Introducing "The Bridges"
Based on a “mini interview with Brittany Painter of
plus a live performance In Nashville & lots of time listening to their music.
By Robin Merritt
for ArtFRONT Publishing & Presentations
Oct. 13, 2006
Southern Power Pop group “The Bridges” are stirring up passionate interest wherever they show up. It’s little wonder when a fresh new band has great songs, good looks, youth and the kind of musical skills which should earn them respect all across the age demographic board. Listening to the Bridges leaves me hoping this level of skill will become a new trend among the next generation of young musicians. Before any unwitting wag tries to label them a “girl” band in the same vein people refer to pre-manufactured “boy bands,” know that this organic unit has been in development since exiting the womb.
In the tradition of some of the most successful family musical units of the last century, the Bridges initial knockout punch consists of their incredible vocal harmonies which blend together in a manner only genetic predetermination can produce.
The Bridges have been tapped for production by Matthew Sweet, who is wrapping up mastering their newest E.P. in his Los Angeles studio where they recorded during the last week of Sept. ’06. Matthew Sweet learned of The Bridges through their mutually shared manager, Russell Carter Artists’ Management, who also represents several highly recognized names such as The Indigo Girls, Shawn Mullins, The Jayhawks, & Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles..
The band is made up of Brittany Painter, the primary songwriter and lead singer and her four first cousins. Multi instrumentalist Natalie Byrd provides a strong instrumental foundation, switching out keyboards and acoustic guitar and adding in a second vocal harmony. Then edge in beautiful Stacey Byrd on electric guitar and a third vocal harmony part. The youngest member, Isaaca Byrd looks impressively like a 16 year old’s fantasy onstage with her shiny black bass guitar and a fourth vocal part. Brother Jeremy Byrd plays drums and is reportedly breaking out some of his own folk tinged songs. Brittany & Natalie are the eldest of the group at age 22.
The family ties obviously give a lot of support necessary to nurture this level of talent. Brittany often joined her cousins for holiday gatherings where music was always in the forefront. She began writing melodies and lyrics on guitar and during her senior year of high school she moved from North Carolina to Oxford Alabama to form the band, which was originally called “Long Story Short.” The songwriting is now a true collaboration between Natalie, Brittany & Jeremy.
The Bridges have played high quality venues such as Eddies Attic, Smith’s Olde Bar & The Loft in Atlanta. They’ve also performed at Workplay Theatre in Birmingham, Radio Café in Nashville (where I saw them perform along with Harrison Hudson,) and as far south as Florida with an appearance at Birmingham’s City Stages Festival and even Six Flags Over Georgia all within their first year and a half of forming the band.
Their recordings at this early stage of their careers consist of one very impressive 7 song E.P. produced by family friends of the Byrd siblings, whose parents are also musicians. And just recently, five new songs were recorded by Matthew Sweet in his own studio in Los Angeles. A live version of one of their songs “To Whom it May Concern” which was apparently recorded on a handheld video cam at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta was briefly posted online. “Sista Otis” of the Award winning Detroit band “The Wholly Rollers” was in my office a few weeks ago and I played this “bootleg” recording for her and we both were completely floored by the quality of the performance and the vocals. At that point I was sold on getting them to come to Chattanooga and play a show for the ArtFRONT series.
According to Brittany, everyone involved in their latest recording project with Matthew Sweet is a big fan of the production style of the later Fleetwood Mac records, which they are trying to approximate in sound quality on these new recordings. Hopefully if this endeavor goes well they will be going back into Mathew Sweet’s studio to finish out a complete album. But during October they will be back at their home base in Oxford AL and on Oct. 21st they will be coming to Chattanooga to play for us at Barking Legs Theatre where the ArtFRONT people will be working hard on getting together one of their sparkling clean sound mixes for this very deserving group of musicians & singers.
I asked which other bands they’ve been listening to. Brittany lists current favorites, some of whom they’ve recently been performing alongside as, “My Morning Jacket.” “The Films,” Simon Dawes, Keane, Cold Play, The Killers, Damien Rice, “Dove,” Modern Skirts, Aqualung, & Harrison Hudson. And of course their musical families opened the door early on to more classic rock influences such as The Beatles, CSNY, Simon & Garfunkle, Mommas & The Poppas, “Queen” and especially Fleetwood Mac.
This is what rock n roll was supposed to be before all the trash & flash elbowed in way back in the early days…Thank God that it did, I couldn’t imagine my early life without Jumping Jack Flash & Street Fighting Man but somehow that movement negated this next level of musical evolution for about 30 years, the shiny clean, Pantene sheen of a wholesome big family rock opera.
In today’s ambiguous cultural climate we can be thankful to God and the church for giving rise to family enterprises enthusiastic about providing support to a brood of musically gifted offspring, rather than trying to subjugate and crush out their fire the way the original 60’s generations parental units did, thus causing all the rebellion & turmoil that gave us Iggy Pop instead of Power Pop. This is a band that the young generation can love and their parents will approve of, at least for now. And as a real bonus they are all creative, inventive musicians, artists at an early age, floating their listeners on a shimmering wave of aesthetic vocal harmony bliss. Chill-bumps anyone?
ã Robin Merritt, Oct. 13, 2006
Go to www.ArtFRONT.com