The Braves
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The Braves


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The Braves @ Swilligan's Pub

Rockford, Illinois, USA

Rockford, Illinois, USA

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The best kept secret in music


Alternative Press # 201
The Braves > Love & Mercy
Jangly guitars, propulsive drums, soulful tenor vocals, and just a hint of alt-country. Surprisingly refreshing and unique, it's hard to compare The Braves to other current bands, because, frankly, they're aren't many that measure up.
- Alternative Press

Amplifier #48 (Brian Baker)
The Braves > Love & Mercy
When you see a band's home base listed as Rockford, Illinois, it's a safe bet that they've got the jangly guitar thing down to a science; and The Braves are virtual guitar scientists on their debut full length, Love & Mercy. The quintet scorches their nine-track, thirty-one minute album with the poppy melodicism and quirky syncopation of the Posies ("Everyone is a Safe Place", "My Witness to the Ghost"), the dour intesity of R.E.M. ("Our Fathers"), and the morose guitar snap of Teenage Fanclub ("Meet Me at the River", "I Am Just a Fog"). There's an almost majestic feel to the shimmering, layered guitars on "Caroline Mary" and an emo/pop vibe to "Chicago Catholic", a perfect complement to Joseph Reina's urgent and darkly expressive voice. - Amplifier

Big Takeover #55 (Neal Agneta)
The Braves > Love & Mercy
In a perfect world all airplane seats would be first class, every city would have an Amoeba Records, and The Braves would be as championed as Wilco. Getting back to reality, this Chicago five-piece may lack The Strokes press machine or rabid fan base (not yet anyways) to rest their laurels on, but The Braves second collection of arrestingly poignant, midwest-indie rock puts them squarely on the path to veneration. Joseph Reina sparks an emotional charge of melancholic but urgent, half-crooned vocals in the face of hard-strummed chords and a bracing rhythmic backbeat, resulting in "My Witness To The Ghost", and "Everyone Is A Safe Place", compositions that are as visionary as they are visceral. Employing the hypnotic detachment of early R.E.M. within the more abrasive template of recent Pedro The Lion, The Braves' Love & Mercy is a masterful, melodically aware dark pop record that just might usher listeners into musical utopia. - Big Takeover

Review by John D. Luerssen
All that's old is new again on Love and Mercy, the sophomore long-player from Rockford, Illinois-based the Braves. And that's a compliment. Fans of late-'80s college radio favorites like R.E.M. and the Smithereens will be instantly delighted by memorable, guitar-fused rockers like "Chicago Catholic" and the outstanding opener "Good Advices." Frontman Joseph Reina sounds like a young Robin Wilson, which makes sense, because the band often sounds like the Gin Blossoms in their Doug Hopkins-era. Whether channeling the indie muscle of Big Dipper on "Our Fathers," reliving the pensive beauty of early Toad the Wet Sprocket or giving the melodic nod to Winter Hours, this five-piece is about 18 years too late for the stardom they deserve.

- All Music

If nothing else, Love & Mercy serves as a good reminder that southern rock doesn't always fall under the heading of "Southern Rock"; bands like REM also hail from that general geographic region, and their brand of rock is more jangly, country-tinged guitar pop than anything remotely resembling the bluesy rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Allman Brothers.
Admittedly, including The Braves in this already overstretched category may be pushing things a bit, especially as they hail from Illinois (Rockford, to be precise). Nonetheless, the description perfectly captures the essence of their sound -- it's virtually impossible to listen to Love & Mercy and not hear Life's Rich Pageant or New Miserable Experience echoing in the background.

That's not a bad thing, mind you. Frontman Joseph Reina and guitarist Kevin Schwitters' vocal harmonies are the sort of thing that bands shouldn't be able to achieve after just a few years together; when they get it just right, as on "Meet Me At The River", it's a thing of beauty. Similarly, "Good Advices"' lead guitar line is what words like "shimmering" were invented for. "Everyone Is A Safe Place" and "I Am Just A Fog" are propelled by the sort of urgency that REM haven't mustered in about 20 years, and "Our Fathers" is a throwback to the glory days of alternative pop. Best of all is "My Witness To The Ghost" -- a big, beautiful piece of pop-rock with an anthemic chorus -- the sort of thing that could just make The Braves the biggest thing in the world.

Or at least, they might have been the biggest thing in the world, had Love & Mercy been released ten or fifteen years ago, when The Braves could have ridden its success to some sort of world-conquering omnipresence. As it stands, they're more likely to become college radio favorites -- the sort of band that's constantly on the verge of stardom, but that never quite makes. That said, if albums as enjoyably poppy as Love & Mercy can be a secret shared between people with exceptional taste in music, there's no reason to complain.

- Splendid

Barring a few bad eggs, Illinois has been a reliable source of good music and with a bit more diversity and depth, The Braves could be yet another reason why this is true. While everyone is out trying to put out the next sound and cutting themselves away from other bands, The Braves simply decide to play their own light jangly college rock. We're not talking about the neu-campus rockers, but rather the early to mid-nineties kind of stuff that's long been past its prime and plays cycles in your head as you try to tie your old flannel shirt around your waist that sadly doesn't fit anymore. This band has put together nine songs (at just thirty-one minutes, it's a tad short) that go well together and have just enough push to get them past mediocre, but not enough to reach memorable.

Everyone's had run-ins with The Braves' sound at least 35,476 times in their life: scanning the radio and unfortunately landing on "the hits of 70's, 80's, 90's and today," walking around in a grocery store, or yes, experiencing it in its heyday in college during the peak period of its flailing madness. It's easy for me or anyone else to say such things about this sound and it's even easier to make it appear humorous and ridiculing, but those are only a teeny tiny part of my sentiment. This is good rock, the band comes together well and they're able to write catchy hooks and keep the understated vocals where they need to be. The weaknesses of this album come in the lack (although not a complete lack) of songs that stand out from one another and the bands' inability to cut loose from this net.

You've got to hand it to The Braves for making music that mirrors what they listened to growing up, not too many bands have the balls to do that outright. They'll get a few cheap shots here and there for doing it and hopefully that doesn't get them down and away from focusing improving their sound. "Love and Mercy" is a good arrow pointing toward they're going with their accessible sound, yet there isn't much that makes you want to come back to it-the trick is just starting it and letting it play, after that you probably won't go back to it unless you're bored or curious. This one's worth lending an ear too, but beyond that, it gets a little hazy. The Braves have got the hard part out of the way, let's see where they go after this. So then, time for my cheap shot: Now put your ten years ago head phones on and then read the rest of this. If you're into the sounds of REM, Teenage Fanclub, and The Lemonheads, then this one's totally for you.
- Indie Workshop


Quiet, Hushed Animals EP (vinyl only) - Self Released 2006

Love & Mercy LP - Johann's Face Records 2005

Blackbirds - track on Urbs in Horto: A Chicago
Indiepop Compliation - Johann's Face Records 2004

Letters of London b/w You're Not A Patriot 7" single - Johann's Face Records 2003


Feeling a bit camera shy


A Brief History of The Braves
Singer/songwriter and catholic schoolboy Joseph Reina, bassist Shawn Ross, and drummer Jesse Carmona had known each other since their high school days, after playing in numerous local bands. At the time when these groups were slowly dwindling, and wanting to move towards more of an AM/pop style than their earlier incarnations, the three met for a momentous practice in an old movie theatre/hardware store. The results were disastrous. A month or two passed and they gave it another try, this time with Kevin Schwitters joining them on guitar. The Braves played their first show in September 2002, two weeks prior ditching the entire batch of songs they had written up to that point and starting from scratch. The show went well, and they decided to continue as a proper band. The Braves booked their first tour in the early spring of 2003, an east coast trip playing alongside Rosie Thomas, Julie Doiron and Rebecca Gates. They returned home from tour and gained a second guitar player, Phillip Goudreau. The band played shows throughout the year as a five piece, eventually releasing a well-received limited run 7" single.

In the late summer of 2004, The Braves entered Kingsize Sound Labs in Chicago to record their debut record for Johann's Face with Mike Hagler, whose credits include Wilco/Billy Bragg and Neko Case. The band then headed out on another two week tour of the east coast and Canada. Love & Mercy was released in January 2005, garnering glowing reviews in The Big Takeover, Alternative Press, All Music Guide, Amplifier, and many others. Phil Goudreau left the band in the summer of 2005, and Rob Vester was brought in to fill the second guitar slot. After touring three more times that year, The Braves returned home to work on a batch of new songs, recording basic tracks at Electrical Audio in Chicago. Unhappy with the route these songs were taking, the decision was made in early 2006 to carry on as a four piece.

The Braves are currently at work writing and recording their second full length album due in late 2007.

The new songs are inspired by middle class neighborhoods, John Scurti, The Pleasure of My Company, guilt, avoiding guilt, Mary-Louise Parker, Saint Paul, walking through parks with headphones on, Nicholson Baker, Seals & Crofts, Roman Catholic Italian high schools, and other people and situations completely unrelated to history or pop music.