Cleveland’s Brave Girls Debut New CD “Sugarless” at the Happy Dog

Photo by Mara Robinson

Fri 10/13 @ 9PM

A couple of years ago, Cleveland musician Aaron Koonce aka Aaron Civil War had written a bunch of songs, but he was between bands. He’d played bass with punk rockers Ohio Civil War and guitar with heavy indie trio False Flag, but he was temporarily without a lineup to flesh out his material.

So he called on various friends to help him record the demos that became his solo album Sugarless. And the friends who helped him out on the record coalesced into the band the Brave Girls. The Brave Girls, which include Lawton Brothers guitarist Andy Stibora, background vocalist Lisa Ellis Schafer, Dreadful Yawns/Voxcaster guitarist Eric Schulte and bassist Jason Weiner in addition to Koonce, will debut Sugarless at the Happy Dog West this Friday. Herzog and Father Shore open. Admission is $5.

“I wrote the songs in 2015 as my previous band was ending,” says Koonce. “I was working in a vacuum so I started emailing songs to friends I thought would like them. Clint Holley of Well Made Music wrote me back and invited me to do a demo at his home and offered to introduce me to a recording engineer Dave Polster if I was interested in making an actual record. Around that time [fellow False Flag member] John Kalman released a solo album called A Drive Awake that was surprisingly beautiful and haunting. I was encouraged by this initiative and accomplishment and decided to record my songs.”

“This is a dangerous song but I’ve been wanting to sing it for so long,” he sings on the track “This is a Dangerous Song,” perhaps expressing his musical mission statement.

Koonce has dubbed the music “nihilistic folk rock.” And it’s certainly a long way from the take-no-prisoners punk rock of his early days. The tracks are acoustic-based, with plaintive vocals and nakedly direct lyrics that drop like an offhand, late-night conversation.

Schafer serves as a vocal foil on “Selfish Kind” and “This Ain’t Nashville,” bringing a strong country/Americana flavor to the tracks. On “Windproof Lighter” their duet has an even more primitive backwoods country folk feel. “Long Dry Season,” on the other hand, moans and wails like a piece of classic bluesy psychedelia, and “Under the Streetlight” adds back a some indie rock-style noise and guitar clamor.

The album is available as a download and limited vinyl release.

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