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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Witzard's Not Too Old to... Breakdown with Bracket's Marty Gregori, Angelo Celli, Zack Charlos & Ray Castro (All-around Breakdown)


"Too Old to Die Young finds Bracket still indulging their love of Brian Wilson [The Beach Boys] harmonies, but taking a more straight-forward song-writing approach—or, as "straight-forward" as Bracket gets. "Cloud Ate" opens the album with a riff straight out of the late 80's DC Post-Hardcore scene. The classic Power-Pop of "Going Out of Style In Style" boasts [The Beatles] "Yellow Submarine"-esque back-up vocals.

But Too Old to Die Young distills the Bracket sound that stretches back to when "2RAK005" hooked listeners on FAT MUSIC FOR FAT PEOPLE in 1994: propulsive, hooky songs that build on Punk's framework. Self-recorded over the period of a couple of years, Too Old to Die Young, also, finds Bracket at their most collaborative. Angelo Celli, Zack Charlos & Marty Gregori wrote everything together, including lyrics, with drummer Ray Castro working out parts at his home in Denver. For the first time, Charlos sings lead on "Going Out of Style In Style" and Celli sings "Exit Interview" and "Anti-social Inactivism...'"

- Fat Wreck Chords (@fat_wreck)


ONE. "CLOUD ATE"

Marty Gregori (Lead Vocals/Guitars): A good album-starter. It has a lot of the Bracket traits that people expect from us, for better or worse. The melody sounds kind of Beatles-ish to me. The lyrics started with Zack [with] Angelo & I kinda helping to fill in the cracks. The song turned out to sorta be about craving attention from fake friends (I think.) It sets the mood for the rest of the album.

Angelo "Ang" Celli (Guitars/Backing Vocals): I really like how the album starts. The last few albums have started pretty mellow or with lush harmonies, so, I think, it was kinda fun to start off "Rocking," for a change. "Eight" spelled as "Ate" for no reason.

Zack Charlos (Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals): The original working title for this song was "Batman Mart" because when it was first brought in by Marty, it reminded me of a 60's crime-fighting TV song. The bassline on the verses is inspired by the old-timey Naval fight song, "Anchors Aweigh"—I have no idea how I know that song!

Ray Castro (Drums/Percussion): This was a song that didn't really flow for me, until the vocals were added. Tight early section to emphasize the guitar riff that leads into a looser verse with the drums and bass locked in.


TWO. "FORGET"

Marty Gregori: A song about not leaving much of a legacy; sums up our music career. We always try to use at least one unexpected chord in a song. This song has one in the verse. We've tried to make that and the layered harmonies the thing that sets us apart from other bands in our genre.

Angelo Celli: This is one of those weird Marty chord progressions that we love and, I think, are part of the "Bracket Sound." I still don't know how to play the chords right. Marty tried to show me at practice last week. The song itself is loosely based on everyone that didn't get attention/recognition, until it was too late.

Zack Charlos: My sour vocal note at the end is followed by Marty asking if he "sung it right" and Angelo is the one who sounds not quite sure about the vocal take.

Ray Castro: I really like how the chorus of this song came out. Especially, the second [part] with the harmonized background vocals as a contrast to riding the crash cymbal through this part.


THREE. "CANNED FROM THE FOOD DRIVE"

Marty Gregori: A funny title that came from a list of funny titles that Zack has been compiling for a while now. When we get together, we crack a lot of jokes (most, not funny to outsiders.) The title fit the theme of the song. It's kind of about people who give to charity and make a spectacle of it. Though, giving to charity is always great, someone boasting about it is off-putting.

Angelo Celli: This was Erin's (at Fat Wreck Chords) favorite song on the album and everyone agreed it should be the "lead single." The chorus kinda reminds me of a really under-rated band from the 90's called Thin Lizard Dawn.

Zack Charlos: After wildfires had ravaged much of our local area, we made a Bracket-level attempt (via social media) to assist our community with some kind of financial relief based on album and shirt sales. We received heaps of praise, but not one single sale towards the donation. This helped to inspire the the title and some of the lyrics.

Ray Castro: This song is a great fit for Marty's vocal tone, especially, in the verse. We built tension with the long roll in the "promises..." section that finally releases halfway through, when it opens up by transitioning to the crash.


FOUR. "EXIT INTERVIEW"

Marty Gregori: One of my favorite things about doing Bracket albums ever since Requiem is hearing Angelo's new songs and ideas. This is, probably, my favorite song on the album. Unexpected chord changes and heartfelt lyrics. It took a little arm-twisting to get him to sing lead, but I'm glad we got him to do it. Plus, it's less work for me, which is always good. Ray learned this song on-the-spot and recorded his drums after a just couple runs through it.

Angelo Celli: Ang sings lead. I think, we recorded drums before the song was even fully written. I had a basic idea, but the melody wasn't there yet. It may still not be.

Zack Charlos: Another "Angelo One" that was pretty much, delivered complete. The second verse gets harmonies to keep things somewhat interesting-ish.

Ray Castro: This was a song Angelo brought to the tracking, I hadn't heard it before that, but it came together really quickly. Keeping the drums tight and choppy was a natural fit with the chunky guitars. The background vocals on the second chorus smooths things out and creates a perfect backdrop to Ang's lead vocal.


FIVE. "A PERFECT MISFIT"

Marty Gregori: A nice mid-tempo song to break things up. The song really only has three parts: verse, pre-chorus, and chorus. The key changes kind of help to make it a little more interesting. During the recording, we referred to this song as "The Muffs' Song." It's, obviously, influenced by them because Kim Shattuck [The Muffs] is, probably, our favorite song-writer in the world.

Angelo Celli: Alternate song title: "Phony It In." I love Marty's guitar solo and the key changes!

Zack Charlos: For some reason, the vocal melody on the verses reminded me of something Kim Shattuck would sing, so [one of] the working titles for this one for a while was "Muffy."

Ray Castro: This is a great example of one of Marty's very musical guitar leads. His playing is a great complement to the track and for me, MAKES the song.


SIX. "UNDER THE MOON"

Marty Gregori: A fun, Punky song. I like the chords in the chorus. I like Ray's drum fill in the beginning of the song. Pretty straight-forward song [all] together.

Angelo Celli: While we were mixing the album, my 9-year-old son heard the beginning of the song with the distorted/lo-fi drums and he was worried that it would turn people off. He was, probably, right, but we liked it.

Zack Charlos: We were in the middle of recording drums for this song, when we got a knock on the door from the local police department based on a Noise Complaint. The cop was expecting a bunch of teenagers [and] he said we were, actually, good. After he left, we ignored the warning, while I took a walk around the block to listen, while Ray continued to track drums. I realized our makeshift "sound-proofing" did next to nothing to shield the neighbors from Ray's "percussive stylings."

Ray Castro: This was the jangly or the 50's-sounding one for me. When we first practiced this, I heard the half-time part a little faster than we recorded it, but looking back, it would have pushed too much and felt out of place. The tempo of the finished song works for both the uptempo and half-time sections


SEVEN. "ARTING STARVIST"

Marty Gregori: Another straight-forward Pop-Punk song. The lyrics (to me) are about our minor accomplishments in the Punk scene and how little they matter in the scheme of things. I like how it starts. Not trying to be clever with a cute guitar riff or long, drawn out intro. It just punches you in the face.

Angelo Celli: Maybe, my favorite song on the album. It's catchy, punchy, has weird harmonies, and kinda sums up the whole album, lyrically, too.

Zack Charlos: The lyrics on this song pretty much, encompass the feel of the whole album and pretty much, the feeling of the band most of the time.

Ray Castro: I like how this song starts immediately with the vocals and ring out guitars. It, also, reminds me a little bit of Green Apples.


EIGHT. "GOING OUT OF STYLE IN STYLE"

Marty Gregori: This is the first song we worked on for the album. Zack brought in a chord progression for the verse that was kinda weird, but interesting. He has a knack for coming up with unexpected chords. The rest, came together after a few more writing sessions. Ray's drumming in the verses are a nice contrast to the Rocking parts of the song. At first, Zack didn't want to sing the song. All three of us are a little insecure about our voices, so I understand why he was hesitant about it. We're glad we talked him into it. We get a lot a good feedback about the song and I'm sure that Zack feels relieved and proud now.

Angelo Celli: Glad Zack sang his song! It was, actually, one of the first songs written for this album, I think, and Rodney "On The Rock" [Bingenheimer] played it!

Zack Charlos: I came up with the guitar intro in my head, when I was in the hospital recovering from back surgery. I came up with the rest of the parts with an actual guitar, while I was at home recuperating. Marty helped me stitch them all together and helped me dial in the vocal melody and form an actual song from the ideas I had. We call it "The Zack One," but I, actually, had a lot of help.

Ray Castro: Zack has always had a way with clever wording and I'm happy he chose to sing lead on something he wrote. The changing dynamics between the verse and pre-chorus punches it up.


NINE. "WARREN'S SONG (PART 29)"

Marty Gregori: The first part of the song was just an excuse for us to record something screamy and loud. We were thinking, maybe, we would add some lush three or four-part harmonies over the two chords after the "slow down and live" screams, but we decided it was a bit "been there, done that" for us. The point of this album was to scale back the big harmonies [and] be a little more simple. The second part of the song brings the harmonies back. The bouncy feel of the song is familiar to us, too, and I think, we've had at least one song of this type on every album since Novelty Forever. The solo sounds very "Eagles" to me. I did go through a bit of an Eagles phase during the making-of this album, so that may be why. Sorry.

Angelo Celli: The majority of this album was written with me, Marty, and Zack sitting in Marty's living room... but we came up with the Hardcore-to-bouncy transition in this song with Ray (drummer) when we got together to gather ideas for the album, very early on.

Zack Charlos: The intro to this song is a jab at vocal styles like some Hardcore, Screamo, or others types, who make the artistic choice to put vocal volume in place of emotion. The screaming is followed by our usual harmonies. The walking bassline is a musical nod to "Talk Show." Also, I insisted that Marty & Angelo leave the giggling at the very end, which was their own reaction to each other's screaming.

Ray Castro: We like playing around with things that are a little more 'core than we normally do. In this case, we bait-and-switch to the Bracket sound. Also, another melodic guitar solo from Marty.


TEN. "ANTI-SOCIAL INACTIVISM"

Marty Gregori: Another Angelo gem. The chorus is awesome to listen to, but a pain in the a$$ to sing. Angelo had to sing the high harmony because there was no way I could hit those notes. I ended up singing the lead part in the chorus with Zack singing a lower part and Angelo with that damn high part. The nice thing about this album is, it truly is a Bracket album. It's truly a group effort. We haven't done that since 924 Forestville St. Whether it be ego or necessity, it just happened that I took on the bulk of the song-writing. That's not to say that the other guys didn't write or contribute, but I've always felt that the writing was my job and responsibility. This album lifted the weight of my shoulders and, I think, it was a fun way to write.

Angelo Celli: Another song written early on. Ang on lead vox. The chorus harmony has notes that are too high!

Zack Charlos: This is my favorite song on the album. It was right around this point, during drum tracking, when I was petting my elderly cat—who was hanging onto life with all fours—when he mistook my arm for prey. After prying his jaw open, I had what looked like a miniature vampire bite. Within hours, I was feeling nauseous and exhausted. My [arm] felt like it was on fire. I was rushed the the hospital the following morning and had to spend two nights there hooked up to IV, antibiotics, and held for observation.

Ray Castro: I believe, the drums for the intro were captured sometime in the studio, but not origins written for this track, though, it creates texture and sets up a contrast when the verse starts.


ELEVEN. "A HOT COMEDY"

Marty Gregori: Another straight-forward song about the semi-success and semi-failure of Bracket. We didn't set out to have a theme for this album, but it sort of just naturally happened that way. We all have different interests outside of the band, but, musically, we agree on just about everything. We've always wanted people to like our band, but we wanted it on our terms. We wanted people to like us for pushing the envelope. That is why we recorded an album with 16 "Warren's Songs;" that is why we recorded an album which included more ukulele and mandolin than most Punks would be comfortable with; this is why we strung together over a hundred song bits to create a 70-minute song. This album is a bit of a throwback album, but includes a few tricks we learned along the way.

We could have done this album after When All Else Fails and it may have been more accessible than the albums we did record. We went a bit wild and tried new things and we're proud of the results of Requiem, Hold Your Applause, and The Last Page. This album was meant to be simple. It seemed like a new and fresh idea to keep it simple. I guess, Too Old To Die Young is autobiographical, as a band and a group of friends. It reflects on our experiences. It reflects on our good times and disappointments of being in a band for the last (almost) 30 years. It pokes fun at ourselves and the Punk scene that we've been proud to be part of, but never felt completely accepted. Most importantly, it is a "thank you" to fans, who have stuck with us through all the years and supported all the wacky ideas we've had.

Angelo Celli: The line, "I'm cringing with self-doubt" has become a sort-of slogan for us, mostly, joking. I like ending the album with this song, theme-wise and tempo-wise.

Zack Charlos: I came up with a rough draft of contributing lyrics for this one, while I was stuck in a traffic jam, while in my work van. At the time, it felt like a living metaphor for a has-been musician being in a van on tour, wondering if his contemporaries feel he has value or if he's a just a joke.

Ray Castro:
This is one of my favorite songs on the album. I think, the dynamic changes and riffs really came together well with the clever lyrics and melodies... We worked on rough versions of most of these songs together only once early on in the process. I practiced drum parts with scratch guitar tracks the guys put together until we got back together to track the drums. We made some final changes, while recording to bring things together.

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