Local indie rockers Humble Braggers haven’t been around for long, having debuted in July 2013, but they’ve already caught some recognition. The track “What’s Fair,” off their first EP, Safe Haven, was featured on WLKK 107.7FM, Buffalo’s new alternative station. We asked frontman Tom Burtless to answer some questions so we could learn more about what Humble Braggers is all about.
Samantha Wulff: When would you say your interest in creating music began?
Tom Burtless: I started playing music when I was 8, and it has stuck around ever since. I picked up the guitar when I was about 12 or 13, and started writing full songs when I was 14 (they are all terrible and hidden on the internet somewhere).
How did Humble Braggers come to be?
I started writing the songs for Humble Braggers in late 2012, but shelved them when I joined All Blondes Go to Heaven. After that band took a hiatus, I started recording my first EP, Safe Haven. I wanted something I was in control of, so I took to writing and recording each part myself. After putting it out in July of 2013, a few friends of mine (namely Corey and Gabe who play bass and drums in the band) said they would help me out with playing live gigs. Since then it has evolved into a band, with all three of us contributing to the writing and developing of the music, along with breathing some new life into the songs I had originally created.
What is the significance of the name?
Honestly, it came out of conversations with my brother. I know 'humble brag' is a pretty popular term (also a really popular unrelated twitter account), but I was writing the music for the first EP during a time where I felt I was surrounded by people who did nothing but humble brag. After tossing around a few names, Humble Braggers just seemed to be the greatest fit.
How would you describe your sound?
Our sound is partially reflective of 80's pop, mixed in with some modern touches. I like to run with a lot of ambience on our key, vocal, and guitar sounds. For drums and bass, we tend to keep it pretty tight to hold the songs together. Each song puts out a spacey, atmospheric sound, but doesn't get lost in it.
What do you hope to accomplish with Humble Braggers?
I hope we can build a good local following and play a bunch of shows. Right now I don't think we're trying to overthink it too much. We're promoting what we have as much as we can and seeing what comes along. As we have more material, we'll push that much harder. I also hope that we can build a scene with other local musicians that have a similar sound.
Do you have a favorite song that you've produced?
I kind of have this thought that every new song we record should make me think, "This is the best song I've ever been a part of." So right now, I would say that “Say” is probably my favorite song so far. “What's Fair” is a pretty close second. However, we have some new songs in the works that are already pushing those out of my top spots.
Who are your biggest influences?
I would say Thom Yorke and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have been my top two for quite some time. Radiohead and The Mars Volta have always challenged me to be a better songwriter and musician. Foals is a pretty close third, and a somewhat recent addition to my list. Their two most recent albums have impacted my music profoundly. My mom, brother, dad, family, girlfriend, roommates, and friends have all played a substantial role in the music I make.
When will you go back to the studio?
As of right now, we're hoping to go back in the studio in June. We're finishing up two new songs that will be on a split EP with my bass player Corey's other band, Below the Neck. We're hoping these two new songs will put out a somewhat happy summer vibe. The last EP, Say, has a lot of dark tonality to it, so we thought it would be fun to contrast that in this new release.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
What's the best show you've ever played and what made it so?
I think I would have to say that the best show I ever played was when I was 19 in a band called Through the Looking Glass. It was the first time I had ever played an actual venue and we had a bunch of friends out to see us play. There's YouTube footage of it out there and it makes me cringe every time I watch, but playing on an actual stage was both terrifying and amazing at the same time. The night ended in sweat drenched clothes, a mosh pit, and Mighty Taco.
Samantha Wulff is a student at Buffalo State College and former Spree intern.