Introducing Badlands.

I caught TREY a few years back at a dive bar show in Green Bay with Fox Royale. Social media says it was about two years ago; I am fully convinced it has been far longer with the pace at which life has moved. Since that time, both myself and TREY principle songwriter Ernest Brockman have relocated across the country and seen our own parallel upheavals. TREY mysteriously went dark and re-emerged as Badlands., a profile which seemed more like a clothing line than a sort of musical endeavor. I thought nothing of it – you learn to roll with these things when you’re around creative types long enough. But indeed, Badlands. IS a musical project – a full-band effort that picks up where TREY left off. The upcoming single, “A Reintroduction”, is titled appropriately, though it’d be improper to say this is a complete detour in sound. Even so, Brockman and team quickly return with the same energy and a new perspective. I had a chance to talk about the project a bit.

-For newer listeners, people might not know about the TREY project and full-length album you were working on. What led to the rebrand, what are you doing differently this time around, and will any of the unreleased TREY material ever see the light of day in one form or another?

TREY felt like it had run its course by the time 2023 came around. There was only so far those songs could go, and only so much brand-building that could happen before it felt like ego began taking center stage. TREY had been through all of my life stages with me since 2017, including moving all over the country, so trying to get inspired for it began to feel like baggage rather than telling a story. I started to feel older, and those songs started to feel ingenuine to a certain extent. I had a kid, and my entire paradigm was reframed. Badlands begins as a refocused way of writing for me, plus it’s founded in a way that has pretty much no ceiling in terms of brandability. Badlands is world building- everything from design to the sonic elements to the lyrics comes from a place of me not trying to go viral or whatever. Just writing my story.

-What is the Phoenix music scene like? How was the process of putting together a new band? I know Dan was a mainstay on bass, so hopefully you’re finding some equally-cool folks.

The Phoenix scene is tight. Once you hit a certain level, everyone knows everyone and it’s pretty collaborative overall. It’s close to LA, so that helps with writing projects and having a quick pipeline to the coast is incredible for retreat trips. I’ve been able to find some really cool people who believe in Badlands and are quickly becoming core pieces of the project, and that’s been really fulfilling. There will always be a place for Dan, so whenever we get to a point that it’s worth it for him to leave NY, I know he’ll be here – whatever that looks like.

-Even though your lyrics aren’t super heady, I know you tend to play toward cohesive concepts and self-referential quips. Is there a specific concept or story you’re working with this time around?

I think this first collection of songs that’s wrapping now gives a pretty defining introductory look at what Badlands can be. It’s honest and tells a pretty cohesive story, but there’s not like some huge mental theme that I’m wrestling with throughout the songs. There are definitely lots of easter eggs sprinkled in.

-“How to let go” dropped recently and was the lead single of the project. It’s definitely a bold way to introduce the project more formally. How has reception been thus far? What was the recording process like?

It’s been really warmly received! I think people were ready to hear something a bit more on the organic side of my writing voice, and that song in particular is one that I think people can see themselves in.

-Your next single is due October 20. If you were to describe the vibe in three words, what would they be?

Midwest emo. Ish.

-You’ve incorporated mantras and merch into the the project – even before the first song was out, I believe. What was the inspiration behind this, and what are your plans going forward in this respect?

Absolutely a huge part of Badlands is the identity going larger than streamable, easily consumed music. In terms of world building, having a tangible, physical outlet to match is really fulfilling to me. I love when things expand on each other, and it felt really important to kick off this project with something people could hold and wear. It was really sick to launch the first drop and have people buy into it without having heard the songs yet. I love streetwear and I’ve started dipping a tiny bit into the high fashion world, but I think people’s desires are shifting towards real connection to the brands and people they believe in.

-You’ve lived in a couple different states now. What do you like most about Phoenix? What’s something you miss from elsewhere? How does moving impact your creativity/inspiration (if at all)?

I love the community here. There’s lots of shared experience in terms of the weather. Everyone is miserable for 4 months out of the year, but we kinda just look at each other and shrug and laugh a little. The creative folks I’ve met have all been really welcoming and collaborative so far. It’s a pretty young scene compared to cities like LA or Nashville, and I think it’s rad to be an early part of people all getting after the same thing together.

-What are you listening to these days?

Tons of Hippo Campus. Their last LP flows perfectly. Sounds insane.

-Who are some local Phoenix bands you’d want to shout out?

Sydney Sprague is crushing it lately and just released a really cool record. Danielle Durack just left us for Nashville, but she still counts as a Phoenician in my heart and I’ll always respect her a lot.

-Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I tell everyone at every show that you can do whatever you want. Don’t let someone say you’re incapable of doing what you dream of doing because you’re too young, or not talented enough, or whatever. Just go for it.

Check out Badlands. on social media (@itsbadlandsbaby)

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