Denton-based Brack Cantrell has been in countless bands. You might remember him as the first vocalist for Sky Eats Airplane or his solo project Balance Problems. Now he’s producing and playing with Cozy Hawks and Bad Beats, along with starting up Dojo Baby Records. And for the record, Cantrell wants people to know he’s friendlier than he seems.
We had a fun conversation as we drank beer and enjoyed the Denton night sky.
You had a bit of a cult following as Balance Problems. Were you aware of it at the time? Is it ever still surreal to you?
It’s kind of funny even hearing people say that they’ve heard that stuff before.
I had a little bit of an advantage from internet buzz and projects that I had done back in the day and people I had worked with. It was kind of funny to see a little bit of a following, not even from live shows or in Texas, but solely people listening to my music on the internet. That was encouraging because I was getting positive feedback and things were happening from that. I really enjoyed writing and recording my own music. I really feel like all my endeavors have happened from that. Especially with recording solo music. Because that’s where I got my start really—was just, you know, fucking around in my room with a really simple digital recording setup and just trying to make shit sound cool. I still do that, but a little bit to a lesser degree. Recording solo music is really just what got me started in…everything.
Did you always dabble with music? Did you like gadgets growing up?
Kind of. I’m not super “hands on.” I don’t solder my own pedals or design my own gear. I’ve definitely always had an interest in how sounds are made and why certain records sound the way they do. I just love hearing sound textures and trying to figure out what makes them. A little bit of that plays into what gear I use. Trying new things like running vocals through a really old preamp to get them fucked up sounding and things like that. On every one of my solo albums it’s been a drastically different sound based off of just playing around. I get into a different style of music simply because of how it sounds.
You were also the first vocalist for Sky Eats Airplane. Which was huge for the DFW scene—to put it lightly. I had to—I’m sorry. What are your thoughts on how your sound has evolved since?
The Sky Eats Airplane thing was overwhelming because I was just a junior in high school. It evolved as another sonic experimentation for me. The whole merging of metal, hardcore, and electronica experimental kind of stuff. I thought no one was really doing it, although I know there were some bands at the time like Whitechapel and Idiot Pilot that were blending hardcore and electronica. But for me, I thought it was a brand new thing. It was just me and Lee fucking around in our bedrooms and thinking, “This is weird as hell, let’s go with it.” As soon as things started getting more serious and there was more pressure, I was ready to do something new and to focus on my solo stuff. I was with Sky Eats Airplane with Lee for about a year-and-a-half, maybe almost two years, but it fizzled out pretty quickly when things started getting more serious. I find that happens a lot with projects—as soon as the pressure mounts and it gets more serious, it can kind of change how you feel about it.
Is there anything that you’re working on now that if the pressure built up, you’d stick with?
Both of the bands I play live with I’ve been playing with for a while. Cozy Hawks I’ve been drumming with for at least four years now. We’ve put out a few albums and we’re working on our newest one. It’s kind of our lengthiest endeavor ever. I guess you could say there’s some pressure there.
I really am enjoying play drums live right now. It’s something I’ve always liked to do, but at the moment I feel drawn to it. I feel the pressure there, but not anything crazy. We don’t have much of a following outside of our friends and the DFW area. And then Bad Beats I’ve been playing bass with for about two-and-a-half years now. No pressure there really. Everyone is kind of doing their own thing too. I still see it as kind of a fun thing. And I will always be putting out solo stuff. This past year [I have mostly been] recording other people, which I’ve enjoyed a lot.
Currently you’re working with Dojo Baby Records, Bad Beats, and Cozy Hawks. What has your experience with each of these been like?
When I got into college, I started meeting more people and playing with different musicians. It’s been awesome. It’s the best getting exposed to different subcultures. Punk rock with Bad Beats and Americana with Cozy Hawks—which I’ve never really delved into [’til now]. I’ve listened to bands like that, but never really played it. Getting exposed to different kinds of music is really cool. Dojo Baby Records is just a new thing that me and Robert, from Cozy Hawks, have started for fun. A little side project. We don’t have any huge expectations for it right now. It’s been more of a way to help us [spread] records by our friends that we think should be heard. There’s so many good bands in Denton that just don’t have a way to get their music out there.