Everything from punk to polka goes into Cait Brennan's music
Michael Ging Photography
|Punk, Monkees, Country, Polka and alien static all come together in the catchy pop tunes of Valley artist Cait Brennan.
Cait Brennan describes her music as “sugar crash Rock and Soul.” What does that mean? From a quick listen it's a mix of Beatles, Monkees, a helping of melodic Punk/New Wave of the late '70s and early '80s, some Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway, with a touch of everything else.
Brennan's influences come from a childhood spent being shuffled between Phoenix and Omaha. Her mother trained racehorses, and her great-grandmother was a seamstress who designed and sewed the “silks” the jockeys wore. Being a seasonal enterprise, there was a lot of traveling.
“In the 1970s,” Brennan said, “before everything became the same, the music… would pour through the AM radio—‘ 70s power pop, 1930s Tin Pan Alley and vaudeville, Tejano, Bakersfield country, Boss Radio, polka, Norteño, distant voices, alien static, everything you can imagine. I soaked it up like a sponge, I could not get enough. And I think that's who I am, musically. I love the music of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the punk and postpunk things I discovered in my teens and adulthood, but everything I am musically came out of that tinny Rambler radio on that midnight highway. Oh, I think I just wrote a country song!”
Her talents also come from a gene pool that includes a rich musical history. “My father ,” Brennan said, “was a touring and studio musician for over 30 years, appeared on shows like “Shindig” and “Hollywood Palace” and was generally awesome. His mom, my grandma, was also a singer and guitarist. My aunt, cousins, etc., are all musicians and singers. On my mom's side, my grandma, great grandma, great grandfather, uncles, aunts, were all pro or semi-pro musicians at one time or another.”
Inspired by the newfound fame of “Weird Al” Yankovic and local radio personality Jonathon Brandmeier, mixed with Brennan's quick wit, she started writing parodies when she was in junior high. It wasn't long, though, before parodying took a back seat to serious songwriting.
“I've always loved wordplay and comedy,” Brennan said, “and started off writing goofs on radio hits. But I guess there came a point when I realized I had things to say, stories to tell that weren't best suited to be sung to the tune of "Break My Stride." And at first people would not take me seriously because I'd done funny stuff and therefore I could not do meaningful stuff. And I felt I had to make a choice, so I chose to go for "serious" music.”
Her new songs showed she wasn't just a gag writer who could string together a few chords on the guitar. She produced well-crafted catchy pop songs, and touching, introspective crooners with meaningful words that spoke to people instead of just giving them a giggle.
Brennan's been making music for well over 35 years, but things really started to fall into place in February 2010. Previous Brennan recordings were just of her and a guitar. This was due to the limitations of home recording. But thanks to Garageband, and a wonderful, supportive partner , Brennan was able to create the full Cait Brennan musical experience. “Jenny Said” featured the sound of a full band creating a rousing Rock number that made it impossible to sit still. And on top of that, she played all the instruments and did all the vocals.
Brennan soon started playing open mic nights at Long Wong's in Tempe, and the Tempe Center for the Arts. All this performing and recording le d to her being picked as one of the featured musicians at the 2012 Phoenix International Pop Overthrow. She, along with members of Tempe's Rockaroke band Zen Lunatics, and her aunt Tana LaFollette on backing vocals, performed a set of Brennan originals with a contagious energy that just exuded out of the performance.
She went on to be one of the hand-picked performers for the first “In the Spotlight” show at the Tempe Center for the Arts on April 6, and she's scheduled to do another full band show at Hollywood Alley , 2610 W. Baseline Rd in Mesa , on Saturday, April 28. Cait Brennan, with a band, take the stage at 12:15 PM.
She will also be opening for Namoli Brennet at a show in late July, playing at the Flagstaff Folk Festival at the end of June, and she has a regular gig with the Zen Lunatics at The Sail Inn's Rockaroke every Thursday night.
And there's even more news. She's currently working on an album she describes as, “heavily piano based and not very bubblegum (but definitely Beatley/glam rock/'70s piano pop) with the Cait sense of humor and twists and brainy lyrical weirdness.”
The best place to hear Brennan's music, see her videos, and keep up with the latest news and shows can be found at facebook.com/planetcait, or reverbnation.com/caitbrennan.