If you live in the South Florida area and have seen two guys in black morph masks play a killer indie electronic show, you’ve seen King Complex. Cody and Bracher take the stage most weekends with their unique antics, and I luckily got to catch Bracher for a quick interview. Raised in Orlando, Florida, Bracher is the lead guitarist and vocalist for King Complex while also balancing the world of a paying job. He’s luckily still heavily involved with the world of live music production in his daytime responsibilities, but I wanted to pick his brain a bit more on balancing the two worlds and the local scene. Not only does he claim to have cool pants in his daily wardrobe, he’s a man with talent and diligence. Keep reading to check out my talk with him, and don’t forget to catch a King Complex show out if they are in your area.
For those who don’t know you, I have a quick, generic question. How did you get started in music?
Just like anyone, I grew up playing random instruments here and there. I played trumpet for a few years and took a few piano lessons. In eighth grade, there was a talent show, and as a joke, my friends and I decided to play Rock Band in front of everyone. There was a woman there who was the local high school’s male vocalist coach and she told me afterwards, “You can sing.” I was like, “I can sing? Alright, cool. Whatever.” I started a band with my friends because I liked being onstage, but they weren’t super serious about it so I told myself I had to learn an instrument by myself. I picked up guitar and locked myself away for two or three years. I still do that.
Where did you grow up, and did it have any influence in the scene you got into?
I grew up two miles from where we are sitting [in Downtown Orlando]. I grew up in the same house my entire life. There are a lot of towns that have these “things,” like Gainesville, FL. You go there and there are bands that play all the time, and people actually come out to see these bands. I always felt like Orlando didn’t really have that sort of thing. I think the internet played a bigger role in anything I listened to. We didn’t really grow up in a time of strict genres on the internet, it was all suggested or related videos you saw.
Do you think there’s a scene now?
I feel like I don’t know enough yet. I haven’t been back long enough. I only moved back about two months ago. I’ll be very curious to see the [St. Petersburg] scene. We have played with a few Gainesville band, and they have such a following and scene there. But I don’t think the scene there is quite what we do. We love to play there, but I don’t think people quite know what to expect. St. Pete, the people there, they seem to be in line with what we do. There’s a lot of people in their mid-twenties with maybe a little more angst than they should have, and they get it.
What’s one thing you wish you could change about the local scene?
St. Pete is a tricky thing, especially with where the venues are and the way the city is growing. Every artist I know should be making more money, and I would love to do that. But the way the city is growing, it’s more expensive for the venues to stay open. I get there is a push and pull between where the artists want to play and the people that run them. As far as music, it’s super eclectic. Kerry Courtney has a following, Pleasures has a following, but they all have a different vibe. There are a ton of St.Pete bands and tons of artists we can be on a bill with, but if we play with Kerry Courtney, no one would even bat an eyelid. She can go play an acoustic set, and we come out all of a sudden in black masks and play electronic music. No one minds, and people here just dig art.
Do people around here tend to have a collaborative mindset or do they seem to be more independent?
Honestly, people can be collaborative around here as long as you ask them first. I don’t know if it’s an ego thing, but you can say something like, “Hey, I want to do a remix,” and all of a sudden, everyone wants to be collaborative. I don’t know if it’s all because there’s an inclination for artists to be a little more quiet. Between me and Cody, we tend to be a little more protective and don’t really like people getting in our bubble. We are getting better about it. In our last album, we brought people in to help produce it and make suggestions. I think we are too big of control freaks to be super collaborative. But if it weren’t King Complex, I would individually bring someone else in.
What do you think is a good mindset when approaching a collaboration?
There has to be a mutual respect and a level of trust. What Cody and I do is technically a collaboration. We are two people who work together and, artistically, have very different influences. The only reason we can come together and do what we do, I hope, is because there’s respect. I like what Cody does. It wouldn’t work if I had someone come in and work on my songs when I don’t like what they do artistically. I enjoy Cody’s music, and I’m constantly trying to out-write him because I like what he does.
Looking more at King Complex, if a stranger walked up to you and asked you to describe the band, what would you say?
I think it would depend on the record. Our last album would be more indie electronic. I think our first album is a little easier to classify. We got a lot of feedback on our first one. A lot of people compared it to Muse or Nine Inch Nails, which is funny because I don’t either of us listen to those bands. I thought we were being original. *laughs* With the second album, people didn’t have much to say, and the people that did say things, it wasn’t too awesome. It’s kind of our ugly duckling. The next one, I hope, is going to be more modern pop.
You all have a very intricate sound with vocals, electronic sounds, and instrumentals. How do you all construct a song in the studio?
For me, I like to have an idea of where we are going musically. I can write melodies to that sort of direction. But sometimes it doesn’t go that way, and things just happen. There has been a song where Cody didn’t have verses. He had a chorus, but he didn’t like the verse he wrote. I kind of came in and wrote a verse and knocked it out. In our song “Closer,” I showed him what I have. When writing a new album, we show each other what we have, whether it’s specifically King Complex or not. I had a sort of violin thing and played it for him, and he liked it. I turned it into this sort of thing that I think sounds like Flume.
Like most artists, you have a day job to pay the bills. How do you balance your two lives when it becomes overwhelming?
I think they can help each other. When I wasn’t working and only playing, it was becoming too much playing. It was to the point playing didn’t feel as good as you hope it would. Now I appreciate needing and having an outlet. I’m more excited to go onstage now. It wasn’t like I wasn’t happy to go perform before, but it was a norm. We play less now, and our shows have gotten better. Part of it is because we need breaks from our weekly duties. It’s become a novelty, and the shows have become more exciting because we are more excited to be there.
I had a hard time articulating the next question so work with me here. How do you maintain loyalty and balance between your two worlds, King Complex and your job? Where does your allegiance or loyalty stand? For example, if you were to get a huge promotion at work, what would happen to your time with King Complex?
I could see where that could be difficult. I very much enjoy what I do for a living, and I very much enjoy the part where they pay me. But whatever happens, I don’t see Cody and I stopping creative projects together. I think it took getting a job and becoming frustrated to see how much we enjoyed playing music. I don’t see it ever becoming an issue. At the end of the day, even when I’m tired from the week, I don’t want to stop the creative stuff. We both like it very much, and I like working with him too much for us to quit.
Looking at the more networking side of things, people are often afraid to foster relationships with people that are already doing what they want to do. Let’s say you meet someone that could be a great contact in your life. How do you foster that relationship?
It’s weird because the answer is almost calculated. Don’t treat the relationship like there’s something to gain. Every relationship the band has, has come from an organic relationship. People can tell when you want something from them, and no one wants to feel like you’re just trying to gain something from them. People want a human connection, and people want a friend. Our approach is: don’t even talk about it. If Columbia Records offered us 2 million dollars to sign with them but wanted to get to know us first, I wouldn’t talk about the music. I mean, yeah, let’s talk about your favorite albums, but I’m not going to talk to them about what they can do for me. That’s not how people interact. It’s more important to be a human first.
Do you ever experience restlessness in growth periods as a band?
There was a time during our first year back down in this area that we had a crazy growth period. In the first four months, St. Pete really took us in. Neither of us had really been in a scene that welcoming. We got booked at a few solid shows, and our contacts grew. We were traveling a lot, and things were going well. After three or four months, you start asking yourself, “Does it get any better? Where do we go from here?” Then you get bummed out. After two or so years of being in this band, I’ve learned there are times when you feel on top of the world and other times where you don’t know if it gets any better. I’ve learned not to panic anymore. This industry is weird. Something might happen tomorrow, or something may never happen.
Last question. By the end of the year, where do you hope to be individually and with King Complex?
What month is it? September? I personally would love to be on vacation at the end of the year. As a human, I have a job that pays me, and I like what I’m doing. I’m working in the world of live music production, and I like to think I’m good at it. When it sucks, I get to put on a mask and go be someone else. As a band, we have a lot of music that’s close to being done. I want it to come out. And if people like it, that would be good.
STORY & PHOTOS ELIZABETH STAFFORD