The Long Lost Is Here: The David Bronson Interview Part One
The thing about Brooklyn Bowl is that the nightclub lives up to its name. The main stage area is large, rangy, with long tables to the side of the floor, wings and burgers being served over the sound of bowling pins being dropped, and somewhere in the center is a stage maybe twice the size of Piano’s. At first, as you speak with friends before the band goes on, the sound of rolling and crashing are like a personal rhythm section to your conversation, and later, if you let your attention turn from the bandshell to the alleys, you can hear the pins again like the roll of the dice.
One Saturday in September, David Bronson and his seven piece band were drawing attention away from the games in motion, during the release party for The Long Lost, this year’s prequel to 2012’s Story. If you thought you were getting a showcase for the new album, the first of a two part piece about love and art (and rock and roll), you weren’t. A couple of months after the show David Bronson broke it down, “It was the first time I’d played a venue of that size, of that scale, and I loved it, I was having the time of my life. A lot of people were there, it was excellent and I couldn’t ask for a better show. Everyone I spoke to afterwards – you know when people are feeling it or not – we felt it from the stage, everyone was loving it.” In response to my suggestion that, at a previous, more low-key show I attended last year, he came off as somewhat more friendly to the audience, David replied, “Friendlier? I don’t know, obviously there’s a lot more going on with a seven piece band, and you’re doing your best to keep it all on track, and it was also probably a better thing that I appeared less friendly because I was probably less self-conscious and that will always be better. That’s what I want to be all the time. “
Bronson does self-conscious, a prodigiously gifted songwriter who has spent the past decade recording, arranging, writing and re-writing what is simultaneously his magnum opus and his first work, the 30-something guitarist thinks all the time, thinking is what he does. “That comes with always learning, constantly consuming art. Every medium, every type, which is what I live for. That’s one side, the other is love, that’s all there is to me. So I’m constantly taking it in and I’m trying to take in good stuff. All good stuff, mostly good stuff and anything not good is research: that’s where I don’t want to go. With everything, if I’m reading a book, if I’m listening to a song, if I’m watching a movie, whatever it is, if I’m reading an article, when I say I’m always editing that’s what I mean. And I’m not doing it actively necessarily, in the front of my mind consciously.”
Bronson looks like Patrick Stickles, and they both have the intellectual rocker in them, they both think themselves into quandaries of faith and love and art and then try to write their way out of them. But Stickles keeps to the book of art whereas Bronson sees the thing morphed into arrangements where every ring of a string means something. The Long Lost Story is the search for art in love and loss: “I wrote The Long Lost Story mostly in my early 20s and a little bit in my mid 20s. The first song I wrote back in college, the first iteration of it, and it just evolved. That’s why I called it that, I think of it like the lost years of my life in a lot of ways, emotionally and also productively speaking.
“It’s the story of a failed romance, the narrative part of it, and that’s what happened, but I think the essence of it is a young person and a young artist learning how to negotiate pain and how to grow from that. I was with this person for a bunch of years, but emotionally almost a decade. She was my first love, my first everything, I was in love with her before we were together and I was in love with her after we were together. I saw her just before Story was released; I don’t know if she knows I wrote it for her but I think she probably does. But I didn’t write it for her, I wrote it about her, sort of, to some extent, but I wrote it for myself. I wrote it because I had to get it off my chest and I wrote it because it was therapy for me, it was how I coped with everything, and I wrote it to be an artist.“
If this is all a little James Joyce, I can see more of Gustave Flaubert in it; God and the devil in the intricate detail of Bronson’s progressive folk-cum-hard rock, but also every second placed in order, the way life is too lazy and messy to ever be. Bronson spent his twenties working through The Long Lost Story and simultaneously living his life: “I didn’t play live for almost a decade. When you became aware of me, that’s when I stepped out into the public from that interior cocoon. At the end of that time I was a video editor but I did all sorts of jobs during that ten year period. I was a Pre School teacher, and I went to art school. I got a dual masters degree, I got my MFA in Film and Video –which has come in handy as you can see on my Youtube page, and Art History, which I have always loved – I’m still one credit away: I never wrote the paper. To this day one of my favorite things is being in museums. To me it’s all the same thing.“
The songs for The Long Lost are mostly a decade old now: “Except for “Stay In Touch” which was one of the last things I wrote. There was a reason for it. I was consumed with the album, I mean I had flow charts and everything, but there wasn’t a song that explicitly vented the anger that I had. That was missing. And that was such a big part of the whole thing, that vehemence, my feeling of it. And I don’t know if I would ever, or could ever write another song like that, I don’t know if it’s in me anymore. I don’t think it is, and that’s good I think, because I wouldn’t want to be in that place again.
“But even that being said, there is something I am very consciously aware of and that is that all the songs, at the core of it – it’s in the bridge of that song, at the end of that song – there is hope in there and a knowing, a self-awareness. It’s a very self- conscious anger. I know there’s the venting and whatever it is I say in that song, but then there’s another, a second level of awareness and that is the human perception in all of us that knows ‘I’m also accountable’ and it’s not just the other person but there is a relationship there, and there is an awareness of that. The whole double album, especially The Long Lost… I remember writing these songs a decade ago: The Long Lost is younger, earlier, angrier, more youthful, more childish, intentionally kinda arrogant. There was the bravado of a young songwriter I think and that’s appropriate, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve changed.”
Essentially it is a trip into artistry, it is exactly what its composer is becoming: an artist. “The Long Lost Story was the first time I felt like I was an artist, that I had something valuable and worthwhile, and actually necessary that I had to express. It just took a long time.“
Which brings us almost up to date. In part two we will discuss Bronson’s work habits, videos, and his love album!