by Mabel Suen
Here at RFT Music, a lot of strange, often incomprehensible event submissions wash up on the shores of our sprawling inboxes. On a scale of one to WTF, one particular message scored about a 1,001 on our Richter scale of ridiculousness. If you're up for a strange, probably surreal experience, head to the dive-y confines of Pop's Blue Moon (5249 Pattison Avenue; 314-776-4200) tonight to see self-proclaimed "electronic cheerleader" Nathan Brown, a Texan who plays original '80s synth-pop soundtrack music in the vein of Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop, complete with dual keyboards, involuntary hip twitching and spry falsetto.
Upon further research, we found an old video of Brown under his former alias, Browningham, in which his performance begins with a three-minute monologue about him going number two at a 7-Eleven. Spoiler alert: He throws his underwear in a dumpster. Skip to the 3:10 mark or so to hear his musical interpretation of the situation, "Gotta Get It Out of Here."
"The best reference people seem to spit at me is Prince or Michael McDonald," says Nathan Brown.
It's been seven long years since 39-year-old Brown has hit the road with his act, and he says he has played in St. Louis before at now-defunct music venues like Creepy Crawl and Frederick's Music Lounge. His last tour consisted of several years living on the road with with a 65-70 pound canine hybrid of coyote and house pet in tow.
The last time we were at Pop's Blue Moon, gratis air-popped popcorn flowed freely and adorned each table. If that's still the case, grab a bowl, wash it down with some bittersweet Stag and get ready for a one-of-a-kind show. There aren't any openers, as far as we know (where ya at, Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship?)
We gave Brown a call to learn more about the man behind the music. In Canton, Ohio, smack dab in the middle of an eight-day tour, he talks to us via a borrowed cell phone, from some place where a train goes by in the background every few minutes. He's surprisingly sedate and serious, and a really nice guy. Read on to learn more about him and his upcoming performance.
RFT Music: You describe your music as "cold licks and small dicks." Can you elaborate on what that means exactly?
Nathan Brown: Well, I just enjoy self-deprecation for whatever reason. Everybody wants to play hot licks and have a big dick. In the last year, it just kind of came to mind as something to say into the mic before beginning my set: "Hey! You guys ready for some cold licks and small dicks?" So, you know, however that little brainstorm applies to my psyche.
You were out on the road living and touring in a van for a while. How long was that period of your music career?
That was about four years, from 2002 to 2006. My only bills were car insurance and gas. I just kind of looped the country and usually got back to places three to four times a year. It was great, like a family reunion of sorts everywhere I went.
Did your dog seem to enjoy it?
He did. I got a lot of concern from people who would see him in the car and stuff. Sometimes, I'd leave him in there with the window down but I always made sure to park in the shade. He was kind of a big dog. He lived to be sixteen, which is pretty unusual, so I guess i did something right.
Your press release mentions that your wife and kids are on the road with you this time around. Is that the case?
That was the thought originally. I think my wife came to her senses the day before we left. "Do I really want to be in the car for seven hours with a kid?" We have two kids, a four-year-old boy and two-year-old girl. She made the best decision and decided to stay home with them, and I realized she was right.
What are some of your favorite '80s movies?
Beverly Hills Cop for sure. The whole movie and soundtrack had a big impact on me. I like Top Gun and Footloose. I guess I just really enjoyed those movies. They had a really strong soundtrack to really connect the pop songs with the movie. When I got into music, I wasn't doing anything that was like that. My first band was just kind of a Black Sabbath wannabe. Then I was in a very '90s shoegaze band and later got into experimental improvised noise. My late '90s memories from childhood just started coming out. I started playing keyboards with melodies. Chord progressions come into my mind. It just kind of sounded like those '80s sounds and I went with it even though it was the opposite of what i was doing.
Your original message to us mentions that you perform an "original cheerleading chant" post-set. Tell us about it.
While I was developing my sound, a little cheerleading chant just kind of popped into my head. Unexpectedly, another one came to me. I showed a couple people and they thought it was really cool. I went through a short period of time where I wrote ten cheers and became known for that. For better or worse, I haven't written a new cheer in ten years. I do them usually by request. I really get into it and it blows my voice out.
Note: Brown proceeds to describe four of five different scenarios for his cheers, including writing a letter to show contempt for the other side, throwing a pizza party and drinking Dr Peppers after a game, and attending a Bible study group. He recites an example for us and the goofiness reminds us of a more aggressive version of those SNL Spartan cheerleading skits. Be sure to request them tonight at the show to see the nostalgia trip in full effect.
Nathan Brown Thursday, August 1, 9 p.m. @ Pop's Blue Moon - $5