New Look Bravo Max Releases Sophomore LP, Bullfighter Blues
The sophomore album from Bravo Max came out earlier this month and in our opinion is one of the most complete albums out of Dallas this year. Their 15-track album is a complete facelift from the previous makeup of their band, moving from a folk band with accordion and mandolin players to a traditional three-piece rock band with blues and punk influences. In anticipation of the album release show this Friday (Nov. 25) at Doublewide, we met up with lead singer Johnny Beauford to talk about the band's new look and sound, and of course their new album, Bullfighter Blues.
For those who are not familiar with Bravo Max, can you talk about how the group formed?
It was my first band, I’m a late bloomer. Me, my brother Daniel and my cousin Ben, who is a really good bass player and had a lot more experience in music, started Bravo Max way back then. After three or four months of rehearsals we had built the group into a six-piece band, basically. We worked on songs for about two years and finally recorded our first record in 2011. We played shows in Dallas all the way up until then, but once we had a full 16 songs, we booked a studio and drove to California and recorded our first record.
The band was so massive, there were a lot of auxiliary players, and we were having to deal with all of the shit that comes along with playing the shows that you play when you first start out. Half of the group were sort of musicians on the side... like musicians on the side and professionals full time. So it quickly became apparent, like, “Okay, who wants to be a musician in this band?” That’s the people we want to go forward with in this band. We didn’t break up or anything, but all the aux players sort of fell to the side because we started booking around 80 shows a year.
So the bands change from folk to traditional rock sound is due to members that played certain instruments no longer being in the band?
Yeah and also due to us growing. Like I said, it was my first band, I grew a lot and the rest of the band members grew a lot as players over the years. The dude that produced our very first EP back in 2010, Jonathan Jackson, is now our drummer. He went to UNT for Jazz Drums and after he joined, he was the new bar of musicianship. He was so good that we were all forced to step our game up. He writes all of these crazy parts and you have to match his intensity.
Our guitar player Garrett Padgett who I met through a mutual friend is also a fantastic player. I consider myself a writer more than a player, but I had to step my game up because they were so good as musicians. It grew out of that; all the old songs we were still playing made us think, “Why are we still playing these? We don’t have these aux players anymore.”
We started writing new songs. My cousin, the only other founding member, moved to Cincinnati and I took over bass after he left. I’ve been playing bass for about 3 or 4 years now. So all the songs that we have on this record were from that transition.
In terms of writing music, is your new sound a more comfortable writing style for you?
No, it’s not for me. I’m like the weird boy scout of music I’ve got folders like you do in school. So for me it’s a stretch, once I get started writing something I like to see it through until it’s done. We were all working collaboratively and writing at the same time; so we had to rent out a fishing cabin and bring all of our gear out there, bring booze, and whatever else we wanted and write that way. In the end the extra work it takes in writing as a group always pays off. Eventually a permanent rehearsal space helped you with that but you have to be focused on it if you’re all trying to write together because everyone is so ADD now a days.
At what point did you guys start writing for Bullfighter Blues? Did you know the whole time you were writing for this new album or were you just writing songs?
We knew once I switched to bass, it was like, “Well we can’t play the old songs so let’s start writing a new record.” We had started working on our second record, and it was going to be called Young Gunslinger. We started tracking it at this place called Big Riot in Austin. We also recorded a few one-off tracks at Crestwick Studios in Dallas. We had a lot of false starts in 2013 before Ben left, and once he left we were thinking, okay, let’s just start from total zero and move forward.
Bullfighter Blues is the name of the new album, what’s the origin behind that name?
There’s a track called "Bullfighter Blues", we wrote the lyrics together on that one. After we recorded all of these songs and I looked back on the lyrics of these songs, it really seems like a drug record. The very first line is, “Take another roxy and I’m ready for the ride, God almighty Jesus am I dead or alive?” It’s really heavy and all the lyrics are sort of heavy, but aren’t necessarily supposed to be taken that way. Like "Let It Go", for me, is about having the capacity to recognize that maybe there is some dependency shit going on and you have to let it go. The whole record has that kind of stuff weaved in there, but Bullfighter Blues is just an epic picture of dealing with whatever you’re battling.