Not so indie A look at the Brilliant Mistakes

With songs filled with hear, soul, craft and intelligence, The Brilliant Mistakes have risen to become one of the top unsigned groups in the New York City area. With the release of Dumb Luck, the band’s second full-length album, the band has created a love letter to fans of classic pop songwriting.

Led by lead singer and keyboardist Alan Walker and bassist Erik Philbrook, the Brilliant Mistakes’ unique sound has led some listeners to make comparisons to bands like Squeeze, Wilco and Ben Folds Five. But much like their musical heroes from Squeeze, the Philbrook and Walker are songwriting partners who create bittersweet and timeless pop songs that are more than what meets the ear. They recently performed at Uncle Joe’s in Jersey City and will follow up with dates throughout New York City this month. We recently caught up with Philbrook.

EM – Where are you from?

EP – The Brilliant Mistakes are based in New York City, although I am originally from Bangor, Maine. Our drummer Paul Mauceri is from outside New Haven, Conn.

EM – Who are your influences?

EP – We are fans of classic pop rock bands starting with the Beatles, the Byrds, the Kinks and the Zombies, and then a lot of late ’70s and early ’80s Brit pop punk artists like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Squeeze, The Pretenders and Crowded House. More recently, we are inspired by the work of The Jayhawks and Wilco. Beyond that, we love all songwriters and bands that blend smart lyrics, abundant melodies and great musicianship into their songs.

EM – Why did you become a musician?

EP – I became a musician because it was a way to both express myself personally when I was by myself and also a way to be part of a fun, social activity such as playing in a band in front of people. It’s a nice way to be yourself and be part of a crowd at the same time. I think that’s why you might find that a lot of popular musicians are actually very shy people.

EM – How did you come up with the name for the band?

EP – We took our name from an Elvis Costello song. But we also fell like it was a good term to express how music is created. In most cases songs are just these things that you happen to stumble upon while you’re messing around. And they often end up being something quite interesting when you’re done writing them.

EM – Where have you performed?

EP – In New York City, we’ve played everywhere from the legendary Bottom Line to cool clubs like Fez, Mercury Lounge, Arlene’s Grocery, The Cutting Room, and the Rode Bar. We’ve also played a bunch of places in Jersey, Vermont, Portland, Maine, Maryland and Rhode Island.

EM – What is your favorite day of the week?

EP – Saturday, of course.

EM – What are the last three CDs you bought?

EP – I just bought the new remastered and remixed Beatles’ Let It Be. I also got Belle and Sebastian’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress and Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros’ Streetcore.

EM – How would you describe your music?

EP – Thoughtful, melodic, bittersweet pop that hopefully resonates with the listener.

EM – Are you looking for mainstream exposure?

EP – Absolutely.

EM – What professional plans do you have for the future?

EP – We’re looking to sign with a small yet passionate record label who would be interested in working with us on a national level. We’re also in discussion with a company who wants to promote us and distribute our new album in Europe, where we’ve been getting a lot of attention from radio and journalists in such places as Sweden, Italy and Germany.

EM – What is the best part about your job?

EP – Playing live in front of an audience who digs our music.

For more information on the Brilliant Mistakes visit q


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group