The Gypsy Bravado has been providing Denton locales with some good old rock 'n' roll for the better part of the last year and are currently wrapping up production on a new EP. The 5-song release is the first official recording by the band, and to engineer and mix the sessions they enlisted the expertise of Beau Bedford and Nick Jay of Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights fame. The title and exact release date of the EP are still unconfirmed, but plans to are to get copies in fans' hands by early March, with the possibility of a vinyl pressing after that. I recently sat down with lead singer and guitarist Michael Todd to drink a few beers, listen to The Mars Volta, and talk about the upcoming EP.
"It's the fruit of a lot of hard work," says Michael, and this much is clearly evident. All five songs ooze with the authenticity of a live performance, which isn't surprising given the group's propensity towards delivering electrifying live shows. "The real legacy should be a live show. If you can't reproduce live what you do in the studio, that's a huge flaw to me." By those standards then, The Gypsy Bravado have negotiated the sonic and conceptual space between stage and studio without misstep. As Michael points out, "they are two different animals," but the dichotomy of recording vs. performance plays out to his advantage in both directions; listeners can expect to hear each song in a new light at every concert, but also will not be disappointed to sit down and hear that same raw energy reflected in this EP.
With all this in mind, it makes good sense that The Gypsy Bravado take their cues from the giants of classic rock. It seems that more than just a few roads lead to Led Zeppelin, whom Michael is quick to designate as his favorite band, and a brief perusal through his extensive vinyl collection will reveal the group's entire catalog. "There's something magical and very simple about 12 bar blues, and everybody's interpretation of it." Zeppelin's take certainly rubbed off on The Gypsy Bravado's guitar licks, and Michael credits Jimmy Page as a huge influence, most interestingly in regards to his slide guitar technique.
The track "Dillinger," which is Michael's favorite off the upcoming disc (and mine), puts that slide technique to good use. Self-described as "progressive blues," the song opens from a foundation of squealing feedback into a dark and heavy riff that sounds like Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath would feel right at home playing – that is, if his home was Mississippi. Vocals alternate between super cool croons and howling screams with ease, and all the while the slide guitar revs up and down like a motor, driving the groove forward. As the truth of "we don't live too long, that's for sure" dies away, a breakneck slide riff kicks the song into an uptempo rocker that eventually coalesces into one the danciest moments on the EP, complete with a pseudo-disco hi hat beat from drummer Louis Anderson.
All the members of the band have plenty of moments to shine, like the psychedelic guitar battle between Michael and Shaun Burgandy on "Dreams (Rabbit Hole)." Jeff Dacus is one of my favorite kinds of bassists to listen to: the kind that understands the balance between "meat and potatoes" playing and soloistic pizzazz. The bass as a song-serving but self-sufficient melodic voice really comes through on the verses to "Summer Song," both holding down the groove and providing lyrical counterpoint to the vocals resting on top.
What really gives the EP its power though, is the cohesive unit formed when they lay into a riff. "Swagger" and "Heartbreak Woman" are perfect examples of the full capacity of energy that transcends from the band's live performances, driving and compelling from start to finish.
It is clear that the scope of this EP is much larger than the typical debut release for a local band. Its construction resembles a mini-full length, rather than just a package of material to hand out to promoters. "I don't think it's typical, I sure hope it's not taken that way. I just really hope people will give the music a chance and actually listen to it and take it in," says Michael. As The Gypsy Bravado prepare for this release, they will continue to take their live act to as many audiences as possible in North Texas and beyond. You can catch them in Austin this weekend on Saturday Feb. 5th at Maggie Mae's, and then back in Denton at Andy's Bar on Friday Feb. 11th.