Brandon Butters drums for two of Dallas' most promising new bands, The West Windows and Things of Earth. The West Windows debuted earlier this year to a packed Double Wide and are gearing up for an opening slot with The Jealous Sound. Things of Earth have yet to play live, but their scorching debut EP, Old Millennium Pictures, is already available for free online. We asked Butters about why both bands have taken years to play live, the drummers who inspired him, and what got him through his first heartbreak.
West Windows were together for a few years before you played your first show. Things of Earth has been together for a while and you're trying to get your first show together. Is there a phobia of playing a first show not too long after forming? Yeah, I think it has to be a group decision. I will play no matter when, no matter where, just because I feel like you have to jump with your feet in no matter what. But with the West Windows, it was, "Well, this life event is happening with somebody else and this life event is happening with somebody else, so we can wait a few more months, and now we can wait a few more months, and now we're going to probably wait until next year." That was perpetuating constantly. With Things of Earth, you start from scratch, writing and trying to get a set full of songs to fill up a slot wherever you're gonna play. Right now, I think we have six or seven songs. Two of them are new. I don't know which ones are finished. I think we're ready now, especially since the EP came out and recording does a lot for being tight. If you want to play live, you just play a certain song a thousand times, you're pretty much ready to go. So it was backwards for Windows: play a bunch of shows and then record or record first and then play a bunch of shows? It was a converse thing between the two.
As a drummer, who would you say inspired you? Dave Grohl, right off the bat. In a weird way, I can't think of his name from Pink Floyd. My dad was way into them.
Nick Mason. Nick Mason! He was very simple, but the subtle stuff made you pay attention. I don't really like a lot of cowbell stuff, but he would add stuff in and I'd be like, "Yeah, that's cool. That works right there." I remember my dad taking me to go see Rush way past their prime and being like, "OK."
Way past their prime? Excuse me! No, no, no! They don't have a hit, you know what I mean?
Don't offend the Rush fan! I'm a Rush fan. I'm not saying that. When I saw them, they played at Starplex and had rotisserie chickens behind them.
Yeah! The Snakes and Arrows tour! That's not past their prime. I went to go see "Tom Sawyer," you know, the hits.
So it was long after Moving Pictures and Signals. Yeah! I remember going. My mom and both of my uncles were in a country and western band growing up, so I was in my grandma's garage watching my mom and her brothers practice in a band. Anytime they would take a break, I would gravitate toward the drum kit. "You wanna play?" "Sure, I don't know what I'm doing, but I'll figure it out." Anytime anybody was playing drums, I'd be like, "I wanna do that."
At some point, a girl has broken your heart . . . Absolutely!
Can you remember the first record that you listened to that consoled you? Don't be ashamed if it's embarrassing. Oh, it's absolutely embarrassing. This is like Dashboard Confessional kind of stuff. It was right around that time, I was in middle school/high school, and there's this dude with a pompadour in a leather jacket, belting his heart out, basically. Any high-schooler would eat that up. Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism was big for me in high school. A lot of things happened for me on that record. Like, the whole gambit of a relationship happened over that record.
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Since it's still fresh in your mind, what did you take away from the first West Windows show? That was not the biggest in terms of people that showed up, but it felt the best. I've never had the sound guy come over the PA and say, "Can you guys hold on? We're trying to get people into the door." That's never happened to me while I was onstage. I thought, "So this is going pretty well. People like it." We invited a ton of people, but nobody had any indication of what we sounded like beforehand, but they kinda trusted the people that were in the project. After the fact, I was left wanting more. And it's still been a slow burn, but I would rather wait for prime opportunities to play rather than playing anywhere and everywhere. We've been smart about booking shows, but that first one definitely set a bar.
It did. It was fun. I mean, we've played the Double Wide, since that show, three other times and we've only played five shows, period. It's close to our practice room, but that's not the only reason we play there. It's like home base.
What are you looking forward to with Things of Earth's first show? Most of all, I've never played in an instrumental band. So I'm curious how people are going to take it. It's different when you're trying to write instrumental songs and try to keep it interesting without vocals. West Windows has instrumental songs in that set where it's back-and-forth in a certain way, but with Things of Earth, it's very much intentional with the music that we wrote. I'm most excited to get feedback from that. There's only two songs that we play that are not on the EP, but they are Mogwai loud. I saw a bunch of Mogwai shows back in the day and if it was loud to make my hair move, so to speak, that left an impression on me. I'm looking forward to being able to do that for somebody else.