things" could be Steely Dan outtakes, and "Black Train" echoes Joe Jackson on a good day). There's a well-harnessed togetherness to every element on Back To The Woods (self-released), all propelled by dead sturday songcraft, clean production, solid chops and lead singer [Chris Plante's] inviting croon.
The lyrics are almost painfully earnest; the railing of young men against big troubles (often relationship related), but The Brew's utter sincerity carries these sentiments over well. One is reminded of the frothing bile and stiff jaw of early U2, yet delivered with the sugary lilt of someone like The Barenaked Ldies. The Brew is an odd mix in this regard - heavy themes with a very radio friendly delivery. They evoke O.A.R. in their modern romanticism at times, but are far more lyrically successful when they relax a bit, as on the positively intoxicating "Definitions," which brings to mind James Taylor in its primo folk-pop-iness, or the gently experimental title track, which hints at weird depths I'd love to hear them explore."
Jambase review of moedown 9
"Saturday night, the beer tent belonged to one of New England's hottest rock acts, as The Brew served up their blend of classic rock for three sets. And with festival fans already well serviced, their rock went down cold and thick like a finely fermented ale.
"Hunter's Moon" got things started, as fans were settling into what these cats had on tap. Chris Plante's serene vocals and vivid piano led the way while guitarist David Drouin had chops as solid as any young guiar slinger on the scene. Late in their second set with many festival fans drinking it down, the band added its secret ingredient - a wailing cover of Boston's "Foreplay/Long Time" with Drouin an absolute dead ringer vocally for the late Brad Delp - drawing one of the largest cheers of the weekend. The band closed its final set with "Chance Reaching," with dueling guitar and piano and sinewy singing from Plante. Over three rocking sets, The Brew fermented well and turned on a bevy of new fans at moe.down."
Amazon.com fan review of "Back to the Woods"
Archive.org fan review of a Brew live show
"Ever want to get in on a band before they hit? Well here's your chance. The raw talent within The Brew is unmistakable. There are plenty of "wow" moments to appease the biggest head, yet their logical syncopation should be enough to tame the most technical critic."