Back in 2001, I reviewed Tiger Pop, a high-energy experimental alt pop
CD by Albany artist John Brodeur. When he e-mailed recently to tell me he had
a new 3-piece band (The Suggestions) with a new EP (Mix Tape), I jumped
at the chance to review it.
Then I really lucked out. The Suggestions just happened to be playing right
up the road in Chapel Hill while touring to promote the EP. I met them at a
college hangout on a Sunday afternoon to enjoy the sunshine and talk about Brodeur’s
new turn on the career path.
Artist: The Suggestions
CD: Mix Tape EP (Mr. Duck Records)
Home: Albany, NY
Style: Alt Britpop/Rock
By Jennifer Layton
I’d already had a chance to listen to Mix Tape and was happy to see
that having to answer to bandmates hadn’t forced Brodeur to compromise his no-rules
musical playground approach to songwriting. The primary difference between Tiger
Pop and Mix Tape is an underlying discipline that shapes such experimentation
into tight, solid, radio-ready Britpop songs. Tiger Pop had a continuous
flow. Mix Tape is more defined, a commercial-ready product that still
manages to dodge the predictability of commercial radio music.
the jumping, fun, rough-edged nostalgia pop of “Be True” to the George Harrison-like
Middle Eastern harmonies of “Art of Dying,” Mix Tape offers a foregone
conclusion that The Suggestions will be major label clients before too long.
What surprised me was the fact that Brodeur was able to find bandmates that
were willing to allow him such creative control. Clashing egos are usually a
problem for bands, and Brodeur had been in and out of many bands over the past
few years for that very reason. What made bassist Keith Hosmer and percussionist
Jason Schultz so different?
“We follow orders,” Schultz says, only half-joking. But he and Hosmer go on
to say that Brodeur’s drive is part of what made them want to work with him.
“John really works hard at promotion, and we really appreciate what he does,”
says Hosmer. “When we’re playing at a club, we all work to promote ourselves
through the shows and through selling CDs, but after the show, John’s still
working. Jason and I will go throw a football or something, but John’s still
inside, shaking hands, talking to people, promoting the group. He’s always working.”
It also doesn’t hurt to have such a strong product to push. More than once
during the interview, the group says that it’s all about the song. “Right now,”
says Schultz, “we’re just concentrating on making great music.”
The increase in sales is proof that they’re doing just that. “MP3 plays on
our web site have skyrocketed,” Brodeur notes with satisfaction. “We’ve also
been playing a brand-new song called ‘Meltdown’ which is getting a great crowd
response at every show. We’ve also just started getting into college radio.”
“We’re breaking even on this tour, too.” Hosmer chimes in. “It’s paying for
beer and gas!”
All three guys have taken time off from school or day jobs for this tour.
Schultz is a full-time nursing student currently on break, Hosmer works as an
internet engineer while getting a Masters in Business Administration, and Brodeur,
who has a data entry job, will be out of vacation time in a week. “I was up
front about this band during the interview,” he says, “and they were supportive.
This band is my most important priority.”
Brodeur talks briefly about wanting to get back into the studio by the summer
to make more of a rock album. The new effort will contain all new tracks, although
he is toying with the idea of redoing one song off the Mix Tape EP. (Ironically
enough, the track he wants to remake is called “Masterpiece.”)
All that will have to wait for now, as the tour is only three days old, and
they still have Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Cambridge, and many other cities
to cover. For Brodeur, that means several more gigs of relentless promotion
and wedging his foot in the door at radio stations and possibly indie label
True to form, he says overstepping boundaries while promoting The Suggestions
is not a concept that concerns him. “It never hurts to keep pushing,” he says.
“The key is to be courteous.”
And to have a product that will push the door the rest of the way open. With
Mix Tape ready to market and a high-energy live show evoking enthusiastic
crowd response, Brodeur and crew may not have to push so hard in the future.