Something To Remember (Version II):
Texas Is The Reason Finally Says Goodbye

Texas Is The Reason pic #1
(l to r) Norman Brannon, Chris Daly, Scott Winegard, & Garrett Klahn. Photo by Jordan Provost.
This coming weekend, massively influential NYC melodic indie-rockers Texas Is The Reason reunite in their home city for one weekend (and only one weekend) to celebrate the 10th anniversary release of their final album Do You Know Who You Are?. SCR talked to guitarist Norman Brannon (neé Arenas) to get the skinny.
Texas Is The Reason plays Saturday and Sunday, November 25th and 26th, at Irving Plaza (17 Irving Place, New York City, NY.), along with Ian Love. Sorry, kids, but the tickets are all already sold out...
SCR: I don't know if you remember me, but you guys crashed here when you were touring with New End Original [Brannon's band with Jonah Matranga, of Far/Onelinedrawing fame]. I had the little house with all the movie posters...
Norman Brannon: Was that before or after we met the girls in Kittie?
After, I think, because you guys were telling me about that.
Oh, yeah -- I remember now.
Yeah, if you're missing a blue towel, you left it here. I keep asking Jonah to give it back to you.
(laughs) You can keep it.
Just to get started off, for the two people reading this that don't know about it, why did you decide to reunite Texas Is The Reason at this point and time?
Mostly circumstance, sort of. We had been offered the opportunity to play for several different festivals and things over the years, and we generally turned them down either for the fact that it was too soon, or it was just not convenient because we lived literally on four corners of the country at one point. And so, it very much seemed like it was just not going to ever happen. It was definitely not a personal thing. We had all maintained relationships with each other. Scott [Winegard, bassist] is my oldest friend, and Chris Daly [drummer] and I have been playing together for 16 years. So, there definitely wasn't any sort of animosity that would keep it from happening.
At some point in the last two years, Scott moved back to New York, and then I moved back about a year later, and then at some point last year we kind of all realized that we all lived in the same city again. So we started hanging out again. A lot. And occasionally we would say things like "Oh we should totally get into the studio and jam out." Not necessarily as Texas, but just as whomever we were, you know, in 2006. And then one day, it finally happened...somebody took the initiative and said, "Hey, I booked studio time for Wednesday...can everybody make it?" And we did.
And at the time we started practicing there was no intention of us really leading that into more than what it was. We were just gonna play and have some fun. And I think that definitely after the second and third times that we got together it started feeling like this was something that could be a cool show. That "why not, what would stop us?"...those were the questions that we were asking ourselves, and the bottom line was, nothing. Nothing was really keeping us from doing it at that point. And when we realized that it just happened to be ten years since the album came out, it felt like an appropriate time to revisit that. So, we made it official.
Texas Is The Reason record cover
(Music courtesy of Riot Act Media and Revelation Records.)

And when you guys did that, and made the show announcement, and set up the presale, were you surprised at how fast the presales, and then the entire shows, sold out?
I want to say yes, because every time it happened, we were all just kind of speechless. At the same time, it was really a mixed feeling of surprise, because you know, I've spent the last ten years talking about Texas Is The Reason because people always ask me about Texas Is The Reason. So, I knew that the band was in the public consciousness and that people still cared about it, and I guess that putting on a show was like saying: "okay...you bothered me about it for ten years, now put your money where your mouth is!" (laughs) Like, "do you really care about this band?" And, you know, the feeling I got was that I was put in my place. It felt like a resounding "Yes." And that was cool...it felt good.
Right. So has that put any extra pressure on you guys to "deliver" that night?
I've been thinking about that, a lot. Because, you know, anybody who saw the band when we were a band will have a more realistic picture of what they might expect. Time tends to create far more interesting stories than reality. So...do I think we are going to put on a really good show? Yes. I think that we sound better than we ever have, and I feel really confident about how we're going to come across. Is that going to match the perception that someone might have in their head of what a Texas Is The Reason show might be like if they've never been to one? I have no idea. But, it's also difficult because a lot of people that are coming to these shows...it's not like they just paid for a ticket. A lot of these people are flying in, literally, from all over the world.
Yeah. I'm one of those people.
(laughs) Well, that is super intimidating. I know I'm going to be at least worth the ticket price; the question is, am I worth the airfare? (laughter) No, but I definitely feel pretty confident about where we're at as a band, and where we're going to be in terms of performance, and we're doing everything we can to make this show more of an event, and less of just a regular show. And what I mean by that will actually become more clear when you actually attend the event. I probably don't want to talk about all the things that we're trying to accomplish for the show.
Cool. So exactly how long has TITR been practicing together in preparation for this show?
I guess we started playing together in August. I've known other bands that we are friends with that did some reunion tours and they told us that they practiced maybe six or seven times before the first show. And I remember just thinking, "Wow...I really don't think that Texas Is The Reason could get away with that." Just because the style of the music between the bands we're talking about...we're very different. I think that one of the things about Texas Is The Reason's music, and pulling it off, is that there are a lot of subtleties. And there were moments where sometimes, honestly, it took six or seven practices to remember what some of those subtleties were. And to say, "Oh, that's how it used to go and that is awesome." Because a lot of the songs also morphed over time from playing them so much and from touring on them and whatnot. And those are the versions of the songs that we feel are the most definitive. The versions on the album and on the single, they're great...but we did a lot of things to kind of tweak them out for the live performances. And we always felt like those were the definitive versions, and those are the versions that we're trying to remember.
And then also, some of the subtleties just kind of started developing recently, just over the time we've been practicing now. So that's fun, too, just being able to have enough time before the show, where it feels like you're a "band"; you're not just a "band doing a reunion show." That was important to me.
That's very cool. You guys have kind of alluded to this in all the emails and blogs and such, but this is it, right? This is only a two-show thing, there's no full-scale Texas Is The Reason reunion planned or anything, correct?
Absolutely not.
(somewhat bummed out by hearing it from the proverbial horse's mouth) Okay.
Yeah, it's kind of amusing, because I put out a statement that I thought was extremely clear about that, but you know, we still get tons of messages everyday asking "Will you play our town/country?," and it's great, you know. Nothing against your town or country (laughs). But realistically, one of the reasons that we wanted to do this show is because we never played a real, final show in New York.
It's strange how things have changed over time, but it doesn't seem like there are a lot of bands that really associate themselves with their cities the way bands used to. Even The Promise Ring, you know, they're very proud to be from Milwaukee. They would always say: "We're The Promise Ring, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin." That would be the way they way they would talk. And definitely at the time that Texas Is The Reason was a band there was a very exciting scene of bands, music, people, fanzines, and culture that was happening in New York, something that really hadn't been there since the late '80s, and we were very proud to be a part of that. New York, you know, it definitely was a huge influence on this band. You listen to "Back And To The Left," and that's what that song's about -- the song is about New York, and the struggle of living in New York, and loving New York.
So, yeah...it really has to end here. If we dared to play anywhere else, we'd have to come back here anyway. And that's just not going to happen.
Well, with that said, once the weekend comes around, and everyone comes in, and it turns into this totally magical experience, and you get the rush from being onstage...do you think that might sway you guys?
No. Really, not at all.
That's cool. I can understand that.
Because, you know, I do feel like while I think that we've all become better musicians and we still all have a chemistry together musically that none of us really can deny -- or have ever denied, for that matter -- I feel like Texas Is The Reason was definitely a time and a place in our lives that I would never try to recreate on a long-term basis. I'm very proud of the fact that we can play these songs ten years later and there isn't a single point in our rehearsals where I think, "this is totally irrelevant." That just never happened. These songs still feel fresh and new, and I still can kind of get into that place where I was when we were writing and recording and playing them, which is amazing to me -- as a musician and as a human being.
At the same time, we're also very realistic about the fact that we're all in different places in our lives, and a Texas Is The Reason album in 2006 or 2007 would be an almost...indistinguishable piece of work. It would be so different that it would never be the same thing.
Texas Is The Reason pic #1
(l to r) Brannon, Klahn, Daly, & Winegard. Photo by Jordan Provost.
Early on, in one of the first "TITR Reunion Show Q & A" communiquŽés that you sent out, I believe that one of the questions was something like "Will you play (insert TITR song title here)?" The answer was "Yes," so it sounds like you guys are going to be playing pretty much everything, right?
Yes. That's one of the things we realized, you know...the band, it's not like we have ten albums to draw from. So we didn't really want anybody to leave the shows feeling like: "I can't believe they didn't play 'Blue Boy,'" or whatever song they really wanted to hear. That, to me, is just inexcusable. (laughs)
But I think the great thing about it is that we are going to be playing songs that never were released, that were finished, that we were playing live towards the end of the band that we loved, that we always wished we had recorded but never did. And I think that that's been pretty exciting as well, because it almost feels like...I mean, these are obviously still ten years old, but when we're rehearsing we still call them "the new ones." (laughs) And I'm excited for people to finally really get to hear those, because I think those songs were really a good peek into where we were going, musically, and how we were changing at that time.
When you were here with New End Original, I remember you mentioning that when Texas Is The Reason toured Europe, the band played a cover of Quicksand's "Shovel."
That's true.
Are we going to get to hear that one, too?
(laughs) No. That was a moment of circumstance. We had gone to Europe, and on the first tour we had maybe seven or eight songs to our catalog, and I think one of them we eventually just dropped and didn't play at all. So we went to Europe, and the show we played was a headlining show. And, this was a band that didn't even have a record out yet. We were headlining purely on "ex-members of" status. And it was amazing to me that there were a lot of people there.
So we finished playing the only seven or eight songs that we knew, and we walk off stage, and everyone's screaming for encores. And a friend of ours who was on tour with us from Germany explained that in Europe in general, but especially in Germany, it's almost insulting if you don't play an encore. And we definitely didn't want to insult anybody, but we didn't have any more songs! So at the time, I had just finished putting together the Anti-Matter compilation record, and so we had this Quicksand song, and we had kind of jammed on it together in practice as a goof, but it was just one of those things you play in-between other songs when you're bored. So we said, "fuck it, lets play 'Shovel.'"
They had never heard the song, so they didn't know it wasn't ours. The first thing Garrett [Klahn, TITR's singer/guitarist] said was, "I have no idea what these lyrics are." We were like: "Yeah, whatever, make 'em up." He said: "Cool." So we went out, we played "Shovel," and we kind of used that as our default encore on that tour, whenever we needed it. And we never told anybody at the time that it was a Quicksand song, because that would have felt tacky. (laughs) It worked out for us -- we've told those guys about it since then, and they got a kick out of it.
Maybe this touches on your earlier statement about having special stuff planned that you can't talk about...but are there plans to record these shows and release a live CD or DVD or something like that?
You know, we've discussed that quite a bit, mostly because a lot of people have been asking for it. But as far as recording the show goes, the problem is that number one, it's a very expensive proposition. Not just in terms of the production, but also in terms of the venue that we happen to be playing, which asks for a really large fee if you plan to record it. When we first inquired about it, and were kind of weighing our options, that was what we learned. And when we found out that the fee was so exorbitant just to get a camera into the place to begin with, that really decreased the odds. We are still kind of looking into ways to share the show with other people, not necessarily in a commercial way, but in some other ways that we still haven't completely ironed out, but hopefully come November 27th, we'll have something to say about that.
And the other thing, too, is that we were never a band that "milked" anything, obviously. We weren't around long enough to milk it. And it's interesting that our fans are always the ones that say: "You should put out a DVD, you'll make tons of money!" Or: "You should go on tour, you'll make tons of money!" And, you know, that's really not what this is all about. It's about doing something special, and pretty much, it's as simple as that. The idea of commercializing it with a DVD...and on top of that, I'm not really sure that would add to the live experience to have a bunch of cameras running around. I feel like that would detract from the live experience from the people who actually paid for airline tickets -- (laughs) -- and I want to give them the best possible show we possibly can. And that's kind of like the primary objective right now.
That's very cool. So after all is said and done, do you have any plans to play in any other bands, or recording other stuff...what do you have going on?
I have been, for the last year or so, working on music by myself -- for the first time in my life, really. I've always been a songwriter, but I've never sang my own songs, I've never recorded them myself or anything like that. Over the past year, I've gotten more serious about recording these things and kind of developing my voice, and so I've been working on that.
I've kind of already made plans to start making a record, probably in the next couple of months. But, it's a very different, different, different thing. It's more pop and acoustic based, very influenced by things like Alex Chilton and George Harrison and things like that. Not that I'm putting myself up with those artists, but that's kind of the well that I'm drawing from in terms of inspiration. I don't know what I'm going to do with it. I'm paying for it out of my own pocket, I'm doing it more or less out of my own little creative urge. But obviously, I've had a long, documented struggle with reconciling music and the music business, so I'm not totally sure what I'm going to do with it on that level.
Do you plan on doing any more collaborations with Jonah in the future, or anything like that?
Anything's possible. We've definitely talked about certain things. I know he's recording a song I wrote for his new album, and he wants me to play on it. If I can, I will, sure. That's definitely a possibility. I know that as far as stuff that I'm recording goes, I really want to try to keep it as kind of "in-house" as possible, just using a lot of friends and people that I've met along the way, so there will be a lot of different people working on that with me.
Sort of the Cub Country approach?
Sort of, although I'd like to keep it a little more focused. I'd like to get a core group of musicians and then kind of start meddling with other people as the process goes on. I think the biggest difference between this record that I'd like to make and any other record that I have made is that I don't want to make this record in one shot. I want to spread it out over the course of several months and keep writing as I'm making it, and change things and drop things and just not worry about the money and anything like that. I just want to make something I'm proud of.
Here's a question, mainly because I'm curious...how did you hook up with Gratitude [Jonah Matranga's most recent band] as their second guitarist for that tour last fall? I read that you played New End Original material with them, as well.
That's a really funny story, actually. They were planning on doing this tour...it was going to be the last tour of the album cycle, and they were going out as a four-piece, and Jeremy [Tappero] who is their guitar player is an old friend of mine -- I met him when he was playing drums in The Gloria Record and got him in New End Original towards the end, and that's kind of how he ended up in Gratitude.
So one night I was up talking to Jeremy at literally like three o'clock in the morning, and we were just like, fucking around, laughing, making jokes, and before long it turned into this weird thing about, "Yeah, you should just come and do the tour." And I was thinking: "That's great, but you're leaving on Wednesday, and I've never played with you, and it's Friday." And so the joke just kinda kept turning serious, and I would say, "Well, if everybody else is into it, I would do it, I'm not doing anything else right now, it would be fun." So he said, "Let me call you back," and literally within 20 minutes I was booking a plane ticket to Minneapolis and wound up doing this tour. I literally left two days later and practiced with them for two or three days, I think, and then just went on tour. It was probably the most spontaneous thing I think I've ever done in my life. I'm not a very spontaneous person -- I like to be calculating and think things out. But that was really a good thing for me to do, because I really did have a lot of fun.
Yeah, sounds like it. Jonah spoke pretty highly of it. When I see him, I always ask him "Hey, what's up with Norm?"
Well, he knows I'm just weird. I'm always trying some weird little idea out somewhere.
Well, that's cool. That's how you get good stuff.
And bad stuff. (laughs) Thankfully, the good stuff can be really good.
So...ten years from now...Texas Is The Reason 20-year reunion show?
No. Definitely not. (laughs) It's great that we're in a position to do this now, but the thing about playing in a band is that bands get older and the audience gets younger, so I can't imagine all of us being 45 years old, and I can't imagine a bunch of 21-year-old kids being interested in seeing that, so...probably not. END