April 5, 2013
Music’s Rising Stars: Braj Mahal
It’s 9 o’clock on a Wednesday evening in a Nashville indie rock club. Twenty or so people are scattered around the bar and floor of the venue. Braj Mahal is about to play its first show ever, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at them.
Braj Mahal is made up of three high school kids, all around 18 years old, who are some of the most professional amateurs you will ever see. Eyes down, focused on playing their songs to perfection, it seems that these guys don’t even notice that they’re doing it. They’re living their dream.
Usually, when you hear about an up and coming artist from around the Nashville area, you think “the next Taylor Swift.” And generally that proves to be true. But every so often, one of these up and comers comes from the other side of Nashville – the grimy, distorted side that has bred acts such as JEFF the Brotherhood and PUJOL. This is where major chords and acoustic guitars are traded for darker tunings, distortion pedals, and anger. This is the grunge and punk scene of Nashville. And it’s a scene these three kids are obsessed with.
Hours upon hours of YouTubing concerts of their favorite bands have served Braj Mahal well. Tonight, on their debut show as a band, they look like they’ve been playing together for years. They are charismatic, comfortable, and engrossing performers. In reality, they’ve only been together about six months.
Members Jack Sheridan, Robin Dey, and Pete Nordlund all share one major trait – they are all fanatical lovers of music. When one of them hears a sound they like, they all latch on to it, obsessively, pumping it through their brains until they go deaf. And when that sound is firmly secure in their cerebellum, they do it again.
As a result, every song Sheridan writes is some collection of his favorite influences. A guitar tone on one track sounds like a Yuck song. Another tune, a crashing, thumping anthem, sounds exactly like something surf punk act Wavves would write. And everything is tinged with just a little bit of his favorite bands, Pavement and Nirvana.
Braj Mahal is the embodiment of a few guys who adore their reference work.
But their music, rather than simply sounding derivative, is re-energized, original, and hopeful.
The band’s debut EP Extra Paranoid, recorded painstakingly and track-by-track in a makeshift studio, does no justice to the energy that comes from seeing the guys play live. There, when amps are pushed to higher frequencies, drums crash and boom with a better sound, and where the vocals are delivered with more emotion, the boundless excitement and intensity of Braj Mahal is on full display. And that is where you can see that these kids are the real deal.
Braj Mahal has played a bunch of shows since that first one. Among them, they have made appearances at a dank, black-lit house show, at a mainstream benefit event, and in a headlining spot at that same premier indie room that they started in.
Every show they grow tighter, perform more songs, and have more fun. And every show, Braj Mahal gets that much better. Do yourself a favor, and if you’re ever in the Nashville area, see this band play live.
And go download their debut EP Extra Paranoid at their BandCamp page!
Image Credit: Braj Mahal