"Good evening, we're the Brummies."
With that simple introduction, so opens one of the year's most immersive and adventurous rock albums, Eternal Reach. The debut LP by Birmingham, Alabama, band the Brummies ¬– their name is U.K. slang for a resident of Birmingham – Eternal Reach is a musician's album, distinguished by inventive arrangements, lush melodies and straight-to-tape production. Perfectly suited for losing yourself beneath a pair of quality headphones, the record evokes the psych-rock vibe of the Sixties and the soft indie-folk of the Nineties, yet possesses a timeless sound all its own.
Made up of vocalists and multi-instrumentalists John Davidson and Jacob Bryant, and drummer Trevor Davis, the Brummies have been playing together in various incarnations since high school. The members count the Beatles, Elton John, ELO, Blitzen Trapper and My Morning Jacket among their influences, but also have an affinity for sweeping film soundtracks, a passion that informs Eternal Reach.
"We knew we wanted to tell a story with Eternal Reach. It's very thematic and it sounds like a movie," says Jacob. "But it's a love story: from meeting the person to the breakup, to that feeling where you think you might die without them, and then the realization that it's all going to be OK. We thought a lot about that."
"We'd talk out the storyline and say, 'Well, maybe this happened,'" adds John.
Sums up Trevor, "It all evolved into this."
While the album as a whole is its own grand suite, each individual song stands as a microcosm of the record.
"Songbird" is a rhythmic, strings-driven standout that evokes the majesty of Abbey Road. The buoyant "Troubles" floats along on a message of reassuring hope. And the seductive "Drive Away," featuring guest vocals by Kacey Musgraves, sways dangerously like a car on a slick road.
Elsewhere, "Somebody New" marries Western guitar and accordion to create a palpably surreal environment. The group also used Moog synthesizers, trumpet, flute, triangles and a 30" bass drum throughout the record to create a truly special soundscape.
"'Somebody New' has that Western movie sound. It's creepy and spooky," says John. "It's a jealousy song, so it should have that feeling. When we recorded that, I kept thinking of 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,' where it sounds like a circus."
The disparate tracks "Norway," a haunting ballad, and "Takes Some Time," a brooding call-and-response, both already released to fans, represent the diversity of Eternal Reach, which takes its name from the last moments of the album.
"'Norway' started the charge for this album's sound, while 'Take Some Time' shows the full spectrum of the record," says John. "They're kind of opposites and illustrate what it is that we do."
But for as proficient as the Brummies are at summoning the ethereal and atmospheric, they also know how to rock.
"What Do You Think" is Ed Sullivan-era rock & roll. "Going Crazy" and its Eighties new-wave rhythm is reminiscent of the Cars. And "Do It Tomorrow," a succinct bit of ear candy at just under 90 seconds, celebrates the art of procrastination.
"We did that the last day in the studio. It wasn't even a complete song and we just recorded it," says Jacob.
"We held out until the last couple hours," adds Trevor. "We actually procrastinated when cutting that song."
But it's "Set You Free" that best shows off the Brummies' muscle. Combining a Moog with an arsenal of guitars, the track opens with a heart-pounding bang that the band was adamant about perfecting. "It's pretty thick with fuzz," says John. "You can't play that type of riff with that energy and have it sound puny."
Recorded at Battle Tapes Recording in Nashville with engineer Jeremy Ferguson and co-producer David Hopkins, Eternal Reach now serves as the Brummies' stunning calling card. Beginning this summer, with appearances at festivals like Bonnaroo and the Sloss Music & Arts Fest in their hometown, they'll tour the album tirelessly. They've already logged countless miles on the road, playing with St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Kacey Musgraves, the Wild Feathers and, this past fall, NEEDTOBREATHE.
Now they're prepared to re-create Eternal Reach live for their growing number of fans and give them what they call a "full musical experience."
"When they hear the record, I'd love them to appreciate the sounds we chose, the lyrics we wrote and how this is the story we're trying to tell," says Jacob.
"It's a complete piece of work and we want people to be able to tell that we took our time with it," adds John. "This is the sound of the Brummies."