Brickdrop—they may be a new band to many, but they plan on being around for a long time, so folks will be able to get to know them. If you want that to be sooner rather than later, go to Merchants Hall in Rutland this Saturday at 7 p.m. Brickdrop is comprise of Ben Bivins, guitar; Billy Comstock Jr., bass; Rob Stahle, drums; Meghan Waterhouse, alto/soprano saxophone; and Rob DeBruyn, tenor saxophone. I had the pleasure of catching up with Comstock to learn about this great new band.
Here’s what to expect at a Brickdrop show, says Comstock: “We try and make it high energy and danceable. If you’re the type of person who likes listening to music like a jazz head, there’s stuff there for you, too. We try and make it fun. It’s upbeat with a lot of instrumentals. Meghan does sing a few of her original songs but it’s mainly an instrumental band. If you like instrumental funk bands like the Average White Band or Lettuce or Soulive, or if you like bands like Tower of Power, then you will probably dig us.”
The band started with Comstock and Bivins. They met at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where they both attended for a couple of years. They played in a few bands together while there. After Boston they went separate ways, but stayed in touch. Bivins got the itch to move to a ski town after he had learned to snowboard while in Boston. Soon, Bivins and Comstock became roommates in Killington. Comstock says, “We rekindled our musical relationship at that point and started writing songs and making music together.”
After a year of being snowboard bums in Killington, they met Waterhouse, their sax player. She had been in Comstock’s dad’s music class back in the day. Bivins and Waterhouse hit it off and that’s how she got in the band. Comstock’s dad, Bill, is a connection for most of them. Bill Comstock, Sr. is the music director at Stafford Technical High School in Rutland, soon to be retiring after 20 years.
Stahle joined the band next. He and Comstock are old friends and he, too, was a student of Comstock, Sr. That’s when Brickdrop got it going. Comstock says, “We just started doing it. We decided we really liked playing music together. Ben and I really like the songs we write together and perform together like r&b, jazz and funk stuff. Since about two or three years ago, we decided to really hit it hard. We found this guy Rich who has helped us with bookings and takes care of our business. We built a website and really started trying to branch out and get some better gigs.”
Rob DeBruyn was added to the roster after a guest appearance with the band at Higher Ground in the spring of 2015. It seems to have worked. Brickdrop has been playing at Stratton Mountain Resort, the Perfect Wife in Manchester, and recently had a show at Higher Ground in Burlington. They have a festival lined up with Kat Wright and other bands this summer. Last summer, they played a festival at the site of the former Tweed Festival. Everyone in the band has a day job, for now, but the past year they decided to really spend a lot of time on the band. They’ve mostly played in Vermont but hope to add New York and other places soon.
I like the name Brickdrop, and here is how they came up with it. Comstock said, “Coming up with a band name is the hardest thing you’ll ever do with a group of people—especially with five people. Getting everyone on board is something. After a week of yelling names at each other at practice, ‘Brick’ and ‘Drop’ came out. We knew we wanted the name to be simple, easy to remember and hard hitting. Those are all the things that embody a funk band.”
Everyone in the band writes tunes. Comstock explains it a little more, saying,”Some of us write individually, [but] I think our best songs are the ones we’ve all written together. Everybody in the band has experience going to music school so everyone comes with a background of knowing how to compose and arrange. Ninety percent of our songs are original compositions that are, to some degree, a combination of us. Most are collaborations. The 10 percent that aren’t originals are our arrangements of tunes that we’ve done. Ben likes to rearrange into medleys of Christian McBride tunes or old Ray Brown tunes and stuff like that, classic jazz tunes redone in a modern musical funk setting.”
Comstock’s biggest musical influence is his dad. “When my dad raised me, it was on old 60s and 70s music like Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Tower of Power, Chicago…it was stuff like that I was listening to. My dad has been teaching music for most of my life and playing music. That’s where I caught the bug and started playing bass in high school in his class. Any bit of musical love and talent I have, I definitely got from my dad. He’s had this program for many years and it’s unfortunate because he is about to retire. This is his last year. Both Meghan and Rob are alumni and I would think that they would say that they owe a lot to my dad. He always tried to give them opportunities and help them get to music school.”
I’ve seen Comstock, Jr. play in a few different bands, so I asked him what he liked best about playing with Brickdrop. He said, “I feel like I’m really making my music. I feel so comfortable with these friends of mine who I’ve known for many, many years. There’s no barriers, there’s no fear of being creative or suggesting something. I feel the music I’m playing now is something I’m proud of and really happy to share with people.”
Comstock loves playing music and says, “I love spreading happiness and that is the best part about being an entertainer. Music itself is a great internal fulfillment and there are so many things it helps you with, mentally and spiritually. Just to be creative and make music and then to be an entertainer and do that on stage for people, and have them respond and be happy, is an ultimate high that you can only get from that type of situation.”
Brickdrop has an EP out that you can download for free at brickdrop.com. Recordings are expensive, and they were fortunate to do this one at a discount with Walter Westinghouse who owns the Nektones. He’s a friend that Comstock did some producing work with. He says, “We’re going to try and get some mileage out of this one. We’re not going to try and sell it. We just want people to download it for free and hear it. Eventually in two years or so, we’ll be able to save up and do a full length album. We definitely have the material for it. We have three albums worth of material that we could record. Finance-wise, we just have to work on that a bit until we can get there.”
Brickdrop plans on being together for as long as they can. They want to make music forever. Comstock says they are big supporters of fans doing live recordings, live videos and having people share it. They are going to start that themselves and distribute some live archive recordings. Comstock says, “I want to instill that as a part of Brickdrop culture. I want people to share the music and enjoy the music and have that be our thing, basically.”
I think what’s cool about Brickdrop is that it’s a home-grown band. I’ve listened to the band on the site and I really like it. I truly believe I will enjoy this band live, too, but sadly cannot attend this show. Please go and support this newer act and let me know what you think.