By Morgan James
A professional, hard hitting sound from incredibly experienced and talented musicians would accurately describe Coachella Valley’s own, Braun Fraulein. Poignant lyrics, moving melodies, distorted blues rock with driving rhythms encompass the band’s prodigious original music and showcase the stylings of each of its three members. Opening for Rad Co, a Bad Company Tribute Band, on January 21st at The Palm Canyon Roadhouse in Palm Springs, Braun Fraulein has found their niche in the local desert music scene. Cut to New York City where the band’s original work has already been placed in television commercials. Mark Fry, Jimi Heil, and Erik Mouness of Braun Fraulein are about to explode into larger scale arenas. I spoke with the band about their newest album in development, their upcoming show, their rich backgrounds and experience in the music industry, and what’s next!
MJ: Tell me about the content and overall sound of your newest album?
JH: “Well ‘Shine’ is a kind of Beatle-esque and Eric Burden type of feel. ‘I Love Lucy’ is like Sublime and Led Zepplin, but lyrically based on the cultural shift in America dating back from the 50s to now- how the breakdown of family started loosely based on the comedy series I Love Lucy. It describes the progression of families and how they fall apart. We will be rerecording a couple from the first album too like ‘On My Way to You.’”
EM: “You are taking a lot out on Lucy and she’s not even here to defend herself.”
JH: “Ha Ha that song is really cool because Mark has some great influences musically in it from Jack Bruce, Golden Earring, Motown with the violin bow kinda like Papa was a Rollin’ Stone in the bridge.”
MJ: Do you each take part in the writing process or do you write collaboratively?
JH: “I write the lyrics, but we all arrange on the music and write it together.”
EM: “Yeah we all feel out and write our own parts.”
JH: “Mark is very creative and progressive and brings that. Erik is very progressive and creative as well and even writes his own music too. Rarely do we ever clash or step on each other about what to play or how to play. Everyone contributes and it just comes together. We all have a great feel for it.”
MJ: Tell me about your impressive studio set ups.
JH: “Mark has his ‘Bass Emperor Studio’ which is a 3 bay studio modeled after Olympic Studio in New York where Led Zepplin recorded. Since you have the walls where the drums are enclosed it isolates the drum mics from the bass and guitar amps. You can play together live, but still get a great recording. Then I have mine, ‘Songmeister Studio or Heil Studios’ where I have great mixing so we can put the recording on tape and have the slope and forgiveness of tape, but still mix and master digitally.”
MJ: Do you record other artists at your studios?
JH: “Yes definitely. We actually just finished Drain the Swamp written by Brad Mercer. After we mixed it, we sent it to Eric Wolfe in Nashville who does incredible Grammy level mastering and who worked with Bernie Gruman (who worked with Michael Jackson and Nirvana). Brad got it out on radio and YouTube and it had 700 hits per day the first 2 days and keeps growing.”
MJ: What type of musical background do you each come from and bring to Braun Fraulein?
MF: “I probably bring the Blues Rock- Robin Trower, Frank Marino, Jack Bruce of Cream, Johnny Winter, Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath, Felix Pappalardi, and Hendrix with that distorted bass sound.”
JH: “From childhood my grandma had Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Tijuana Brass so I had some Latino influence growing up with. Plus I heard all the Motown stuff. As a teen my brother Tim introduced me to Led Zeppelin, Beatles, and classic rock. Then in the 80s I got into New Wave and did a lot of songwriting with my friend Billy Steinbrener. He really influenced me a lot in lyrics and my lyrics are pretty fluid. So, I am really thankful for that. For guitar I studied Jimmy Paige and my style is like that.”
EM: “My drum style is from Chad Smith, the dude from Tool, Danny Carey, plus Tomas Haake from Meshugga, Vinnie Colaiuta who played with Jeff Beck and Megadeth, oh and of course Andy Fraga- excellent person and excellent drummer.”
MJ: You each have impressive resumes- what have been some of your favorite jobs in music?
MF: “I played with Bill Lordan who was Robin Trower’s drummer, plus Bill Ward for a while- Black Sabbath’s drummer. I have opened for Big Brother and the Holding Company, Robin Trower, BB King, and for Mountain at the Galaxy in Santa Ana. I had a band for 17 years in Orange County, then in the desert for 14 years, then 3 years with Wicked World, plus a few in between.”
JH: “I got a record deal with InGrooves back in the day and it opened a door for me to release 3 records, mostly pop love songs. I have a song called ‘I am Just a Man, Just a Child’ and one called ‘Now You’re Divorced.’ All are about being from an American broken home. My album and title song ‘Intimacy’ got played on NPR and light rotation on a bunch of radio in the US and Canada. The title cut was written by Rick Nowels, Neil Giraldo (husband of Pat Benatar), and Billy Steinberg who gave me permission to record that. It was a really good record. I have played with Brittany O’ Neil (Pat Boones’ granddaughter). I did audio for Vincent Price narrating The Raven with a symphony orchestra which was cool because it kind of goes with our crow theme of Braun Fraulein. Also ran sound for Katy Perry last year when she was DJing at the polo grounds. Her boyfriend at the time was Diplo the famous DJ who got her into it.”
EM: “I played with BB King which was great. I played for Robbie Krieger of The Doors which was a trip. I also have played with the keyboardist dude from Culture Club as well as Michael Bolton.”
MJ: Where did the name Braun Fraulein come from?
JH: “My brother Tim suggested it and it just made sense. Led Zeppelin started as The New Yardbirds and there is an album cover they have with 3 crows- and that’s us, the 3 crows. On that album there is also a brown girl, who is the Braun Fraulein (Brown Girl in German), and Mark’s daughter is Latina, so it is named for her- she is the Braun Fraulein.”
EM: “Way more meaning than you thought huh? Ha Ha”
MJ: How do you feel about the opportunity to open up for Rad Co on Saturday, January 21st at 8pm at The Palm Canyon Roadhouse?
JH: “We got the opportunity from Greg at The Palm Canyon Roadhouse. We had opened up for another band, Noise Polution an AC DC Tribute Band, and it went so well. We found a little niche opening for tribute bands as an original music band which is great because we are not a traditional cover style band and don’t do a lot of those types of gigs. We can get exposure this way. There’s a niche there. You open for a tribute band who are replicating a legacy so it’s kind of an honor. So it sets the stage for sharing our originals.”
MJ: What are you goals moving forward with Braun Fraulein?
MF: “We would like to have our music placed into television and film.”
JH: “We just had a song placed in a TV commercial aired in NYC for Frontgate Traditional Homes Magazine and featuring Kelly Golightly. We got that opportunity through Chip Miller. I cut one of our song’s intros and made a loop of it and sang a happy holidays lyric over it for the season. We are cutting another track for another commercial for the same company too so we will have another shot at that. It’s a good start. Our ultimate goal is getting a song in a weekly TV show.”
MJ: Where can fans check out your music and keep up to date on your live gigs?
Facebook: Braun Fraulein
Check out Braun Fraulein opening up for Rad Company on January 21 at Palm Canyon Roadhouse.