To be familiar with Brainstory is to know their Rialto, CA, roots, the positivity that laces each of their songs, and then the maverick-musicianship-meets-real-friendship that expertly holds it all together.
If you’re new to Brainstory, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t quite believe the music they make—from sweet soul slowies to psyche rock-tinted bangers to ballads with a nod to a smooth jazzy R&B of the 70s—is the product of only three people.
Brainstory is the brothers Kevin and Tony Martin (on guitar/vocals and bass, respectfully) and Eric Hagstrom (drums)—but all three of these raw, sensitive, California dudes are family.
Inspired and conceived in California’s Inland Empire, these three found each other through the common denominator of jazz. With no real music scene to speak of in the IE, Kevin and Eric landed in music school (where they initially met) while Tony left for San Francisco to study jazz bass the more traditional way—gig after gig, learning by trial-by-fire. By the mid-2010s, the group was in Los Angeles. “That’s what we were all into at the time—jazz,” Kevin explains. “And that’s what we wanted to do with our first EP in 2014—take our songs and expand them, improvise, weld jazz onto them. We wanted to trick people into listening to jazz, basically.”
Fast forward to today, and no trickery is needed. Kevin, Tony, and Eric have evolved into something seemingly bigger than the self-released EPs and opening acts of their past. Indeed, they needed to grow through it all—and are very thankful for it. But don’t limit them as just jazz heads, although the transcendent and freeing nature of that genre is crucial to the Brainstory sound.
Skyway Man is the brainchild of singer, songwriter, composer, and producer James Wallace. Employing an idiosyncratic blend of psych, dusty boogie rock, gospel-folk, and blues, his sonic touchstones include Randy Newman, Lee Hazlewood, Daniel Romano, Norman Greenbaum, Flaming Lips, and Dennis Wilson. In 2019 he composed the music for the critically acclaimed HBO/Adult Swim show called “Joe Pera Talks With You.” His 2020 release, The World Only Ends When You Die is a ramshackle road trip billed as a “psych-folk opera” that evokes a Muscle Shoals-backed Grateful Dead piloting a boogie van into the Greek underworld. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Wallace moved to Nashville in 2008, bringing with him the indelible sound and D.I.Y. aesthetic of Richmond’s Spacebomb studio scene — which also launched the careers of Natalie Prass and Matthew E. White — he soon became a fixture of the Nashville underground. In 2019 he moved his base to Oakland, CA where he continues to tour, produce, and compose music at home and abroad.