From their Brooklyn origins to their current Asheville blooming, The Broadcast have succeeded by staying true to themselves and making the brand of dynamic music for which they want to be known. Get to know these young, soulful rockers, whose new album and record release party arrive this week.
Caitlin Krisko was ready for a change. She’d been in New York City for over 10 years, attending high school and college there with a focus on musical theater. Since graduating, she’d begun playing solo acoustic shows and was looking for a band. Ready to meet musicians on the west coast, she bought a plane ticket to Los Angeles and figured her 2009 gig at The Bitter End would be one of her last in the city for a while.
In the venue’s packed crowd that night were percussionist Tyler Housholder and keyboardist Rich Brownstein, themselves veterans of music programs at the Pratt Institute and NYU, respectfully. Once Krisko’s set was done, they approached the singer and, learning of her pending relocation, said to call them if she moved back. The conversation sparked something between the three and she decided to take them up on their offer. Along with their drummer friend and Manhattan School of Music student Michael W. Davis, they formed The Broadcast.
“I figured why take ten steps back when I can take five steps forward,” Krisko said, who still flew to L.A., though just for a vacation.
The Broadcast’s Brooklyn era, however, was short-lived. Following Krisko’s L.A. initiative, the band soon looked elsewhere to fully start their unified music career.
“It made sense financially and mentally. I needed to get out of New York. It’s a really crazy place to be and I’d had my share,” Krisko said. “I needed something different and needed to grow in certain ways that New York wouldn’t allow. I thought somewhere based in nature and community and place would be better.”
The four members briefly thought about Nashville or Charleston, but those cities seemed too young or had too much of a college town feel. For years, they’d heard great things about Asheville, and the more they read about it, the more it sounded like their future home. In the fall of 2011, they officially swapped zip codes.
“I love this place. It’s magical beyond compare. Portland on a rare beautiful day somewhat compares,” Krisko said, though admits the move took guts.
“I really believed if we made a bold step together, we’d see big results,” she said. “I’m really happy to be here. It’s important to stay open minded and listen to yourself. It’s scary and difficult to do that in New York, but in that moment, we as a group decided to be fearless and take that risk together.”
Despite the occasional comparisons of Asheville to Brooklyn, some of which Krisko agrees with, she sees more of a sister city in Ferndale, MI, just outside of Detroit, and views Boone as a smaller version of Asheville.
“Brooklyn’s nightlife culture is based around bars,” Krisko said. “Asheville’s is based around music. That’s incredible. That’s why artists are able to thrive so well.”
A similar allure attracted guitarist Aaron Austin. Born and raised in the Morehead City area before relocating to Charlotte at age 15, he eventually dropped out of high school, moved to Asheville in 2007, got his GED at AB-Tech, and enrolled at UNCA with an eye on jazz composition or audio engineering.
“I wanted to live in the mountains and wanted to live in a place that had a music community. Charlotte didn’t really have one. There’s no network or community. It’s mainly a bunch of older, bitter guys there, to be honest,” Austin said. “There’s something that happens when you move to Asheville for the first time after being a city person. It’s fertile soil for an active mind and a good place to come, think, and slow down.”
Austin met the four Broadcast members through local funk jams and in February 2011 he auditioned for them, dropped out of UNCA, and joined the band full-time along with new bassist Matt Davis.
Settling in as a six-piece, The Broadcast lived together their first two years in Asheville, but are now spread between three different houses. Steady travel means they still see a lot of one another and also find time to write.
“The process for the past two years is Caitlin writes all the lyrics. No one comes with a full song. Someone will have an idea of a groove, then they’ll bring it to Caitlin who comes up with a hook or verse. Then she takes it to the full group and we flesh it out there,” Austin said, while also lauding Michael Davis’ gift for song structure in bringing works to fruition.
“You never want too many cooks in the kitchen,” Krisko said. “It’s better to start in small groups, then expand. It works really well. Everyone influences the final product and is more responsible for their own part.”
Working diligently in this manner, the group gathered enough songs for an album and set their sights on Echo Mountain Studios.
“It definitely has a reputation outside of North Carolina. Anyone in the southeast who knows their stuff should know about it. There are really only a few [studios] on the east coast that are reputable. We knew about it before moving down and maybe humored the idea of recording somewhere else, but always knew that’s where we wanted to do it,” Krisko said.
“Jessica Tomasin at Echo is amazing. She gave us the recording dates we needed and the time frame. We found a wonderful producer and had the best experience you could ask for in the studio and they continue to be supportive. The caliber and quality is amazing. We’re really lucky to have it.”
Under the guidance of producer Eric Serafin, The Broadcast recorded Dodge The Arrow over two full weeks of 12-15 hour days.
“It was kind of like camp. We woke up, made breakfast, lunch, and dinner every one of those days and everyone stayed in the studio,” Austin said. “Even when I recorded alone for two days, they stayed. We pushed each other. We had limited time and money, so there was no getting pissed off and getting away from it.”
“We had great energy,” Krisko said. “The vibes were really up and the producer was good at being a producer in that sense, really keeping the energy positive, reassuring us, not stressing us out. He was a really good coach; good at communicating with everyone to get the best out of them.”
“We didn’t know how it was going to go,” Austin said. “We had ideas. We wanted to make a really slick record, but the producer debunked the whole process. He got us to go in and capture a more raw sound, which is more honest to our music.”
Featuring local artists Moses Atwood (vocalist for Blood Gypsies), trumpeter Justin Ray, and saxophonist Jacob Rodriguez, the eight-song album was completed in April and has received positive feedback from journalists and other early listeners.
“It’s humbling to hear people emotionally respond to it so deeply and to have the emotional response I wanted,” Krisko said. “I wanted them to feel close to it and have it define moments of their life in 2014, ‘15, ‘16. I want them to listen three decades later and remember those times because it was a defining album.”
The official product, with cover art from Joshua Marc Levy of Asheville Art Family, hit stores on Sept. 24. Lead single “Don’t Waste It” has been receiving regular play on WNCW and happens to be Krisko’s dad’s favorite song off the album. She and Austin agree that the energetic track was a lot of fun to record and that the entire band is starting to like it more.
“We’re far enough from the recording to be separated from the track and really listen to the album,” Austin said.
Another key number is “Loving You,” whose horns grant it an appealing Earth, Wind, and Fire-like funk.
“It’s an older song [off the experimental 2010 EP Days Like Dreams], but we wanted it on there because it hadn’t necessarily been done justice,” Krisko said. “I wanted to have a legit recording. We added horns, sped it up from original recording, and hired a gospel choir from L.A. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out.”
As for the name Dodge The Arrow, Krisko wants people to decide for themselves what it means. Lyrically, the title track means the most to her in that it’s the most emotionally open song on the record and was written specifically for the listener.
With its radio-friendly songs and mix of time-tested genres, Dodge The Arrow wields immense crossover potential. Those thinking The Broadcast is aiming for the typical success track, though, should think again.
“We’re a live-performing band. We want to be on the festival circuit and we don’t think about mainstream music or the Top 40. Elements of what we do have that appeal, but it’s important to stay authentic in the live music community,” Krisko said. “You have to make concessions in the mainstream culture, including censoring things you have to say. That’s a dangerous road to go down. Artists have a responsibility to be informed, educated individuals to communicate ideas to the people, which is the point of music.”
Not that there haven’t been temptations. Opportunities have come their way that they probably could have taken, but proved less appealing upon closer examination.
“If you read the contract, you probably won’t want to sign it,” Krisko said. “We’re now totally self-contained and calling all the shots. That’s very important to us.”
So far, living in Asheville has been central to keeping The Broadcast focused on their goals and listening to themselves, an approach to which others have taken notice.
“It’s important to stay connected and rooted to the basic beauty of life in terms of simply enjoying it,” Krisko said. “We hear from people on tour that us doing what we’re doing inspires them to take control of their lives. You have to make compromises, but the more you can be true to yourself, the better you can be to the people around you.”
Such believes will be put into practice at Dodge The Arrow’s album release party, Sept. 27 at The Grey Eagle. Also planned is a special finale with what Krisko calls “a huge guest blowout line-up,” featuring violinist Matt Williams of Zansa and Tiny Boxes; Zansa bassist Ryan Reardon; fiddler Ellie Schwarz; Jason DeCristofaro on vibes; and Atwood and Pam Jones on backup vocals.
“We picked the song based on the line-up of guests coming,” she said, hinting only that the composition has something to do with James Bond. “There are so many strings and percussionists…we have to do it.”
From there, The Broadcast embarks on a tour throughout the southeast and major east coast cities, including a stop at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall. For Krisko, it will be good to visit her old area, but afterwards she has other places to go.
“Friends warned me not to get distracted by ‘mountain life,’” Krisko said, flashing a puzzled look. “It’s good to be accountable for your actions and you feel a net of support because you support others in your community. If that’s caught up in mountain life, I hope I’m never not caught up in it.”