Be Brave Bold Robot
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Be Brave Bold Robot

Sacramento, CA | Established. Jan 01, 2008

Sacramento, CA
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter

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Moving on to Friday night, I'm so pleased to announce the return of Be Brave Bold Robot to Humboldt County. Reviewers apply the "singer-songwriter" label so easily without much regard for lyrical quality, so when someone like Dean Haakenson, a writer who actually understands and excels at the craft, comes along, wordplay-loving hearts leap in appreciation. The easy comparison, soundwise, is Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers — Be Brave Bold Robot's music emanates from an ethereal place, interlaces strands of love, humor and slyness together into a folk pop delight. - North Coast Journal, The HUM


While Be Brave Bold Robot is no doubt popular in its hometown, Sacramento, it's a shame the rest of the country hasn't discovered it yet, especially with bands like Mumford & Sons—which it sounds somewhat like—being so popular right now. But BBBR has too many other musical influences to draw such a direct comparison, not to mention that Dean Haakenson's lyrics might be a bit too sophisticated for the average Mumford & Sons fan. His songs expresses complex, yet heartfelt ideas by utilizing poetic word jumbles and philosophical meanderings. Its best song, “Gridlocked,” will get you choked up as you ponder your own existence on the planet. - Sacramento News and Review, APR 18 2013


The thing Be Brave Bold Robot has that few other bands have is a killer sense of chemistry. Dean Haakenson sings in a wavering, unsure voice—full nerves and intellect—as Brian Jackson (keys) watches him, trying to figure out what the hell he’s going to do next. Is Haakenson going to sing the next verse like a regular musician, or will he stop playing altogether and start in on a neurotic diatribe like a man with a microphone and too much on his mind? Either way is fine with the audience. As Haakenson rambles happily through fully-endearing, mostly expository songs, Heather Phillips sings in the background while seemingly trying to choke back laughter. With each BBBR show, one gets the feeling it must be hard to concentrate with Haakenson in your band. But that’s not to say BBBR isn’t serious; in fact, it’s their lack of seriousness that makes them so damned earnest. Their jovial personal interplay carries over into the communication of their instruments, which is at once playful and complex; watching BBBR is akin to watching a group of drunk hummingbirds. And Haakenson, under a thin sheet of madness, displays an interesting voice and a profound set of lyrics—whether sung, muttered or screamed out loud—that resonates. Think Dave Matthews with a few espressos and a glorious sense of humor. As a whole, there’s a certain laziness to BBBR songs, yet they don't slouch; they’re simply reserved and they know how to make light of any situation. And all that earnest joy balances quite nicely, especially in a room full of very serious people. - The Sacramento News and Review JUNE 2008 by Josh Fernandez


Be Brave Bold Robot, Once a Member, Always a Member

Words by Blake Gillespie • Photo by Wesley Davis

Not many bands sport a badge of longevity inching toward eight years, but plenty of musicians can include their names in the pages of Be Brave Bold Robot’s local history. With roughly 23 former players fondly dubbed “Forever Members,” BBBR is a staple in the folk scene for good reason. If mad scientist, Dean Haakenson, hears you can play an instrument and likes you as a person, you can write your way into his project…forever.

My night with Be Brave Bold Robot did not begin with an unsettling ride to West Sacramento in Haakenson’s Technicolor Volkswagen Bug, but a few points of interest are worth a mention prior to him offering a lift in his shrunken, two-seater Partridge Family bus of a VW. As follows: I snuck into an empty warehouse along with the band and a photographer for a photo shoot. Cut my hand lifting a giant disco ball. There was a potato sack race. Haakenson sweated through two shirts. No one discovered us. No one was handcuffed or fined for trespassing. No vandalism occurred. My palm only bled for a minute.

But in Haakenson’s gutted and rusted VW, I sat shotgun to a man who rolled down the driver side window with a pair of pliers and casually talked of how his car, a present from his mom, stalled regularly as we took the Highway 50 on-ramp headed toward West Sacramento. I thought of the band’s moniker as he shimmied the VW into traffic and it strained its way to the speed limit. Be brave.

We arrived safely to Haakenson’s home, and I was ready for a beer, for there is no finer way to gain a stranger’s trust or settle one’s nerves after relinquishing your own fate into his hands. Haakenson and his drummer Michael Ruiz claimed two of the four mysterious wheelchairs on the back patio—why does one man have so many? The rest of us (bassist Matty Gerken, viola player Catie Turner and saxophonist Jacob Gleason) sat in metal chairs or benches with microbrews in hand. Like all interviews, the awkward phase deteriorated and stories were flung freely, which led to how one becomes one of those Forever Members listed on Facebook. Over the years Haakenson developed a simple criterion: play four shows. It may take four consecutive shows, or it could take eight years, but until you’ve played four you are not an official Forever Member.

“It’s a credit to Sacramento to have so many people I’ve met over a number of years join me,” he said and he was right.

To my left sat Jacob Gleason, soft spoken most of the night, but he was first to share his admiration for Dean that led to joining Be Brave Bold Robot. It began with loving the first self-titled record and led to Gleason “[bugging] Dean enough that he finally started letting me play with him.” Going around the table, Catie Turner joined after seeing BBBR live and striking up a post-set conversation with Haakenson, who upon learning she played viola gave her a recording and let her write herself into the music. She’s been a member since.

“He was like, ‘You should play on my record,’ and I said, ‘You’ve never even heard me play,’” she recalled.

“It’s a Dean thing,” she said. “He’s so hands off. He didn’t know me, didn’t know my playing. It was unlike any experience I’ve ever had with an organized band.”

Matty Gerken offered an anecdote on the BBBR’s rotating cast: “One time we played a show at Sac State and in order to play that show we needed to have one Sac State student in the band. So we brought in Chuck; good student, he’s from Iowa, like me. He had enough parts in the songs to get us qualified to play. He was a member for one show.”

Gerken saw Be Brave Bold Robot play based on the name. He caught a Fox and Goose show, went to an after party with the band, which resulted in him mastering the first record. “I sort of learned all the songs from listening to them over and over while mixing them,” Gerken said. “When Tommy [Minnick] the former bass player decided he didn’t want to play anymore, I said, ‘Well, I know all the songs incidentally.’”

Haakenson’s lackadaisical approach stems from understanding his friends and band mates have their own lives and careers. Without the pressures of commitment, being in a band can always be as fun as it sounds. No one’s government job is at risk, no one’s missing PTA meetings and no one’s on heroin to deal with the pressure of stardom. Members come and go and come back again when they have time or miss the fun of being in BBBR.

“It changed my life here,” Turner said, who hadn’t played in a band since leaving San Francisco.

Haakenson exudes gratefulness beyond his once a member, always a member attitude. The tape recorder clicked; side A was over. With everyone in good spirits, we agreed to call it and begin band practice. While guitars were tuned and more beers were emptied into mason jars, Haakenson handed me a copy of 2010’s Take a Deep Breath. He directed me to the living room where - Submerge Magazine OCT 2012


To be honest, when I first started receiving e-mails about the band Be Brave Bold Robot, I assumed that it was some kind of electro-pop band. I pictured men in astronaut outfits playing keyboards in a shtick-heavy Devo rip-off band, perhaps a “hot” green go-go dancer on the sidelines à la Star Trek.

So, I’ve done a pretty fine job of avoiding seeing Be Brave Bold Robot for a long while now. Matthew Gerken, from local math-rock outfit Nice Monster, finally clued me in on how good Be Brave Bold Robot truly is and assured me that the band members don’t generally wear astronaut costumes (at least, not in public). Be Brave Bold Robot is a roots-rock band at heart, but this element is sometimes obscured by chord and tempo changes that are the musical equivalent of a verbal non sequitur.

Early last week, Be Brave Bold Robot brought its music to the California State University, Sacramento, campus, where the band played in a small, unobtrusive room in the University Union for a Communications Club mixer. There was free soda, free pizza and nary an astronaut costume in sight (although one of the opening acts, a group from Arcata, dressed up like superheroes).

Be Brave Bold Robot is not necessarily easy to understand. To do so, one must sink into the mind of Dean Haakenson, and that means reading the postmodern scribbling of assorted maniacs, for although Be Brave Bold Robot the band is relatively new, Be Brave Bold Robot the zine is not.

Haakenson’s zine has been circulating quietly for a number of years, publishing material too harsh, witty, ironic or intelligent for the mainstream media. Samples can be found at www.bebraveboldrobot.org (which is also the band’s Web site). Therein, brave, bold readers will find Dennis Yudt’s superb dressing down of Alanis Morissette. It’s worth your time.

Haakenson is the guiding force of both the band and the zine. Haakenson’s a giant, heavily sweating, bearded man who belts out the songs with a kind of desperation that makes it difficult to turn away, and his music is both interesting and emotional, riding the edge between dynamic complexity and straightforward rock.

When the band was at its best (which was often at the CSUS show) the sound was something akin to the Counting Crows covering Frank Zappa, or like Calexico performing the collected works of Les Claypool. There’s plenty of Arizona “desert core” sound in Be Brave’s sonic pallet, but it doesn’t hammer on it enough to make it ridiculous. This is good music, and you should hear it.

I ran into Charles Twilling at the show and received an update on the progress of Junta. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Twilling’s new all-ages music venue is still not open. Twilling was hesitant to offer any real insight into when the club will open, mostly because he doesn’t seem to know himself. The permit process is apparently long and rather arduous, but let’s hope the venue is up and running by the start of 2006. It’s about time we had all-ages music in Midtown again, and Junta’s a bit closer--in terms of build-out--than the new True Love Coffeehouse.

- The Sacramento News and Review


It's a Sunday afternoon at McKinley Park, and it's 114 degrees. A group of mostly out-of-shape musicians are in the middle of a weekly whiffle-ball game. The air is hot, the grass is hot, the dirt is hot, and the skinny yellow whiffle-ball bats are hot. The cheers and splashing at the community pool about 50 yards away spread through the park. The sign above the pool entrance reads “Everyone Pays.” On this day, they’re all paying in the heat.

Dean Haakenson is on the mound, winding up to throw a whiffle pitch. Haakenson, the leader of local band Be Brave Bold Robot, sweats like ducks quack. A long, bushy beard dominates his features. He looks like Walt Whitman in his 20s with his lumbering walk, a smile underneath the beard and the seemingly inevitable yawp. Before pitching to one batter, Haakenson yells, “Did you just get out of prison? Then you’ll know what this feels like.” He’s a mixture of confidence and nerves, and it’s reflected in his music, so let’s back up.

Be Brave Bold Robot--which generally features a rotating lineup--anchors its sound on non-rock rhythms with drums and Haakenson’s ever-present acoustic guitar. In that way, the band resembles a reggae version of the Counting Crows--especially on “Keep the Women Happy,” a song it recently performed live at the 2006 Sammies. The surprises come when Haakenson incorporates unexpected instrumentation, such as the vibes on “Those Things” (recorded live in KDVS’ Studio A and available at www.bebraveboldrobot.org). As Haakenson put it, “I like discordancy amidst the pretty.”

In another way, Haakenson evokes Mike Doughty when he raps through “The $1000 Grape Drive By,” a track that could be on Soul Coughing’s Ruby Vroom. It’s the rapid-fire lyrical pattern over rock with a dash of hip-hop that begs the comparison. Haakenson’s lyrics, like those on “Gamma Rays,” sometimes border on the silly: “She don’t believe in spankings ... but he’s never scared of pancakes.”

“I love stories,” Haakenson said. “I love short stories and how certain arrangements of words can make a much greater impact than other arrangements of words. Maybe one strikes emotional chords, and one paints a clearer picture in the mind’s eye.” But his music is a reflection of his personality, so let’s back up.

Earlier, at a Saturday night before a Be Brave Bold Robot show at the Fox & Goose, Haakenson fidgeted at a table. His legs jumped up and down as he sat. He sweated. He talked like Jack Kerouac wrote--a refreshing stream-of-consciousness prose--and ordered a round of tequila shots.

When asked about the origin of the band name, he recalled that the phrase “be brave bold robot” was used several times in Isaac Asimov novels.

“I do not know which ones, or in what context,” he said. “I will find out before I die.” Haakenson still produces the local zine where he originally used the name Be Brave Bold Robot, though he said the publication is being left behind as the band’s popularity grows.

Later, Haakenson stood under the lights at the Fox & Goose and sweated. He rambled on about something, alternately interesting and confusing the audience. He let out a yawp and dove into the next song.

The next day, he’s pitching the whiffle ball, and he seems equally as happy and exuberant as he does onstage. He sings from the patch of dirt that is the pitcher’s mound before delivering a screwball. And it’s pure poetry.

- The Sacramento News and Review


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

VIDEOS = http://www.youtube.com/bebraveboldrobot

Be Brave Bold Robot has been performing in and around Northern California since 2008.  They've played all the places, made all the friends, and won a few awards.  These are songs about love and grandmothers and justice and life-affirming attitudes. atypical song structures, several different key meditations, and just enough tempo changes to pique interest create a canvas for novelesque lyrical content, Big Storytelling, sometimes staccato delivery, sometimes pretty harmonies.  Music for smart people.

"Acoustic-folk popsters Be Brave Bold Robot make amusing music. Whether it's Dean Haakenson spitting out humorous tongue-twisting lyrics or the imagery those lyrics provide (the description of the traditional minivan family in "Gridlocked" is subtly hysterical) - there is much to enjoy. The group's wordplay is also quite clever: The potentially provocative rhyming opportunities on "Take a deep b
reath" veer in unexpected directions. combining folk pop with viola and banjo, these guys create engaging tunes."
- Brian Palmer, Sacramento News and Review

"BE BOLD BRAVE ROBOT are the sort of band who make me reconsider throwing in the towel every time I listen to their inventive pop masterpiece ‘Take A Deep Breath’. There are few occasions when you hear a band for the first time and know implicitly that you are going to love everything that they do. This is one of those bands."
- daydreamgeneration.com

"The band fuses folk rock with spoken-wordlike storytelling, epic arrangements and indie-choral tendencies, one-upping the casual singer-songwriter fare."
- Nick Miller, Sacramento News and Review

"The thing Be Brave Bold Robot has that few other bands have is a killer sense of chemistry. Dean Haakenson sings in a wavering, unsure voice—full nerves and intellect—as Brian Jackson (keys) watches him, trying to figure out what the hell he’s going to do next. Is Haakenson going to sing the next verse like a regular musician, or will he stop playing altogether and start in on a neurotic diatribe like a man with a microphone and too much on his mind? Either way is fine with the audience. As Haakenson rambles happily through fully-endearing, mostly expository songs, Heather Phillips sings in the background while seemingly trying to choke back laughter. With each BBBR show, one gets the feeling it must be hard to concentrate with Haakenson in your band. But that’s not to say BBBR isn’t serious; in fact, it’s their lack of seriousness that makes them so damned earnest. Their jovial personal interplay carries over into the communication of their instruments, which is at once playful and complex; watching BBBR is akin to watching a group of drunk hummingbirds. And Haakenson, under a thin sheet of madness, displays an interesting voice and a profound set of lyrics—whether sung, muttered or screamed out loud—that resonates. Think Dave Matthews with a few espressos and a glorious sense of humor. As a whole, there’s a certain laziness to BBBR songs, yet they don't slouch; they’re simply reserved and they know how to make light of any situation. And all that earnest joy balances quite nicely, especially in a room full of very serious people."
- Josh Fernandez, Sacramento News and Review

"Nearly impossible to pigeonhole, this cleverly poignant CD of uber-original songs might be best described as 21st century existential folk rock. The apparent result of what happens when you put a fiercely intelligent, playful, creative, optimistic, vulnerable and honest human life form in a dreary windowless cubicle for 40 hours a week, add a 5-piece folk rock band, and mix with equal parts of angst, love, despair, hope, irony, humor and confusion, this lyrically lush smorgasbord of crazy-smart tone-poetic thought experiments continues to intrigue after many listenings. If you like quirky, unpredictable songs with modern themes that yield surprises with each play, get this."
-review of "Be Brave Bold Robot" self titled LP, by
by Michael Doughton for RetailRadio.biz

"Paul Simon, Iggy Pop and the Bloodhound Gang on an all-night acoustic bender."

Band Members