Filled with recording studios, record execs and fantastic venues on every street corner, musicians from all over the world flock to Los Angeles like moths to a flame to try their hand at making it big. Because L.A. has become a Mecca for hopeful artists, on any given night of the week Angelenos can choose from a long list of good indie local acts to see. Though this is certainly an undisputed plus for music lovers, it can make the task of sifting through bands to find performances worthy of watching infinitely harder than it is for those in any other city. To make the chore of figuring this out just a bit easier I’ll tell you right now, you should see BrokenAnchor.
Last night the duo, comprised of singer Austin Hartley-Leonard and percussionist Mike Duffy, played at the Piano Bar in the heart of Hollywood. The combination of the mellow rock sounds from Broken Anchor paired with the dimly lit intimate venue made for the quintessential Los Angeles night of music. Amid a packed house of casually dressed hipsters perched on old leather bar stools sipping whiskey, Broken Anchor performed with the perfect mix of smooth melody and passionate electric guitar breaks. After hearing their calling card “Dear Diary,” brimming with restrained yet passionate vocals and subtly powerful transitions, it was obvious why their fans have taken to comparing them to Band Of Horses. As they went through their set list, Austin’s unique voice vacillated between almost whisper-like and explosive and Duffy’s sticks flitted between drums like a hummingbird. Moving through songs like, “My Marie” and “Always” it was clear why they had been given a residency for the month of January at this great Hollywood spot.
Still, Austin is the first to admit- as he did to me when I spoke with him before the show- that they’re still “figuring each other out.” This may indeed be true in the studio, but watching them together at the Piano Bar’s small stage I never would have guessed that this was only their 14th time performing together for a crowd. Though their collective dream is to eventually tour the U.S. and land headlining gigs, these musicians are realists.
Understanding the current state of the industry, they have chosen to give away their music for free on their website rather than charge for it (though there is still the option to donate funds if you’re feeling “nostalgic”). “Music is free anyway,” Austin said of this choice. “People can pay $10 on Spotify and get pretty much all music for free. So, charging $7 for our stuff just seems crazy. At this point we’d much rather have the fans than the cash. If you listen to our stuff and then share it with a friend that’s worth way more to us.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that they are exactly opposed to making money either. Following what seems to be the modern business model for musicians in the face of the new emerging paradigm, they are giving away their music to fans, but selling it to bigger corporations. Allowing “Dear Diary” to be played in shows like MTV’s The Jersey Shore and Teen Mom, Broken Anchor has joined the ranks of so many popular bands before them that have given their music to commercials and television shows in order to get both cash and recognition (see: fun., Alex Clare, Imagine Dragons, etc.).
“Sure some people want to call it selling out,” Austin said. “But, I don’t really see it that way. I mean, I like Levis, I like Volkswagen; those are quality brands. So, no, I wouldn’t mind if they wanted to use our music. Obviously if it was a commercial for something I didn’t believe in, I wouldn’t do it. But otherwise I don’t see the problem. I mean you can’t sell records any more, and it would really be nice to eat and put gas in the tank.”
After seeing them perform last night, I don’t foresee any problems with their ability to get food or fuel. If you are in L.A. this month, definitely use one of your Thursday nights to check them out. They play a great set, and the Piano Bar is an excellent place to relax and hear some good local tunes. If you happen to be somewhere else in the world, check here to see if they’ll be coming to a town near you.
By: Darianne Dobbie