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Wednesday 28th September, 2011 11:37AM

Hailing from Dunedin, Brown is the brain-child of Michael Cathro. Known for his clever and insightful commentary in an charming kiwi accent, he has gathered a couple of members to become a three piece who have been touring the country over the past weeks with Alizarin Lizard.  Here's what Cathro had to say for himself in a recent interview with Pagan Cowan.

First of all, for anyone that doesn’t know, who’s in Brown and what do they do?

Brown at it's core is Michael Cathro on guitar/vocals, Benjamin Sargeant plays drums and Paul Cathro on bass/vocals.

You’ve been amongst the Dunedin music scene for a while now, but how did you form?

Brown formed initially as a solo project called Baraka and the Finish Hims and I dispersed the Finnish Hymns EP amongst friends. After getting some positive feedback I decided that some of the songs warranted live performance, and since Paul and Ben are the most available guys I know, it was easy enough to rouse them for a practice every couple of weeks.

Your music stands out from most other bands, how does your song writing process usually go?

Usually something I've been reading will influence an idea for a song, or something I've been mulling over for a while will present itself as a line which I can use in a song. Sometimes fiddling around with a chord progression, an idea will come from the music. Otherwise I grate cheese from a height and sometimes the gratings form words which I use for verse lyrics.

What’s the best or most memorable gig you’ve played (here or overseas)?

At a gig I was playing in Cork I was taking a break between sets when a street bum sidled up to me and asked for a cigarette and where the nearest bottle shop was. I gave him a cigarette and some detailed directions to the finest purveyor of takeaway alcohol all the while admiring his lack of teeth. A man followed closely behind him in a suit giggling and carrying shopping bags from a couple of reasonably upmarket clothing stores. We got talking a bit more and the bum informed me he had just bought a racehorse but wasn't sure whether it was any good or not. I enquired about his activities further and he told me he was a poet. I asked him to come in and do a piece over the mic, he said he was just pleased to be allowed in and served a pint. He got up and brought the house down. Afterwards I busted him speaking fluent French with some tourists and he gave me half a pack of cigarettes he bought from the machine. Turns out the suit was his driver. It's between that and getting bottled after our first ever gig. 

Your songs have strong Dunedin themes, how did this translate with overseas audiences?

I was surprised with how well the songs were received considering the heavy references. Often I would explain names or stories behind the songs just to set a context but didn't find that it was necessary. It seems people are just open to hearing stories. If you can give them enough character or tap into some universal concern then the location becomes the hallway.

Two of your members, Ben (Drums) and Paul (Bass) are also in Alizarin Lizard with whom you are currently touring, how is it for you guys simultaneously touring two bands?

Paul and Ben seem to be coping pretty well with playing two sets a night most nights on the tour so far. It means we don't have to switch the kit over between sets as Ben is a left handed drummer. It also means we take up less floor space when we're sleeping.

The Alizarin Lizard guys have things pretty well worked out. This makes it easy for someone like me to come in and tag along.

You’ve recently added a fourth member, Singer from Dunedin band Sex with Bowie, on guitar. What was the motivation behind this decision and will brown remain a four-piece after the tour?

We are touring as a 3-piece but we wanted to see what we could do with some new textures and whether it would benefit the songs to have another guitarist. Logan is a very dynamic player with great perspective. We played a couple shows as a 4-piece in Dunedin before we left on tour.

What made you decide against the usual acoustic set for this tour?

Since I've been back we have pretty much been playing that way exclusively. I think it lends a new bent to some of the songs and fills them out a bit more. We've done the odd acoustic gig on tour but playing this way also means it leads more logically into an Alizarin Lizard set.

Who are you musically inspired by and why?

The music that our friends make tends to be the biggest motivator for productivity.

What do you do for leisure? Either as a band or individually, besides making music?

Tour exercise involves a bit of backyard cricket, otherwise Ben has some weird obsession with pi and motorsport and Paul likes to go to the airport and watch people in the throes of pure emotion. I like The Wire.

What can we expect from Brown in the future?

We are recording another album when we return from this tour and possibly some form of video. We have a couple of other secret things sewn into the hem of our underwear that we're not ready to show you yet. 

Pagan Cowan


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