DAVE BREWER Roads and rhythm

Photo by Jeff Atkinson

Local singer-songwriter Dave Brewer is set to launch his new album, Long Road Back Home, this Sunday, October 10 at Freo.Social. BOB GORDON spoke to Brewer to find out about the LP and the long musical road to now.

In terms of album releases, it’s been eight years between drinks for respected WA singer/guitarist, Dave Brewer.

With his new LP, Long Road Back Home, Brewer had no preconceived notions in mind and was happy for the album to evolve organically.

“At one stage I had the loose idea of doing a blues album, which I’ve never really done,” he qualifies. “Not a dedicated blues album. As I was jamming and doing a few test recordings with my friend Elliot (Smith, Sundown Studios) other songs were appearing.

“I like to draw from different musical styles, and we came to the conclusion that we could do an album that wasn’t blues but reflected on what we were coming up with at the time. It really came about by fooling around with songs in the studio.”

Happily for Brewer it was indeed the music that spoke, with certain tracks emerging as clarion calls for the rest. The opening song on the album, All You Gotta Do Is Call, was indeed the one to open the way.

“That one kicked us off in the right direction,” Brewer says. “It’s a song that’s different for me and comes from a slightly more produced angle, really.”

The album was two years in the making, and with that more ‘produced’ notion in mind, Brewer also notes that there are other departures from his normal musical predilections.

“I’ve always dabbled in funk and soul, as well as the blues, and I’m still covering those areas, but I think that there’s more minimal playing on this album, in some ways,” he notes.

“The time spent producing it has really led to the songs being more crafted than I’ve ever done before. Having two years to spend on an album is a luxury I’ve never had. We put it to good use in terms of weeding out all the unnecessary things.

“I’m still listening to the album occasionally and hearing it fairly fresh. I feel like I don’t need to do anything more to it, whereas with past albums I’ve cringed just a little bit with some things I’ve left in (laughs).”

Brewer worked closely with Smith, who also contributes his well-honed drumming skills, as do dear friends Fabian Hevia (The Mighty Reapers, on congas), Jonathan Zwartz (double bass), Ben Franz (The Waifs, also on double bass), Harry Mitchell (piano), Jeremy Trezona (tenor sax) and Alex Borthwick (electric bass). His Nashville-based nephew, Ryan Brewer contributed keyboards, as did Clayton Doley who recorded his parts while here in Perth with Jimmy Barnes prior to lockdown.

Of special sentiment to Brewer is the track, Make Everything Alright, co-written with his 22-year-old son, Riley.

“That’s a first,” Brewer notes proudly. “Riley’s been playing guitar and drums. He was playing that tune around the house and it just got into my brain, so I decided to write some lyrics for it.”

“It’s great to have a song co-written with my son. It’s fantastic. I’ve got a younger son Jesse who’s 18 and also obsessed with music – on drums and guitar – so eventually I hope we can collaborate on a few songs together as well. There’s lots of noise in my house (laughs).”

Another great relationship Brewer has had in his life is with the guitar itself, having played it for so many years and never put it down. It’s an interesting affair.

“It’s a good question because largely I treat guitar like a percussion instrument,” he explains. “I started off on the drums, and I think I’m a frustrated drummer, really. I like to be rhythmic on the guitar, with chords and with solos. I do find it important to lock in with a rhythm section but really as part of the rhythm section. I wouldn’t say I struggle with the guitar, but it is the rhythmic aspect that I feel most close to.

“It becomes more inclusive too, if you’re rhythmic. If you’re locking in with the rhythm section, even if you’re playing a solo, it’s including everyone in what you’re playing, rather than just playing over the top of it. Early on playing live I found that as a guitarist if you can also lock in with the rhythm section it takes it to a whole new level. It’s the way I’ve always felt about it.

“I do love playing guitar, but it’s great to have that percussive aspect whilst being able to play with the melody. It’s not so much academics, but more of a primal thing.”

Brewer has had a storied career, going back to the heady days of the late ‘70s with famed Perth blues outfit The Elks and later in Sydney with The Dynamic Hepnotics, The Mighty Reapers and The Catholics, before heading back to Perth and performing with Lucky Oceans, Natalie Gillespie, The DooDaddies and more.

The new album, he feels, occupies a different space in comparison to his previous adventures.

“I don’t think it stands in relation to a lot of it,” ponders Brewer. “The Elks were an interesting band; I think the big feature was that at one stage it had a real engine room feel about it. Again, I was really locking in with the rhythm section and we had Terry (Serio) out the front doing his thing. Generally, I’m pretty oblivious to what’s happening out the front, my fondest memories of that band are being part of the engine room of the whole thing.

“It wasn’t until I got back from Sydney in the early 2000s that I had a go at fronting a band. I wouldn’t say it comes naturally to me, but it’s something that I’ve come to enjoy now. Previously it took me so long to sing, even to do backing vocals, I was petrified of a microphone (laughs).

“So I don’t really see a big connection with what I’m doing now with what I was doing back then. Back in The Elks days it was almost like going into battle because the crowds were big, and it was all just heaving and dancing. You’d be really in the midst of it. It’s quite different now.”