As a young kid in the 1980s, Jason Brewer listened to Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and other stars from MTV’s early years.
But later on, when he wanted to perform music, Brewer’s inspiration came from the pleasing pop sounds that dominated the radio airwaves back when the AM dial was the best place to hear the hits.
“Someone told me our music sounds like music that was influenced by everything that happened before punk,” says Brewer. “And I said, ‘I guess you can say we’re so unpunk that we’re punk.’ ”
Brewer is the leader of The Explorers Club, a six-piece South Carolina band that proudly follows in the rather sophisticated footsteps of The Grass Roots, The Beach Boys, The Association, Classics IV and Herb Alpert, supplementing its core instrumentation with classy, purposeful horns and smooth, intricate harmonies, plus other stylish touches.
The musical foundation of the band was built one day when Brewer says he and songwriting partner Troy Stains were “goofing off in the studio, trying to figure out a way to blend the Beach Boys, Paul McCartney‘s Wings and these weird French pop into this one sound.”
Brewer adds, “We had done these demos … and at the end of the sessions, I said, ‘Let’s just do a straight Brian Wilson song, just to see if we can nail it.’ If you go and listen to all those great [artists] who were influenced by him, like The Raspberries and NRBQ, they all do a Beach Boys [style] song.”
The end result was “Forever,” and although he was proud of the outcome, Brewer didn’t really think anybody was going to care about it.
“I brought it back to my friends in Charleston who were playing in different bands,” the singer/guitarist/keboardist recalls, “and five guys all said, ‘Man, we should start a band around this song and this sound.’ ”
Freedom Wind, the first Explorers Club album, arrived in 2008, and Brewer does not deny its strong Wilson influence throughout. The recently released Grand Hotel (Rock Ridge Music) — highlighted by the songs “Run Run Run,” “Anticipatin’ ” and “Go For You” — finds the band exploring “all the other ’60s and ’70s-sounding stuff that nobody else [my] age does,” the 30-year-old Brewer says.
“Everybody else is trying to stay current or stay with it, and it’s almost like I don’t want to be part of that,” he adds. “I’d love to be relevant, but I want to relevant on our terms.”
— By Chris M. Junior
The Explorers Club on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Feb. 15: Rockwood Music Hall — New York
* Feb. 16: Spike Hill — Brooklyn, N.Y.
* Feb. 17: The Saint — Asbury Park, N.J.
* Feb. 18: Vintage Vinyl — Fords, N.J. (in-store performance and signing; noon)
* Feb. 18: The Dunes — Washington, D.C.
* March 2: The Pour House — Charleston, S.C.
* March 3: Monster Music — Charleston, S.C. (in-store performance and signing; 2 p.m.)
Photo by Matthew Carter