The Bravery - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
Sadly, the highly publicized 2005 feud between indie rock newcomers The Bravery and The Killers painted the former into a corner. As two similar bands vying for crossover mainstream success, the feud largely came off as a comical publicity stunt of empty, clichéd, hip-hop proportions. As history can attest, however, The Killers had the last laugh after their debut album, Hot Fuss (2004 Island) propelled the quartet into superstardom in just a few months, leaving The Bravery stalled in their wake. It’s unfortunate, for The Bravery ultimately proved that they had just as many hackneyed platitudes and rehashed anthemic hooks in their arsenal as Brandon Flowers and company. The simple fact is that The Killers just got there first, even if only by a matter of months. Instead, the New York City based quintet earned the consolation prize of releasing ambitious, if at times flawed, epic post-punk/New Wave albums often overlooked by the mainstream public because The Bravery still wear the title of the band who lost to The Killers like a yoke – and until they manage to outshine The Killers in a worldwide popularity (or publicity) contest, they probably always will.
Initially, Sam Endicott tasted some success with the syrupy, power pop band, The Pasties, several of whose songs were featured on various MTV shows. After his gig playing bass for them ended, Endicott formed the ska-punk Skabba the Hut, who for a while served as the house band for Comedy Central’s Premium Blend program (referred to, on the show, as The El Conquistidors). In 2003, along with fellow Vassar College alum and keyboardist John Conway, Endicott formed The Bravery in New York City. Guitarist Michael Zakarin, bassist Mike “Dirt” Hindert and drummer Anthony Burulcich soon fell into place and the quintet quickly hashed out an infectious post-punk/New Wave hybrid reminiscent of mid-‘80s era The Cure. Endicott even sang in an off-kilter, pseudo-British accent à la Robert Smith. Taking their ‘80s alt-rock fetish to the next level, the band also began taking the stage with outlandish mascara and teased, hair-sprayed coifs, which only drew more attention from the press. To their credit, Endicott and company promoted The Bravery by being one of the first bands to create a MySpace profile with a redirect address to thebravery.com where people could download free sample songs. Word of mouth regarding the band’s often sold out live shows and radio play in San Francisco, Boston, and the U.K. of the tracks “Alter Ego” and “An Honest Mistake” downloaded from thebravery.com caught the attention of the major label, Island Def Jam, who signed the quintet in the summer of 2004.
The Bravery got their first taste of critical success after releasing the debut EP, Unconditional (Universal International) in early 2005. The Killer’s debut, Hot Fuss, and its sing-along single “Mr. Brightside” was still dominating the charts when The Bravery’s self-titled debut, The Bravery (Island) was released in the spring of 2005. The day of the album’s release, Flowers made statements to mtvnews.com accusing The Bravery of riding The Killers’ coattails to success. Considering both bands share the same label, the ensuing war of words between the two bands was suspected by some of being a label-manipulated publicity stunt designed to increase sales for both bands. Whether or not it was is inconsequential as it increased interest in both bands as the feud raged on. Produced by Endicott, the self titled debut boasted some of the year’s finest dance rock, spawning the hit singles “An Honest Mistake” and “Unconditional,” despite the album’s mixed critical reception.
After a disastrous Glastonbury Festival appearance which ended with an inebriated Hindert stripping naked and throwing himself into the drum kit (a fairly common occurrence), The Bravery joined Depeche Mode on their Playing the Angel tour. While on tour, the band set up a mobile recording studio in the back of their bus which Endicott used to write a large portion of The Bravery’s follow-up album. As a pseudo-concept album, The Sun and the Moon (2007 Island) was initially imagined by Endicott as a double disc set broken down into “The Sun,” a more organic and acoustic based side, and “The Moon,” a set covering the exact same material found on “The Sun” – only with more of a electronic dance rock bent akin to their debut album. After the “Sun” portion of the album was completed, the concept was abandoned and The Sun and the Moon was released to a mixed critical reception. The Bravery kept working on the more dance rock versions intended for the “Moon” portion anyway. The following year The Sun and the Moon Complete (2008 Island) was released as a two disc set, as intended, to a moderately positive critical reception.