Originally a duo comprised of PJ Bradford on vocals and guitar and Ryan Townsend on drums, the group started out playing only a handful of The Black Keys cover songs. With the addition of keyboard/synth player Luis Vazquez, Brought To You By Us grew into original material, for a while writing in the same genre as The Black Keys.
“When we first started writing, the material was more bluesy rock,” Bradford said. “But now that we have more equipment, things are leaning a little more toward electronic.”
Starting up in 2009, they have remained on the fringe of the local scene; they’ve played approximately 15 shows. But even after just a couple, Brought To You By Us was booked to play at The Rogue, The Hub, Fayetteville’s annual Springfest Arts Festival, and George’s Majestic Lounge — and at most of these venues, they weren’t booked as openers.
“Playing at George’s was pretty cool, because we’re all minors,” Vazquez said. “A lot of the bars around here don’t even let underage kids inside, and here we are getting invited in to play a show. As we were setting up, a lot of the drunk guys were just staring at us like ‘What the fuck are you kids doing here?’ But by the end of it, everyone was really digging it.”
“It was the same way at The Rogue,” Bradford continued. “The bands they’re used to seeing there are usually wearing a lot of leather, or pinstripe suits, or a bunch of polo shirts. Whenever we’re setting up at places like that, a lot of people don’t really pay attention to us until we start playing. And then at the end of it, most of them just can’t believe we’re all only 17 and 18 years old.”
The band hasn’t released much material, but they plan to release a few new songs this summer — one is a song called “Guests,” a glowing, high-altitude, post-Bloc Party guitar ballad. The shimmering electric guitar coupled with Bradford’s bright lyrical melancholy makes it one of the band’s best tracks so far. He sings in the first stanza:
Oh what a night, to say the least
A fear of death, and disbelief
Stuck in a state of mind, alone
And I can’t wait, to pick up the phone.”
“I guess I was kind of depressed when I wrote that song,” said Bradford. “But a lot of times if I’m feeling down, I’ll just let it hit me; sometimes after something happens I’ll try to twist it even more in my head, like ‘Oh man, that was so terrible,’ just because I know that I can make a good song out of it.”
Their demonstrated array of influences is markedly different from many of Fayetteville’s other popular local groups. Their style has evolved to soak up influence from bands like Bloc Party, Ratatat, Radiohead and Cold War Kids.
“I like that we’re something new for Fayetteville; there aren’t many bands around that play like us,” Vazquez said. “I remember for one show at The Hub, we were covering ‘Something’s Not Right With Me’ by Cold War Kids. One of the dudes in the crowd was staring at me with the biggest eyes the whole time, and he was screaming, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” It was kind of scary, but afterward he came up and told us how awesome we were.”
“A lot of guys in charge of booking have said, ‘We want to book you guys again, but there aren’t really any other available bands it would make sense to pair you with,’” Bradford said. “The Fayetteville music scene is pretty limited, and there’s a lot here that sounds the same. You’ll hear ‘Oh, go check out this band,’ and you’ll go and they’ll be really average; a lot of it is just mediocre musicians saying mediocre musicians are awesome. Personally, I don’t want to stay a Fayetteville band. That’s not what I’m striving for. I don’t want to just cycle around, playing the same couple of venues here. I want to tour around the country, and someday tour the world.”