In Austin music lore, Brownout has always been viewed as the scrappy side project of Grupo Fantasma. A hard-driving, instrumental breakbeat squad that shared the big sister cumbia project’s affinity for Latin horns and percussion. Then the crew unexpectedly became the sleeper hit of summer 2014 when they released “Brown Sabbath,” a collection of classic metal covers reimagined to incorporate the band’s sonic signatures. Three years and another full-length Brown Sabbath album later, the band is back to doing originals. They celebrate the release of their new four-song EP, “Over the Covers” this weekend, with a two-night stand at Antone’s that kicks off on Friday.
Guitarist Adrian Quesada says the new EP is “like trying to find our voice again after the two years of doing Black Sabbath and trying to figure out where that left us off and how any of that influence has seeped into the music if it has.”
They never planned to spend three year as the world’s greatest Tex-Mex Black Sabbath cover band.
“It just kind of touched a nerve we were not expecting at all,” says vocalist Alex Marrero, who played Ozzy on the tours. “It was fun. … just being over the top, developing a stage show. And it just kind of hit a nerve. There’s something about the mix of the horns and the treatment of the music. It really resonated with people which was cool”
“We were only going to do this one little promo tour and then (the label was) like we want to put out another album,” says bassist Greg Gonzalez. “Then also we got Bonnaroo. We got jam cruise. Festival offers started coming in and it just kept going and going. It was like that relationship you can’t quit, ‘Oh baby I’m sorry, it’s not working out and then she’s like “Well, what about this?” Okay well, let’s go to the mall.”
The new EP presents Brownout as you’ve never heard them before. Although the band’s last collection of originals, “Oozy” included vocals, they were mostly choruses, all the guys singing together to create what guitarist Beto Martinez refers to as “bro-cals.” For this go-round the group kept on Marrero as a lead.
“This Ep is the first time we have somebody who is working with a dedicated concept and a dedicated outlook and writing lyrics that should make song,” Martinez says.
The songs draw from a psychedelic pallet and have a ’70s feel, but they unflinchingly address some of the most potent issues of the day. “Feels like we’re coming down/with a new disease/see it going around/it’s just the same old thing,” Marrero sings on lead track “Evolver.”
“The world has evolved, (but) there’s still this holding on to things that don’t make sense any more and it’s unfortunate,” Marrero says.
We’ll have more on Brownout and the new album when we (spoiler alert) feature them as our June Artist of the Month. But you can experience the material yourself this weekend at Antone’s.