It's been five long years since Bravo, Max! released a new album. Now, the critically-acclaimed band has finally turned out a new album, Bullfighter Blues, and they have a handful of dates around town this year, including a release party planned for Nov. 25 at Double Wide.
Frontman and Dallas native Johnny Beauford started playing piano at 13 and guitar at 16. He formed Bravo, Max! at age 20. "Like anybody does in their first band, we were taking it really fucking seriously and trying our best, but not knowing where to go with it," Beauford says.
Trying to write, tour and record was too difficult to pull off. Within six months of going to California to record their debut, the original drummer quit, along with many of the other members. Beauford also started fronting another highly-active band, Jack Kerowax. That band formed a year after Bravo, Max!'s debut, Dog's Light, came out.
There has been a significant line-up shift in Bravo, Max! When they formed they were a whopping seven-piece, including Beauford's cousin and little brother. But since 2012, the band has been a trio with occasional auxiliary members for live shows.
With Dog's Light producer Jonathan "JJ" Jackson taking over the drum stool full-time, Garrett Padgett on guitar and Beauford switching to bass, they slowly picked up the pieces of what was left. "It's way more relaxed now," Beauford says.
For local shows, they will be augmented by a horn section, keyboard player and a pedal steel guitar player. When it comes time to tour, they will go out as a trio.
Writing slowly in a fishing cabin in Canton, the new album's sound is certainly different than the songs on the folk-tinged debut. Imagine if the Theater Fire or Telegraph Canyon decided to play music more influenced by the Kinks and Kurt Vile. That's what you hear on Bullfighter Blues, recorded in April 2015.
Padgett is to be thanked for the punk rock approach to the songs along with blues and '60s rock. Beauford likes the Chicago-based Bloodshot Records approach: championing the music that's in between genres. And that attitude definitely comes across in their sound.
It's to the point where the band has shed all of the tunes from Dog's Light from their repertoire. "I don't know if I can pull off playing the old songs playing a new instrument," Beauford says. They considered changing the band's name, but kept the name for a simple reason: "Pure unadulterated stubbornness."
Beauford has a four-month-old daughter at home and he loves to sing to her all the time. So there's no shortage of ideas coming out of him. All three members work jobs where they have the freedom to spend a lot of their time playing music. Beauford and Padgett are also still highly active in Jack Kerowax, which formed a year after Dog's Light came out. Their roles reverse in the band Captain Tornado, which Padgett fronts with Beauford on bass.
Still, they make time for Bravo, Max! to be their priority. "The goal is to fill up as much time as possible, Beauford says. "That's why we're in multiple projects with music."
Bravo, Max! plays the Double Wide on Friday, Nov. 25 with Daniel Markham and the Loafers.