What do you do if your father and uncles are in a band and your brothers are, too? If you're a Braun, you follow in their footsteps.
From their hometown of Challis, brothers Micky and Gary Braun took the reins of the Americana/country music that was their legacy and formed Micky and the Motorcars, which will once again rock the Knitting Factory stage on Friday, Dec. 31.
This will be the fourth time MMC will play the Knitting Factory on New Year's Eve and Knitting Factory general manager Ryan Collis said they're an amazing fit for that night.
"They have a great following here. We do so much business with the whole Braun family. We have such a good time with them. They're some of our favorite people to work with," Collis said.
The Braun's musical history extends back to the boys' paternal grandparents, their dad Muzzie Braun and uncles Gary and Billy (The Braun Brothers) and brothers Willy and Cody (Reckless Kelly), who all blazed the trail before them. It's as if the Brauns are the country-music equivalent of the Gottis: The name Braun is so recognized around these parts that no matter what other career choice the younger boys made, they would always be peppered with, "Why aren't you in a band?" But no one ever had to ask.
Since forming MMC in 2001, Micky and Gary relocated to Texas. They took the more traditional country sound their kin are known for and gave it a twist, adding rootsy rock courtesy of Micky's gravelly voice and Gary's gutsy guitar. Micky looks more like Steven Tyler than Toby Keith. He may come from country, but he's more likely to be in a trucker's cap than a 10-gallon hat and the stage lights often twinkle off of his earrings and the long silver chains dangling from his pocketed wallet. So it's not surprising that Micky and the Motorcars' music is most often described as alt-country. Micky said he sees that as a bonus.
"I wouldn't want to be called country," Micky said. "For one, we're really not what country is considered today, which is Nashville country. It's a lot more poppy and has hook lines and songs about girls thinking guys' tractors are sexy, which is just not what we do. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just not what we sound like. I wouldn't want people to think that's what they're going to see and then go, 'This isn't country at all.' Or be the opposite and they'd think they're going to see a Merle Haggard show, and we're not that either. [Calling it] alt-country or country rock fine-tunes it a little bit."
But country music is in the Braun blood. Even in The Rock Farmers, Micky's side project with all of his brothers, they cover old country standards. Micky said Gary wants to put out a traditional country album at some point. And on the title track of their 2008 release Naive (Smith Entertainment), MMC steers headfirst into the concepts that made Dolly Parton wealthy enough to open her own theme park.
"It's awfully cold but the window's wide open / ashtray two cigarettes smoking. / I might be naive but baby I'm not blind / I think it's time for you to go / I can't believe you any more / like I always did before."
Braun sings as though he knows a little something about heartbreak--the hallmark of any great country song.
Call it what you will, whatever MMC is doing, it's working. The band--which includes Kris Farrow, Shane Vannerson and childhood friend Mark McCoy--just returned from an inaugural tour in Germany where they had been trying to make inroads for a long time.
"It was actually a lot like when we first got started playing around Texas," Micky said. "There were places where we had a good amount of people showing up who were interested in hearing our music. [We played] smaller venues and smaller crowds but they were really responsive and they bought a lot of merchandise."
They loved that part, but the way German crowds responded to MMC's music was much different than the band is used to.
"They're very attentive. They don't talk at all while you're playing," Braun said emphatically. "Everybody's dead silent and bobbing their heads while you're playing and when you're done, the ending of every song is almost like the ending of the show. As soon as you start playing another song, they quit clapping and go right back to smiling at you and having fun. It was a great experience," Micky said.
He laughed at the idea of German fans walking around in MMC T-shirts.
"That's what I've been hoping for," he said. "We're glad we had the opportunity to go."
MMC has already been asked to return to Germany in October and will likely consider touring through other parts of Europe as well. As they begin to expand into new territories, the Reckless Kelly associations might eventually catch up with them there, too. Micky said that gets tiring after a while.
"Reckless Kelly and Micky and the Motorcars comparisons have gotten a little bit old. I'll do radio interviews where I've already done an interview with this DJ like 15 times. And he'll say, 'I understand your brothers are in a band.' And I'll be like, 'Yeah. We went over this last time!' That's kind of annoying. He just said that two months ago."
But that's purely external irritation. Internally, it's nothing but love between the boys. MMC and Reckless Kelly tour together--something Braun said he loves doing--and, of course, there's the annual Braun Family Reunion blowout in Challis. In addition, this year, the family is releasing Christmas In These Idaho Hills, a CD of songs from 1987 featuring Billy, Gary, Muzzie, Cody (10), Willy (9), young Gary (7) and little Micky (6).
"I'm really proud of our family history," Braun said, the sentiment evident in his voice.
"I always have been."