Tonight: Dancing to be expected with the Butterbirds at Brillobox


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You’ll have to pardon Dean Matthews, drummer for the Butterbirds, for being humble. For example, he has observed that when the band plays one of its shows, something special occasionally happens.

“I’ve noticed that there tends to be some sort of critical mass where people start engaging with the music,” he said.

It’s called “dancing.”

The Butterbirds will be part of the lineup performing tonight at Brillobox in Bloomfield, the group’s first gig since releasing its first album — “Sweet Little Honey Nuthin’” — late last month.

The group is made up of Mr. Matthews on drums, John Kraemer on guitar and lead vocals, Mike Kelly on bass and Ashlee Green on vocals and percussion. The three guys have been playing together since they were attending Plum Senior High School.

“We used to play music there, and we kind of reconvened while in college,” said Mr. Matthews, 24, of Plum. “And we’ve been doing it here and there for three or four years.”

Their stomping grounds are the clubs in Pittsburgh’s East End, where the music community is known for being open and supportive.

“We do have people that come out, maybe you’d call them regulars,” Mr. Matthews said. “I don’t know if I’d call them fans. Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to separate from people that we’re friends with. The line is blurry. I like to think that we do [have fans], but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.”

He also has difficulty attaching a label to the group’s music.

“It’s difficult to look at the music objectively and attach it to a genre when you’re so close to it,” he said. “But if I were to take a stab at it, I would say it’s somewhere between indie, pop, country, and a little bit of psychedelia, I suppose. It gets a little bit loud sometimes, but it can get quiet, too.”

You can sample the new album at the band’s website, butterbirds.bandcamp.com.

“We bought all the equipment ourselves,” Mr. Matthews said. “We recorded it ourselves, we mixed and mastered it ourselves, with the help of a friend, so it was completely self-produced. And since we didn’t know quite what we were doing and we were learning on the way, it took about two years to complete.

“We all have day jobs and different commitments. But I don’t think it would have been as good a record if we’d just squeezed it out. The nice thing about taking so much time to record a record — messing up a little bit and scrapping tracks — is you get to incubate these songs for a really long period of time. You get to get really familiar with them, and then you can experiment with them when you play them live, which can keep things interesting for you. They evolve.

“The end result is something a little more dynamic than what they might have been if we’d have recorded them when we first wrote them. And, typically, our live shows tend to be more faster-paced and energetic than what’s on the record. We spent more time toying with things live.”

The songs start out in the mind of Mr. Kraemer.

“John has taken on 95 percent or more of the lyric writing, and he tends to have a lot of — I hate to speak for him — but his lyrics tend to be dream-like,” Mr. Matthews said. “There are often images that follow one another that aren’t connected, and they butt up together in a way that is quite interesting. They tend to be quite personal, from my perspective.

“This record has somewhat of a unified message. It’s sort of a combination of angst, certainly some anxiety, but ultimately it’s about frustration and recognizing the ability of others to help you through it. I think, at the end of the day, it’s a very hopeful record.”

The Butterbirds will be at Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., tonight at 9:15 with BRONCHO, Vikesh Kapoor, and The Beauregards. Cover is $12.

Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com


First Published November 5, 2013 4:08 PM

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