The Brannock Device

Grinding Gears with Jason Beers

It's great to know why musicians do what they do. Why they write songs about heartache or joy. What kind of emotion they're trying to express. Who they most look up to. That's the magic of what they do. But then there's the science of it. How do they make the most raw or sensual sounds come out of their instruments?

For this week's edition of Grinding Gears, we sit down with multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Jason Beers, who plays with The Brannock Device, Dead Voices, and Rural Grit. If you want to hear from someone who plays bass, clawhammer banjo, musical saw, trumpet, and more, Jason is someone you want to hear from.

Read our interview at the link here!

-Michelle Bacon

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Grinding Gears with Jason Beers




Grinding Gears with Jason Beers


It's great to know why musicians do what they do. Why they write songs about heartache or joy. What kind of emotion they're trying to express. Who they most look up to. That's the magic of what they do. But then there's the science of it. How do they make the most raw or sensual sounds come out of their instruments?

This week we talk with one of the hardest working musicians in town, Jason Beers.

The Deli: What kind of gear are you using?

Jason Beers: Kustom 250 amp, with a 2x15 Kustom Cabinet loaded with EV speakers. '78 Gibson RD Artist bass. I use both in The Brannock Device and Dead Voices. Deering Goodtime banjo that I sometimes use with a small Dean Markley amp. That's it. I'm not a gear freak. I used an EBO knockoff when I had a pinched nerve in my neck for a bit. That was a fun bass.


The Deli: What makes your particular gear achieve the sound you're looking for in your music?

Jason:  I like my amp because it is indestructible and very basic with lots of headroom. My bass has the ability to have a wide tonal variety, so I can control what I need tone wise from my bass. It has a built in treble "expander" and compressor. I have that expander circuit on in Brannock Device and off with Dead Voices.

The Deli: How would you describe your sound?

Jason: For Brannock Device, it's a really hard attack, deep and focused on the midrange frequencies. I use a variety of techniques in that band. The bass takes on a more nontraditional role for the Brannocks. I like the sound of a picked bass, but I can't play bass with a pick worth a darn. For Dead Voices, I dial it back quite a bit and just try to be solid and more like a traditional bass player, trying to lock in with Matt's bass drum, rather than trying to dance around with Bernie's (Brannock Device) drums.


The Deli: What projects are you in you're in right now?

Jason: Playing bass and singing in the Brannock Device, playing bass in Dead Voices, playing solo clawhammer banjo, and some duet/trio things with the Rural Grit crowd. I get involved in some one-off things, on occasion. I have a long running all-bass band with Johnny Hamil, the Wyco Lowriders, that hasn't played in quite a while, but we haven't killed it yet.

The Deli: What other instruments do you play?

Jason: Clawhammer banjo, organ/piano/keyboards, trumpet, musical saw, spoons, harmonica, guitar...hmmm...I've yet to play drums in a band.

The Deli: Who are your favorite or most inspirational players (of your instrument[s]), both in KC and beyond? 

Jason: Well, on bass - that would be Rob Wright, Mike Watt, and Barb Schilf. Johnny Hamil and Mark Reynolds, locally. The biggest bass influence is not a bass player at all, per se, but Ray Manzarek of the Doors. I love those bass parts he came up with.







The Deli: What is your ideal dream equipment set up? 

Jason: I have it now. Basic amp with headroom, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE my bass. Very versatile and monsterous - I really feel like I'm working a big machine.

The Deli:

  Where do you like to shop for gear, and why?

Jason:  I haven't shopped for gear in years. I do stop into Bentley's Music in Parkville every-so-often. Back when his shop was around, I bought TONS of stuff from Jim Curley's Mountain Music Shoppe, including my current bass set-up.

The Deli: Do you have a favorite KC venue to play in terms of sound quality? 

Jason: Byron at Davey's is always a great sight to see behind the board. The Record Bar has stellar sound.

The Deli: Ever made or have thought of making your own custom gear? 

Jason: Mark Smeltzer is in the middle of making me a banjo out of an acoustic guitar, strung left-handed, with TWO drone strings, one on the top and one on the bottom. Other than that, no.

Jason will be playing a special set on Saturday, August 18 as part of a Money Wolf Music Secret Show, at a yet undisclosed location. He'll be performing a set from Kansas City's past musical giants, likely never to be performed in another setting again. Jon Stubblefield will also be performing that evening. There are only 30 tickets available, so go to the link here and get your tickets while you can!

-Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. She once fought the mighty Cerberus, and won.

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Jason Beers


The Brannock Device 




Show review: The Ants/The Brannock Device/Steady States, 7.21.12

(pictured above: The Brannock Device)

There’s no rhyme or reason for what took place. 

No explanation that the normal human mind can calculate.

But it takes those elite few who bring sounds and experiences into our being. Doing the very things our brains only attempt to wrap themselves around.

There are those moments that you find yourself entranced by what you’re hearing. Saturday night at Davey’s Uptown was one of those nights.

The strangely odd but fitting combination of Steady States, The Brannock Device and The Ants was an evening of music for musicians. Three bands with decidedly different styles but conjoined by a passion for the placement of each beat or the merging of each intricate melody.

(pictured above: Steady States)

Steady States began the evening early with a heavy kick to the teeth. There’s no question that this 4-piece group—former members of Mother Culture, Ste. Simone and Last Call (New York)—has a definitive hardcore sound with a quirky sensibility. 

Compared to the bands that followed them, Steady States is relatively new to the scene, only playing in town for the past year. Nonetheless, this resulted in a 35-minute massacre of brute force, knowledge and style. Frontman Joel Shields gives off the mild-mannered vibe of Clark Kent, and explodes out of nowhere with an Ian McKaye sort of intent. At the surface, they have a raw noise post-punk sound. But as the name suggests, each screeching guitar note or yell continually creates another element as it expands and comes into itself. Steady States are unapologetically hardcore punk, with a minute but intelligent invasion of math rock.

Next up, The Brannock Device, a veteran Kansas City group. Watching Brannock can be like going to the symphony. You listen to the congruent convergence of several pieces and attempt to analyze each one in the tiniest of details, whether it be in the machine-like flow of Bernie Dugan’s drumsticks cracking snare hits; Jason Beers’ harmonic bass chords; Marco Pascolini’s ungodly guitar arpeggios; or Elaine McMilian’s theatrical vocal delivery.

The band’s clear connection to one another is evident in each progression. While Brannock’s experimental approach may not be pleasing to every musical palate, there’s an absolute sense of the song composition and execution. It’s a music lesson on how to bring a glowing warmth to each low tone and a melodic depth to each dissonant note. A performance by Brannock brings forth an inner study on how to play music and how to derive satisfaction from creating the exact part you want to create. One that fits together while simultaneously existing on its own plane.

(pictured above: Chad Bryan and Sean McEniry of The Ants)

Rounding out the evening was The Ants from Lawrence, a band fully adept and bent on making music on its own terms. Much like the bands that preceded them, The Ants played their own peculiar brand of music and had a hell of a time doing so. The group has been around almost as long as The Brannock Device and has been crafting its own signature sound ever since.

Frontman and guitarist Chad Bryan knows how to captivate an audience simply by writing bizarre licks and entertaining lyrics. But he goes further by singing with a purely honest vocal style, injecting The Ants’ overall personality. The music is progressive Americana, and never apologizes for being such. Like all of the other bands of the evening, The Ants played exactly what they wanted to, with vigor and expertise. Each song had a sway-inducing quality, often steered by a jangly guitar and just a touch of country swagger. 

At the last song of the set, The Ants invited Marco Pascolini to the stage for a long jam session. From ripping punk notes to disjointed but oddly connected guitar riffs, Pascolini and Bryan performed a battle of wits and wizardry set off by an eccentric expression laid out on keyboard, bass and drums.

This final scene showed us exactly what we had seen that evening: a group of musicians coming together to showcase what they loved, and entertaining and educating its fans at the same time.

--Michelle Bacon

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May album releases

(above: The Doo-Dads)

 ...and if you have more releases we need to know about, email us here.

The Brannock Device: Into the Witness Chamber, 5.15.12

Antennas Up: The Awkward Phase, 5.15.12

The Doo-Dads: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, 5.11.12

The Rumblejetts: Motor Honey, 5.9.12

Jason Vivone and the Billy Bats: Lather Rinse Repeat, 5.4.12

Dr. Wizard: Dr. Wizard, 5.4.12

 Genessee: Genessee, 5.4.12