Mat Brooke wrote two of the songs on Band of Horses' fantastic debut, Everything All the Time: "I Go To The Barn Because I Like The" and "St. Augustine." His is the forlorn, Beamish voice coaxing itself to sing just below the surface, on lines like "I'd like to think I'm a mess you'd wear with pride" and "Let's bury ourselves and go haunt someone tonight." Before he was the other guy in Band of Horses, the guy in the background, the guy who doesn't sing into 300 feet of reverb coil, Brooke was the main guy in Carissa's Wierd, a coltish Seattle band that developed a frenetic following in their hometown and in New York but were mostly unknown elsewhere.
Brooke and band mate Jenn Ghetto used to work at Bimbo's, a narrow, garishly decorated burrito joint on Pine Street in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. When he wasn't working or giving slightly nervous, shabby renditions of Carissa's Wierd songs with his mates, you could often find Brooke drinking quietly in a booth at the Cha Cha (the bustling faux tiki bar attached to Bimbo's)—looking a bit pensive, slightly drunk and completely out of place amidst the black lights and blaring music, the noisy crowd of hipsters, wannabes, band members and art school freakers.
In those days Ben Bridwell, now the main guy in Band of Horses, was the other guy; he was the musical equivalent of a utility infielder, contributing drums, bass, keys, even pedal steel to various incarnations of Carissa's Wierd over the course of a decade. But he never sang, and no one knew he could write a song, not even him. But I digress. I was and still am a big Carissa's Wierd fan and am glad to see Brooke back in circulation, if in a limited role. Here's hoping he gets more time in front of the mic, and here, too, are two tracks from Ugly But Honest: 1996-1999, a collection of low-fi bedroom pop gems released on Brown Records, the label that Bridwell started to put out Carissa's Wierd albums, and which he ran out of an apartment located scarcely a stone's throw from the restaurant where his friends worked their thankless shifts.
Carissa's Wierd – "Heather Rhodes"
Carissa's Wierd – "Fluorescent Lights"
Band of Horses – "Great Salt Lake"
Band of Horses – "The Funeral"