The AQ’s Angela Bosse sat down for a glass of cider with The Hypochondriacs’ frontman Josh Bravener to talk about the band’s first full-length album The Hypochondriacs in 3/4.
Angela Bosse: How long has this album been in the works?
Josh Bravener: Oh my god, way too long. So basically, what happened, long story short is I was supposed to record it back in 2014, so a long time ago. I had most of the songs written in 2014, and then we had some disputes in the band, and that dispute led to a couple of members leaving and that set us back … and we just kind of waiting until it felt right to record again. So we just kind of sat on it for a while. People pre-ordered this record [two years] ago, but I still have their pledges.
AB: When did you guys start getting the ball rolling again after sitting on the album?
JB: It’s an even longer story than you would even believe, because then we went back to record it last summer  … and the audio engineer moved to Toronto and I really wanted to work closely with my audio engineer so I could like, tweak things – I just don’t do well on the Internet communicating, so I was like, I canned it … and then this summer  we went back into the studio … I tracked a bunch of piano, even for songs I didn’t think piano would be on, and then we ended up running choir parts for that one “Meeting Place” tune about the church, that wasn’t supposed to be that intense at all. There wasn’t supposed to be a pedal steel in it, there wasn’t supposed to be a choir, it was crazy.
AB: What was it like building upon those pieces you thought were complete?
JB: You always have all these big ideas for what you want your songs to sound like. I have all these ideas in my head and I write songs based on other songs I hear and I’m like, “Oh I kind of like that,” and you kind of have an idea. So when you finally have the song in front of you and you can do anything you want to it, why not?
AB: What’s your favourite, if you had to pick, on this album?
JB: There’s a couple answers to that question. I think definitely, the one that really, and I want to make this sounds as modest as possible, but the one that really gets to me, even though it’s my own song I hate saying this, really like still is “The Meeting Place.” There’s so much anger in that song, it was meant to be an angry song it was meant to make people angry, a certain group of people angry. And it’s working. Everytime I listen to it I still get worked up. I think that song is kind of like the hidden gem in the rough, because it’s a very country, 1950s rock ‘n roll record and then smack dab in the middle you have this biography of a man, my father, that’s so intense and it’s really real, it’s like a super literal song.
AB: Can you tell the story behind that song?
JB: My dad was a founder of a church in Fredericton that was at the time called the Meeting Place. He founded the church and he basically teamed up with a group from the U.K. called NFI [Newfrontiers International] that kinda took over in a way and after a while – it was basically a church for people who didn’t want to go to church, cause my dad always worked with low-income people and people [who] were like “why would you believe in God?” cause why would you? Cause life sucks – So he wanted to reach out to those people and be like there is more, you just gotta go to it. And he would find ways to reach out to people, people who didn’t want to go …
He found that impersonating Elvis was a great way to do that … and basically the church hated that, they hated that my father was impersonating this once-sex icon. But what year is this now, probably 2005, 2006 [when it happened]? We have evolved so much that Elvis was very … modest. So the fact that they even used that as an excuse was ridiculous.
Anyway, and my dad started to have all these panic attacks. They thought he had demons. They exorcised him … they laid him out on the table and they tried to pray the demons out of him … Somebody was lying. Basically, the elders in the church now were saying that nobody liked him, that he was a terrible speaker, terrible pastor, terrible preacher and that people wanted him out. And he was hurt by that, so he went to the people, and he asked them, “Why do you want me out of the church?” and they were like “Aw, we never said anything like that.” … so they gave him the option: you can either stop doing what you’re doing, or you can leave. It was an ultimatum.
He left it up to us and he asked [our family]. I impersonated Elvis with him at the time … my dad and I we would travel across Canada down to the United States singing Elvis together … Because of that is why I play music and why my dad plays music, and there’s more happiness in that than having a salary.
AB: Have any of them heard that song yet? What was their reaction?
JB: While I haven’t talked to any of them about it personally yet, I just want to get the song out first. Because it eats me up inside. I hate it, I hate them. So I’d like them to know what I think.
AB: A lot of the other songs have heartache in them. How much of those stories are from your own experience?
JB: All of them. It was just a classic high school sweetheart scenario. I was in love with a girl, we lived together, and it didn’t work out, and I was sad about it. I always wanted to write songs about being heartbroken, because I loved country music … so I used to write songs about my mental illness … all about my obsessive-compulsive disorder and my anxiety – but then finally I was heartbroken I was like “Yes! I can finally write about this!” I finally understood, I put on a George Jones record and I bought a bottle of whiskey and I wanted to live that. I wanted to, and I got to … so I finally had an outlet to write these songs, and all the stories are somewhat true, like my girlfriend never cheated on me like I suggested in “Last Night.” I mean she kinda did, but “not technically,” is her argument but whatever.
AB: Are all of the heartbreak-y songs about her?
JB: Yes, I’ve only been in love once. So too bad for her. She knows it though.
AB: What’s next for The Hypochondriacs?
JB: The album’s going to come out in April, we don’t have a specific date, we’re looking at around April 22-ish, that’s if we can get the pressings in time, cause we’re doing vinyl. We’re touring with a band called Torero for a week right now, and probably something bigger in July. So that’s what’s next, and I’m really excited to start writing again.
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