By Kyle Cornwell
If you’ve been around the Provo Punk scene some time in the past six months, chances are you’ve seen Brendon Crave once or twice. The Wisconsin native and frontman for Uncle Dirt has become a big part of the growing scene, so we took the opportunity to ask him questions about his musical upbringings and what it’s like being a part of the local music scene and how it compares to others he’s been a part of. This is part five of our Up the Punx Series, where we examine the Provo punk scene. For part four, click here.
As we get started, tell us what projects you are currently working on.
So, I am currently doing guitar and vocals for a band called Dear Boys with Dylan and Max from Pop Warner as well as our friend Kyle. I had been working on a few different projects over the summer, one of which I was going to tour with in August, but I decided to put my focus on Dear Boys and whatever else my homies here in Provo want to do.
What led you to start making your own music? When did you get started?
I started playing in a band when I was about 14 and we just played Weezer covers and random ska songs. I was still pretty bad at guitar, but discovering who my favorite bands were at the time helped motivate me to improve my playing skills. One band from my hometown called The Felix Culpa were a huge influence on me and how I play guitar and were the ones to inspire me to start writing my own stuff.
Apart from Weezer, random ska, and The Felix Culpa – who are your biggest influences?
[Laughter] That is a tough question to answer. Currently, anything put out by No Idea Records. In general, I feel like I can always fall back on old school emo bands like The Promise Ring and Braid for the good feels. Over the last few years I have been listening to a lot more punk and hardcore from 80’s on, such as Minor Threat, Descendents, Kid Dynamite, Against Me! – stuff like that.
When did you first start participating in a local music scene, and where was it?
I was around 17 when I joined a post-hardcore band called At the Uproar. Most of our shows were in and around Rockford, IL, which is where bands like Joie De Vivre, Anzio, and The Color Morale come from. I played in that band for about a year, and met a lot of people in the scene, which helped me book more shows for later bands.
How did growing up in the Midwest influence you musically?
The scene I was involved in most revolved in a large part around a place called the Hipster House, which, at the time I was going there, was run by members of Joie De Vivre who, in my mind, are the “dads” of emo revival. Going to shows there and talking to people from that scene is how I was introduced to DIY ethics.
It sounds like Joie De Vivre had a huge impact on the scene overall. Did you meet anyone that had a particular influence on your personal musical identity?
Oh tons! First off, I met the guys in Felix Culpa when I was like 12, and I learned a lot from them about what it means to make art for the sake of making art. I credit their drummer, Joel, for showing me that music exists outside of what is played on the radio. Later on, I met a group of guys in a band called Bloom who became some of my dearest friends. I owe a lot to their examples as musicians. By the time I got to know them, they had been playing together for years and were just so tight live. I remember when we were still all in high school, and they were playing shows with all these older bands that we looked up to, and would just blow everyone away. I think of them often when I reflect on why I still make music. For being so young, they had a lot to offer to the Rockford scene.
What was the most important thing that you took away from your time in the Rockford scene?
Also a tough question. I’d say serve your community. This definitely isn’t unique to Rockford, but the scene has been through many different phases. Sometimes it was amazing and exciting, and sometimes it stagnated. A lot of people cared about having a thriving scene for artists and musicians and worked hard to make it happen for themselves. They started new bands, opened new venues (sometimes in their homes), and got new people involved. There was a point in my life when I had decided to quit playing music altogether and my buddies Paul and Nic, who play in an awesome band called Anzio, and also ran Hipster House after Joie de Vivre, personally reached out to me and told me that my art was worth something to them and encouraged me to keep at it. I still think about that sometimes when I get discouraged.
So when you first came to Provo, how did you get involved in the local scene?
So for me, it really started in Salt Lake. I had moved to Salt Lake City about two years ago and I didn’t know anyone in the scene. But I started going to shows at the Shred Shed and met Jesse, who ran it. I started helping him out with shows and he introduced me to a lot of people. Then the Shred Shed closed up and I started playing solo shows at The Underground, where a few friends saw me and helped me form Uncle Dirt, and our first show was at the Provo Bicycle Collective. Since then, I’ve been trying to help out with the Provo Punk Collective and want to get more SLC based bands to come down to Provo.
What are your overall thoughts and impressions about the Provo punk and emo scene?
It’s cool! A lot of people are excited that a punk scene is starting to grow down here again. I believe it will open many doors for musicians that just want to play, but have a hard time knowing where to start. I think Provo is a perfect town for something like this, too. The Provo music scene in general is much more pop/folk oriented, and it’s hard to know what to do if your songs don’t quite fit the mold, so I think a lot of people will be excited to get involved in the Provo Punk Collective, which isn’t necessarily tied down to a single sound aesthetic, but can help instill the idea that you can make things happen for yourself if you just get involved.
What lessons have you learned in Provo?
Interesting question actually. This may sound dumb, but the most important thing I’ve learned from playing music out here is to just have a good time. I tend to take myself too seriously at times and feel like I’m not doing enough to be a “real” musician, such as touring or putting out records on a label. But the people in this community have helped me understand that the only reason I should be doing any of this is because I love it. For example, the crowds in Provo have always been great, which came as a huge surprise to me because I didn’t think anyone cared about punk or DIY down here. But regardless of whether or not they care about the overall concept of punk, they just come out to have a good time. A few people have come up to me at shows and have said that they had never seen a punk show, let alone one in a bike shop or a basement, and that the experience was new and exciting for them. So, when I start to wonder why I’m not touring or having the “success” I think other bands are having, I take a step back and think that I actually get to be a part of something exciting and new for a lot of people around here, and I get to feed back into this thing that gave me life growing up. That’s all I could really ask for as a musician – and as a person, really.
If there was one thing you wanted local artists and fans to know, what would it be?
I suppose I mentioned this already, and I don’t know who really needs to hear it from me, but just make sure you’re having a good time. I’ve made myself miserable before when my focus fell off of making music because I love it, and onto achieving what I thought a “successful” musician should achieve. My buddies in a band called Problem Daughter once said something at a show along the lines of “If you don’t love what your doing (musically), just quit and do something you love.” Their band is one that you can say has had a lot of success over the past year with a label signing, east coast tour, and a feature in Alternative Press. But if you ask any one of them, they’ll genuinely tell you that none of that is what really matters to them. The bottom line for them has always been that they are having fun and that they love each other. As soon as music stops being fun, you either need to stop doing it or remember why you started in the first place.
Make sure to like Brendon Crave’s project, Uncle Dirt, on Facebook and check them out on Bandcamp. You can listen to their song “Ohio” below.