Brick + Mortar is an independent band from Asbury Park, New Jersey, consisting of long-time best friends, Brandon Asraf and John Tacon, who bonded as teenagers over their mutual love of music and sense of alienation. The pair built a world for themselves musically by combining catchy melodies, eclectic electronic elements and intense live instrumentation. Brandon’s lyrics draw from his struggle to cope with issues of abandonment, anxiety, depression and being the son of an international fugitive and con man.
As the band matures, they continue to explore darker themes of the human condition with the intention of encouraging empathy, positivity, and self-motivation. Brick + Mortar’s energetic live performance, paired with the visuals and antics of Richie Brown, form a circus-like stage-show pregnant with psychological subtext and celebrations of the strangeness of existence. Have a listen to “Questions” from their debut album, “Meta Meta Etc.,” embedded below.
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SunCity Paradise: Kicking it off with Asbury Park, what really stands out and makes it special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor to get a real sense of the area?
John Tacon: I’d tell them to grab a coffee at Volan, eat a sandwich at Speakeatery, check out Russo Music and then go to the boardwalk.
SCP: What was your first real exposure to music? How did you get inspired to create your own and eventually pursue it as a career?
BA: I was always interested in how music took me out of my own reality. I used it to escape. Meeting John made me want to try to create my own reality with my own music. I fell in love with creating after John actually suggested I try learning an instrument when I was 14 and I never looked back.
JT: I fell in love with drums when I saw someone play them in a movie. Oddly enough it was Hocus Pocus and it was a scene where Max’s dad was giving him [troubles]. Max didn’t feel like hearing it, so he hopped on the drums and started playing. For whatever reason, that resonated with me so much, and me and the drumsticks were inseparable from then on. The moment that inspired to keep going with making music was when I quit my job as a garbage man, because we were touring so much. I thought to myself that I don’t have to dump garbage anymore because of the music I make, so that was a big moment.
SCP: To create music, and traveling to promote it, must be such a feeling. What’s the most impactful and meaningful part you cherish about it? Does the travel help inspirationally?
BA: Doing this with the same group of people I grew up with is special and kind of pure in a certain way. Seeing the world and meeting all kinds of people along this way impacts the way I think, my lyrics and what kind of music I want to create.
JT: What I cherish the most is doing it all with my best friends. You know, touring is hard. When you’re with someone 24/7 you’re bound to have disagreements and fights and all that, but there’s no one else I’d rather do with it. The thing I learned most while touring is perspective. You learn a lot about yourself when you travel across the country in a van.
SCP: Your debut album, “Meta Meta Etc.,” released in late August. What was your thought process around it? How has it been received since you dropped it?
BA: This record was important to me and to us as a band. We made a decision to not be the kind of artists that recreate the same style or song, so we tried to make a very diverse record with many twists and turns genre wise. We were nervous about how fans would react, but honestly the reaction has been amazing so far.
JT: We ultimately wanted to set out and make a record by ourselves. Both of us had really got into the art of songwriting and producing, so this record is the result of that. We approached each song as if it were it’s own record, in hoping to show the versatility of our styles. People have been really digging it, which I’m super stoked about.
SCP: How does music and travel complement and go hand-in-hand with each other?
BA: I think travel is paradoxical in that when you are on tour traveling, you are isolated in the van for hours. You reach a point where everyone kind of zones out and you are all alone together traveling down the highway getting lost in your own thoughts. Almost a forced meditation that creates moments that give me seeds for new material.
JT: I think travel greatly describes what we do. Our style is fluid and unexpected much like visiting a new place for the first time. Music and travel to me are probably two of the most important and primal things we as humans experience. Music is one of the very few things left that unifies and brings people together, while at the same, people will always want to explore and move around.
SCP: When searching for a personal getaway, are you looking for a serene beach or after a more active, adventurous getaway? Why?
BA: I would rather be getting into trouble since a lot of my life is chilling and creating. I am down for some near death experiences to make me appreciate life.
JT: I’ve done both and get a kick out of doing something exciting and strenuous. I’d rather go whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon then sitting on a beach somewhere. Doing that [stuff] just makes you feel more alive.
SCP: One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling, not only to influence people to see and appreciate our beautiful world, but to also minimize cross-cultural divides. What effect does traveling, specifically surrounding music, have on humans in this regard? How has it broadened your perspective of the world?
BA: Travel is the best cure for bigotry in my opinion. When you truly experience a culture and meet kind people in foreign places, it makes it so much harder to fall into hateful ways of thinking. Most of the world is kind people trying to survive a chaotic universe.
JT: I kind of hinted to this before, but we, as people, will always need music. We need to travel. We need to see how other people go through life. We need to understand how small we actually are. We need to see that there will always be someone going through what you’re going through, possibly worse. I believe humanity still exists in this world and you see it when you go to a show. There’s really no other place left that brings a bunch of strangers together regardless of race, religious belief or sexual preference.
SCP: Everyone has a list of places that they still have to hit. What are three destinations, either work or pleasure, that you need to see? Why?
JT: I want to go everywhere, so I’ll narrow it down to New Zealand, Brazil and Japan. I’d like to go to New Zealand, because it looks beautiful. Brazil, because a lot of people would like us to go there. And, Japan, because I’d love to see what they’d think about our music and show.
JT: We played a show in Jersey City on the pier and that day just sticks out in my head. The weather was beautiful, clear up-close view of the Hudson and the New York skyline. In another dimension this answer would have been Red Rocks.
SCP: When you’re relaxing on a beach or just have some downtime are you listening to dance music? Or do you like to switch up the tunes? If so, to what?