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A Dirty Dozen with MATT TOSKIN from BRAVE THE SEA – May 2023

According to a recent press release: “Columbus, Ohio punk rock seadogs BRAVE THE SEA return this week with a wild new folk-metal shanty, “Frozen Shore,” featuring guest vocals by Vincent Jackson of death metal band Aether Realm. The instant classic, drink-clinker is found on the band’s forthcoming, third full-length album, Lady Death, that’s out on April 28th. Brave the Sea is a Columbus, OH Celtic rock band whose fun live performances and hook filled melodies have won over a legion of fans. Formed in the summer of 2015, the guys hoped to be covering everything from the traditional Celtic tunes to the modern renditions of bands such as Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, and Alestorm. Now, the band is gearing up to release a brand new LP, Lady Death for 2023. It will see the band building on their trademark elements and incorporating ideas that they have built up during the pandemic. They’ll also be going back to Europe to play a run of club shows and festivals. Join Brave the Sea’s Celtic rock party. You won’t regret it.” We get mandolin player Matt to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

This album is really cool for us because we definitely experimented with the songs more than we have in the past to really define our unique sound so there are a lot of little nuggets I could bring up. I think my favorite is that there are no “drinking songs” on the album. There are certainly mentions of drinking and alcohol on the album, but it’s definitely not in the context of the classic Celtic Punk “let’s go to the bar and drink!” mentality. Not to say there aren’t songs you can drink or have fun to, we just figured the hundreds of other Celtic Punk bands have the “drinking song” thing covered pretty thoroughly so we wanted to write songs about different topics like loss, adventure, and the Greek myth of Medusa instead. For the diehard fans, one of the things I’m most proud of is that we snuck a slick little call back to an earlier song into part of the final track of the album, “Unnamed Grave.”

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Everyone in the band had a different entry into wanting to be a musician so I can only speak for myself. I’m personally a huge metal head. I listen to everything from Cryptopsy to Blind Guardian to Zeal & Ardor so what I’m about to say will likely get my “metal head card” revoked but when Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory dropped my life changed. I was still pretty young when the album got huge but aside from piano lessons my parents forced me to take, I had no musical experience or desire. I even remember having a meltdown as a kid because I didn’t want to practice piano and I told my dad “this is dumb I’m never going to actually play music in the future!” Anyways, that album dropped and the only thing I could think about when I was listening to those songs was how cool it would be to play the guitar. Luckily, my parents don’t hold grudges and a few years later they went 50/50 on a guitar with me. From there I got into heavier music and punk, started learning more instruments, and somehow landed on playing mandolin and starting a Celtic Punk band.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Aside from Hybrid Theory sort of kickstarting my whole musical journey, there have been numerous other influences that have really affected me and how I approach writing and playing music. We have a pretty energetic live set and I’m personally jumping around like a rabbit for our entire set regardless of the venue, space, or crowd. The band that really opened my eyes to a killer live performance was Gogol Bordello. I saw them a year before we started the band on a tour they opened up for Flogging Molly. I wasn’t insanely familiar with their music but had heard a few songs. From the second Eugene Hutz pranced onto the stage, the crowd (and myself) were immediately filled with electricity. The entire time, he was dancing, interacting with the crowd, throwing instruments into the crowd, and just was causing positive chaos. For me, that was the standard. That made me someone who was lukewarm on the band to a diehard fan and knew if we could mimic some of that, that’s how you make a live set more effective.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I’m really excited for this album because we did get to work with two of our favorite current musicians and we’re over the moon about having the opportunity to collaborate with Vincent Jackson Jones of Aether Realm and Kayla Dixon of Witch Mountain. It’s the first time we’ve been able to have guest musicians on our tracks and to get people of that caliber is just truly humbling to us. For me, I think just being able to continue to work with other established musicians moving forward is what we’re shooting for. Like obviously it would be cool to work with a Rob Halford or a Ken Casey but there’s just such a level of camaraderie with other musicians in bands similar in size and fan base as us and I’m a firm believer that high tide raises all ships.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

For those that don’t know, I’m a MASSIVE Pokemon nerd. When I’m not playing or writing music, I’m probably playing one of the various Pokemon games. I’ve been collecting the cards since I was a kid and have the entirety of the first 16 sets (minus some first editions) and have been an online vendor for the last few years to help fill in my collection gaps and get rid of some of my bulk. I don’t play competitively or anything because I’ve always resonated more with the “Gotta Catch ’em All” marketing, but I do spend an insane amount of time playing the video games to fill out my living Pokedex and my Shinies.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

We typically go to the Dropkick Murphys / Flogging Molly comparison because they’re arguably the largest bands of our immediate genre and we do have a lot of similarities. When we started as a band, we really leaned into the “pirate” persona and wrote a lot of pirate-y music. Honestly, that opened a lot of doors for us and really resonates with a lot of people and we definitely don’t regret it and plan to write more of those songs, however, sometimes we do just get written off as “the pirate band” or an “Alestorm knockoff” and that’s definitely annoying. We’re definitely not a gimmick band and cover such a wide breadth of genres and topics that it just sucks to get written off like that sometimes.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Reflecting on this, I’m realizing we’re all pretty boring when we hang out but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We’re all really good friends even outside of the band so I think we’re just all so comfortable with each other that we’re cool just letting everyone do their own things when we’re on tour or together for a show. I’d say a typical night on tour is our bass player Chris turning on a Cory Wong set on YouTube while me and Bibler play Pokemon or YuGiOh, Dennis and Will play Switch, and Vito and our tour manager Cliff just steer the conversations. I guess that’s the trade off for being high energy on stage is that we’re usually pretty wiped afterward and are ready to just relax and shower after a show.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

A few of us were lucky enough to play overseas back in 2021 and we had a gig at Banshee Labyrinth in Edinburgh, Scotland. We didn’t realize the singer of the band we were playing with, The Gallowgate Murders, is married to Frankie McLaughlin who was the singer of The Rumjacks. He really dug us and we talked for quite a while after the set. Despite his reputation, he was very kind to us and it was just so crazy that this sort of DIY international “tour” we somehow lucked into figuring out led us to play a show where this massive influence to our sound was present.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

For me, I’m just constantly writing music so I guess the coolest part of being a musician is seeing those songs also resonate with other people. Not being able to write music is definitely one of my biggest fears because it’s just something I do in my free time. I’m honestly not sure what I would want to do if I wasn’t able to play music because everything else would just be “tolerable jobs” that would allow me to live comfortably but not be truly fulfilling.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I could talk about Pokemon for days so I’m always chomping at the bit for someone to ask me about anything Pokemon related. A question that’s never come up but I love talking about are my top 3 Pokemon (main series) games which are (in order) Gold/Silver, Sword/Shield, and Ruby/Sapphire. Gold & Silver were the first games I was old enough to be invested in the release-day hype for. I remember going to Toys R Us the day they came out and buying Gold with the money I had been specifically saving for months and playing it non-stop for weeks. To me those games are still unbeatable despite how well or poorly people think they’ve aged. For a time, though, I wasn’t really invested in Pokemon. I didn’t care much for the DS/3DS as consoles and sort of lost interest between generations 5 – 7. I even dragged my feet to get a Switch and play Sword & Shield for quite a while. When I eventually did get a Switch and Sword version, I couldn’t believe how amazing that game was compared to where I had stopped playing. For me, this was so close to the game me and my friends would dream up as kids as the “perfect Pokemon game”. I’m still more likely to go back and play Sword than the newer games because I like it so much. With Ruby & Sapphire, I think this was just the natural continuation of the hype I had around Gold & Silver. It was a new GameBoy console, a new Pokemon game, better graphics, more capabilities, there was just nothing to not be excited about as a kid when these games came out. I think playability-wise, these games definitely hold up better than Gold & Silver, but they don’t quite scratch the nostalgia itch quite as hard for me. In terms of questions I’m tired of answering I’m not really sure there are any. I love talking about the band and our music and our hobbies. It’s really cool that people are interested in what we do and we’re just so appreciative of the curiosity and support.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

We’re going on 8 years as a band this year which is crazy and what’s even crazier is that for the initial four members of the band (Bibler, Will, myself, and our ex-drummer Nick Phillips) this was the first “real” band any of us really tried to get going so there are a lot of things we should have done differently in those early years in terms of shows we played, people we trusted, how we budgeted our funds, etcetera. That said, we also did a lot of things right and overall led to where we are now and for me at least, I have no big regrets or decisions I’d “do over”. If I were a young band again, the biggest piece of advice I’d give is just to stay humble. If you love what you do and are just a good person, that’s really what the key to success is.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

This one’s tough because I’d be afraid that I’d ruin the secret sauce for any of the albums that I really like and conversely for albums I don’t like, I’m not really sure I’d have anything constructive to add. If I did have to choose one though I’d personally want to be part of the Follow The Reaper sessions with Children Of Bodom. Alexi Laiho is my undisputed guitar hero and that album specifically still blows my mind with how the songs are crafted as though they were arranged in almost an orchestral method and Alexi just writing some of the most blistering lead guitar parts. I’d love to see him play again, especially in his prime.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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