by Song River
A formula for success necessitates a partnership of focused, committed individuals who love what they do. Keys player and vocalist Alex Gow Bastine of Brothers Gow spoke to YabYum recently about their focus, uniqueness, and commitment to their passion for music.
Song River: Brothers Gow claims a uniqueness, when the brotherhood began, what inspired it?
Alex Gow: I can’t take individual credit for starting this brotherhood, and that’s the beauty of Brothers Gow. We are very much a team, all focused on coming together to be the best we can be both individually and as a whole. We have all known each other for a long time (some of us over 20 years) and have been playing music together since 2007 when we decided to form the band in Flagstaff, AZ.
We wrote a few songs, learned some covers, started performing live and quickly built up a following. After our first couple successful shows we all realized that this is something we wanted to continue to do on a more serious level. It is very inspiring to play original music to an enthusiastic packed house and see everyone having a great time. The feeling I get when we are improvising and everything is going well is surreal. We try to create a unique and entertaining live performance by having good music, silly dance moves, great lights, and a carefree environment.
SR: You’ve several side projects that are a part of the Brothers Gow.
AG: We’re always looking for ways to grow our brand, and work towards becoming our own bosses. Over the years we have formed some interesting side projects.
One of the bands projects, Brothers Gow Music Foundation (BGMF) was established in 2013 to give back to the community. The primary goal of BGMF is to provide a means by which to expose kids to music in a variety of ways. Last year, BGMF put an instrument in every classroom at Ocean Beach Elementary School. We’ve also done shows to benefit the San Diego Autism Society, including donating an instrument and music lessons to autistic children. As well a benefit for the Point Loma High School Athletics, Academic and Arts Program, and recently BGMF donated a guitar to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation for auction. BGMF partners with Ocean Beach Rock & Roll for many of their events.
Our Lighting Designer, Matt Collier, started Brothers Gow Lighting as a way to earn extra income when the band is not busy, and a way to further brand the Brothers Gow name. It is a great avenue to make connections in the industry and a way to further hone his craft. Matt has run lights for some notable acts, like Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Galactic, Particle, Greyboy All-Stars and Nahko and Medicine for the People.
The Gow Chow food truck was born in 2011 we decided to move the band from Flagstaff, AZ to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was there where our bass player, Carson Church had the idea to start a food truck called “The Gow Chow.” Church created The Gow Chow as unique way to promote the band, as well as a way to provide income for the band members. The truck served a delicious “Tex-Mex” style inspired by flavors from the Southwest. With its state of the art sound system playing Brothers Gow as well as its 37in HD TV, The Gow Chow was taking food trucks to a new level. Carson decided to sell the business in 2012 when the band moved to San Diego. However the Truck is still up and running today in the Mt. View area of San Francisco and can be found on Yelp, Facebook, or Twitter.
SR: One notable side project has been the implementation of the Brothers Gow Music Foundation.
AG: With all of the budget cuts for the arts, today’s youth are left without a creative outlet to express themselves. We decided that it would be great to be able to use our popularity to raise awareness on the issue. Through the help of our wonderful community, and a fund-raising concert with all proceeds going to BGMF we were able to raise enough money to put a stringed instrument in every classroom at Ocean Beach Elementary School.
We are currently working on our second major effort with the foundation. We will be raising money through a silent auction with goods and services donated by local businesses, and all proceeds will go to putting instruments in classrooms at Dana Middle School.
Although we do not yet have our 501c3 status, we are 100% transparent and all donations go to the cause. We also partner with Guitars in the Classroom, a recognized 501c3 organization. In fact, after our efforts at OB Elementary, they came in to the school and set up a program to provide music lessons.
It just takes a bit of organization and some drive to get a project like this moving, and the outcome is very rewarding. Seeing a child play a guitar that we provided is a very great feeling.
SR: Is touring a necessary part of the Brothers Gow? If so, why?
AG: I would say that touring is very necessary. The music industry has really shifted gears over the past 10 years. It is very tough to make money on album sales alone in the digital age where not many people want to pay for music. Aside from monetary issues, the industry is flooded with many bands and it is hard to stand out from the crowd. Touring puts you out there and exposes you to people who may have otherwise never heard of you.
We pride ourselves on our live show. We are always looking for ways to spice it up with new material, new dance moves, and constantly investing in bigger better gear to entertain our audience.
SR: What makes for a show that people walk away with an emotion, that might inspire them to make even a small change?
AG: The lights play a major role in our live show. They really turn live music into a full performance full of emotion. Our concerts tend to be full of energy and dancing. Our sets are often very dynamic, covering a wide range of music styles, ranging from some hard rock, to introspective singer songwriter-ish ballads. We aim to provide an environment where people can be whoever they want to be, and express themselves in whatever manner they see fit. I hope when people leave our shows they are inspired to be more light hearted, and have more fun in life.
SR: Your sound is an infusion pulling from a variety of places. A branding of being a ‘whole’ experience.
AG: I think we aim to provide the “whole” experience. Our live show is much more than just a concert. We try to create a memorable experience that will not be soon forgotten through our lighting, varied musical styles, and stage presence.
SR: It would seem in order to do what you do, attention to detail would be paramount.
AG: We are all very organized and detail oriented and I think that is one of the main reasons we all work so well together. We are very much a partnership and over the years we have figured out where we each shine. Six personalities is a lot to manage from a creative aspect, and a business aspect. It took a while for all of us to find our strengths, but we are pretty dialed in right now. Creatively we all have different styles, but we all work together really well and our writing process is very democratic. The business aspect is the same, we divide up what needs to be done according to our individual strengths.
When we perform we do a lot of improvisation. Over the years we have learned each others tendencies and basically learned how to talk to each other through music. It is a bit of an organized chaos, but it seems to be working well for us.
SR: How does one become a “Brothers Gow” and is there room for a female?
AG: Overall we are a very family and friend oriented group of guys. The support of our families is no doubt one of the most important parts of our success. The “brotherhood” isn’t necessarily limited to just the six of us per se. We consider fans family too; when we travel they often invite us into their homes to eat, sleep and regroup while we are on tour. That experience has created some long lasting and very unique bonds that we are always grateful for.
Of course women are welcome! We have mothers, sisters, and girlfriends who support us through the ups and downs of this exciting and challenging lifestyle. We even have hats that say “Sister of the Gow” for the ladies!
SR: Brother’s Gow has 4 albums, share a little about each one.
AG: The first being Key of Jee, which was recorded four months into being a band. It was an exciting time because we were all so stoked about the process, however no one has seen or heard this lost icon in some time…
Ponds, recorded at Allusion Studios in Tucson in 2010, was our first time in a proper recording studio. It turned out really well and tunes like “Headlock” and “Whud U Call Me?” are still regularly in our live rotation.
In 2013, Chapters was recorded in San Diego, shortly after relocating there and bringing on new drummer Nathan Walsh-Haines. Any time a band has a musician change, the overall style will shift and the music will express itself differently. It was an intense time having moved to the Bay Area and realizing we needed to be somewhere else, and losing our old drummer Rene Rivas. The title track “Chapters” is an emotional ballad that we know resonates with our fans well. It was a great opportunity to write, record and get to know our new home.
Reflections is our most recent album, recorded in 2014. It contains the most complete version of ourselves as musicians, with a great combination of high energy rock and more lyric-centric songs. We play a lot of the material from that album still, and are really proud of it as a milestone of sorts.
SR: Touring will continue throughout this year, other developments we can watch for?
AG: So far we have played 50 shows this year, and are showing no signs of slowing down. A couple of festivals, fundraisers for the BGMF and continuing to write and work on new material are all keeping us motivated and excited about the what the future holds!