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On the Record with Humble Braggers

Humble Braggers are:

Tom Burtless:  Lead Vocals/Guitar/Bass

Brian Zells: Guitar/Bass/ Back-up Vocals

Matt Chavanne: Drums

Humble Braggers hasn’t always been “that band”, but with two songs featured on national television and with the release of one of Buffalo’s breakout records of 2015, an EP called “Disposable Friends, they’re starting to garner the reputation. It may be hard to believe, but not long ago lead singer and songwriter for the group, Tom Burtless, was writing and recording all the instrument and vocal parts by himself on his computer. In fact, all of the band’s previously recorded tracks including the “Disposable Friends” EP (barring three drum tracks played by Gabe Wells) were performed, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Burtless himself; very humble beginnings indeed. 

It was 2013 that saw the birth of Humble Braggers with the debut of their first self-released EP titled “Safe Haven”. After receiving positive reviews of the early tracks, the band quickly hit a stalling point. Since Humble Braggers was essentially Burtless’s brainchild, having tracked all of the material on the recordings alone, he didn’t have a full band to back him up in a live setting yet. Consequently, the group’s first show didn’t occur until eight months later in 2014 after current guitarist/bassist Brian Zells joined up along with former drummer, Gabe Wells (currently of Dreambeaches).

For over a year the group played local shows and built up a following, all the while Burtless was hard at work on their future release “Disposable Friends”. The vast majority of the tracks were written and recorded in his bedroom. “I knew I could get them to sound close to what I envisioned in my head,” he says. The product was an impressive five track synth-pop record full of gems that include lead single “How It Starts” and “All Alone”. After the band released the EP on Buffalo’s own Admirable Traits Records, they were hit with another obstacle; drummer Gabe Wells leaving the project.  They quickly recuperated the loss by adding current drummer Matt Chavanne. “I’d thought about bringing Matt on after Gabe left. I’d known him for a while, he was in the band Smart House,” said Burtless “I’d liked Matt’s drumming and we all enjoyed very similar music so I knew we would vibe together very well”.


Photo credit: [above] Brendan O’Connor.

I met up with the local synth-pop rock band in Tom Burtless’s apartment, the same location where “Disposable Friends” was recorded. While getting prepared for what Humble Braggers has planned for 2016, the group has set up shop on the second floor living room with all guitars, vocals and electronic drums running through a laptop and the sound all coming back through headphones. Burtless weighed in on this method of rehearsing “It’s more organic to the songs with backing tracks, which allow us to be more critical”.

It’s the day before the band is scheduled to shoot a live-take acoustic track for Buffalo Music Cooperative (see Facebook), a relatively new video series that features local Buffalo artists performing and offering their perspective of the local music scene. According to Brian Zells, they’ve never done any of their songs acoustically before but this doesn’t hinder any confidence. After all, as of late Humble Braggers has been all about embracing change. While the bandmates work on new material they tell me how they go about writing songs now in comparison to how they used to. Everyone brings something to the table. Burtless enthusiastically compares the trio’s current work ethic to that of a democracy saying “It was getting to the point where I was sick of writing everything. I didn’t want to just be in an igloo by myself working alone. When we finally got the line-up in order I came to the guys and was just like, “I want to write these songs with you.” The following sessions resulted in the creation of two future singles, the Joywave-esque banger titled “Losing it”, and a tight-knit 80’s inspired track called “Fight”. The band also took some time to go back and improve old songs, each member adding his own flare in order to put more personality behind their live show.

Along with a new style of crafting songs together, the group is also excited to bring their new material to a studio for the first time, but they’re still mulling over the details. “We’re still deciding what studio we want to go to and who we want to record with” said Burtless, whom is hoping to have the new material ready to be released by the end of 2016.

In the meantime, don’t expect Humble Braggers to be silent. They’ll be opening up for Rochester’s buzz band, Kopps on March 4th at Mohawk Place and are planning to stay busy with shows throughout the spring and summer. The group is also hoping to test the waters outside of Buffalo, “We’ve been told so many times that we should go play in New York City,” remarks Burtless. “We’re hoping to get out and hit the major hubs that would be into our type of music within the area.” The band’s future looks bright.

Listen to “How It Starts” NOW:

Photo credit: [Lead photo] Brian Gorman

Written by Travis Perno

Travis Perno

Travis Perno has been playing in bands for 8 years and currently plays drums in the rock band, The Naturalists.

He currently lives around the Elmwood Village in Buffalo.

Travis obtained an undergraduate degree in English from Buffalo State in 2014.

View All Articles by Travis Perno
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