A long ago friend hipped me to Brad’s first LP Shame in his mom’s basement back in 1993. It was this odd-looking basement, one that was finished but was furnished like it was 1975. Bright orange counter tops and cabinets with a faucet to wash the dishes dirtied at the key parties that probably took place there 20 years prior. Now his mom didn’t throw key parties there, they’d only been living in that house for maybe 3 or 4 years. They’d moved there after my friend’s stepdad dropped dead of a heart attack before we went into high school. The house was probably pretty luxurious at one time, with its deep diving pool in the back, sunken living room and fireplace, and oversized kitchen. But by 1993 the house seemed old, weathered, and out of time. A relic with stories to tell, but no one was willing to sit and listen.
What does this have to do with the band Brad? Well, the music on that debut LP gave me the same feeling that the house did. When my friend hit play and opening track “Buttercup” played I got chills. The music was restrained and mournful, and the vocals and piano lines of singer Shawn Smith instantly raised this Seattle band up from their grunge embers and waning ashes to something far deeper and meaningful. Smith’s vocals were one-of-a-kind; soulful, searching, and held in them a longing that he probably kept up until his death on April 5th, 2019.
Smith was the singer, lyricist, and soul of several musical projects over the course of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, but the ones he’s most famous for are Brad, Satchel, and Pigeonhed. Brad and Satchel felt like brother bands; connected by DNA and shared emotions. Pigeonhed was Smith’s experimental project; electronic and fun and full of a zealous need to do something creative and wild. Check out “Battle Flag” and you will recognize it. Brad and Satchel were the introspective bands where Shawn Smith showed his songwriting prowess. He was an incredibly heartfelt singer and performer. One of his biggest influences was Prince, and it really shows in his wide range of styles and his need to move you with every song.
I listened to Brad and Satchel through most of the 90s, but had lost track of those bands and Shawn Smith. Sadly he had succumbed to poor health and passed away on April 5th. If you can find them, grab whatever you can of Smith’s work. He was truly a one-of-a-kind singer/songwriter.