Friday, February 10, 2023

We Had Major Label Interest within Two Years with Brandon Mullins of EMBRACED

In this episode of The Rock Metal Podcast, we're chatting with Brandon Mullins of the band Embraced about their headlining of the PC Throwback Fest on 24 June 2023.

During our chat we touch on a lot of great tips for musicians, such as how Embraced received major label interest within two years.

For fans of Underoath, Norma Jean, RX Bandits, New Found Glory.


Guest Resource

PC Throwback Fest - Connect with Embraced Live!

Embraced Facebook - Stay in touch with Embraced!

Embraced Spotify - Listen to Embraced!

Guest Music Video

Embraced - An Orchestrated Failure | 15th Year Anniversary Vinyl Release from Wild Light Films on Vimeo.

3 Heavy Hitters

1. Play parking lots, house shows, birthday parties - get into people's ears!

2. Think of yourself as a musician who has a gift to give to the world

3. Make music on your terms, celebrate getting paid to be a musician


Asher Media Relations: Doing PR for everything loud! For your band needs to be seen and heard in print, online and radio!  Let Asher know Jon from The Rock Metal Podcast sent you.

Tue Madsen: Tue Madsen is responsible for producing, mixing, and mastering some of the best metal for over the last 20 years.  Let Tue know Jon from The Rock Metal Podcast sent you.

Syndicol Music: A full service agency for musicians, offering record label services, marketing, branding, production and management.  Let Charlie know Jon from The Rock Metal Podcast sent you.

Wormholedeath Records: WHD is a modern record label, publishing and film production company fit with global distribution, publishing and marketing using a roster of global partnerships. Let Carlo know The Rock Metal Podcast sent you.

Show Notes // Transcript

Jon Harris: All right. Well, Brandon, welcome to the rock metal podcast. Go ahead and say hi to all of our beautiful listeners. 

Brandon Mullins: Hey, everybody. How are you doing? I'm Brandon. 

Jon Harris: Brandon, great to have you on. Now, go ahead and quickly tell everyone listening in what you told me when you reached out to me by email.

Brandon Mullins: The fact that we were really nobodies in Panama City, Florida, for the longest time, and we just decided to give this music thing a go. And from being high school kids to having some major label interest in about two years, it didn't mean much to us at the time, but in retrospect, that doesn't happen much these days. 

Jon Harris: No, it doesn't. But, I mean, how many people are resonating with this? Nobody's from any town, small town, big town, maybe even being high school kids, given this music thing a go. But here's the interesting thing. Having that major label interest in about two years. 

Brandon Mullins: Yeah, so we were actually, we were all playing in bands and, you know, bands with the quotation marks, but also making a noise at some point with little things before then. But this band came to fruition and really started getting its legs right in the year 2000. And we put this record out. We've been writing music and finally formed the EP songs together and recorded it on Theory Eight Records in the year 2002. And that's when things really kind of took off for us. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, you mentioned some things that definitely haven't changed since the year 2000. You got in the studio, you recorded, you got on stage, you found your legs, so to speak. So, I mean, for anybody who's currently asking right now, like, great, the year 2000, what does that have to do with what's going on today? We're going to get to this, so don't worry for a second. But quickly, Brandon, what would you say that's different?

Brandon Mullins: To have those labels reaching out to us after we had been hustling and busting our butts for a little bit, even I say a little bit, two years, it was interesting to see there wasn't as much competition as there is today. In that terms, if you had the gumption and you were willing to kind of get out there and play some music in front of people, people would listen, you know?

Jon Harris: Yeah, you mentioned something incredible there - gumption, which, for those who don't know, that's basically being resourceful, figuring out the way and getting out there to play music, getting on stage, getting your information in front of people physically in real life, not hiding behind your Instagram. That's why, Brandon, I think you said there's no competition back then because you couldn't hide behind your Instagram. You actually had to get on stage. You actually had to do things to be a musician. But on a more serious level, Brandon, take us back to the year 2000. How did you do it? 

Brandon Mullins: If you've got a certain approach or mindset what I'm thinking of as gumption, that opportunities that present as lucky tend to pop up more and more, right? So when I say that we went from nobody's in a band to getting looked at by these major labels in such a short span, I think it's because we are out there busting and taking advantage of these situations. Keep in mind that this was way before you were able to click a button and send anyone in the world your music and being able to find it on Spotify and Apple Music. So I think we had two major goals in respect to sharing our sound and our music around. The first one was we needed to get in people's ears. Spotify didn't exist then, right? So if you wanted people to hear your music, you had to either put it in their hands or they had to be at the show. So we took any vehicle that we could possibly find and we would pack it up and play anywhere that would take us, right? So we were driving all over the Southeast for any promoter that would have us. We played birthday parties, hence the embarrassing situations, tour, little town festivals, parking lots, house shows, whatever we were invited to. And I think that led to more legit opportunities later down the road. So seeking those adventures and seeking those opportunities, but also we wanted to be taken seriously as musicians, not just kids that are playing at somebody's birthday party. So I think the touring helped promoters start to look in our direction. But what really helped legitimize our band was who we played with, right? So I think that one thing that helped put Panama City on the map concerning underground heavy music was that we were booking these shows so that we could play with these bands that we wanted to play with. We kind of became a de facto production company, bringing bands like Underoath and Norma Jean, who was actually Ludicrous before they were Norma Jean. We played their first show as Norma Jean ever, a New Found Glory before they got real big. RX Bandits, 238, Stretch Armstrong, Beloved. And those two things combined, I think, showed labels that we could be taken seriously and hang because we had the wherewithal and the gumption to go out and get it done. And we weren't playing like American Idol or X Factor and hoping that we had this massive audience and could be judged on those merits. We were just 16, 17 and 18 year old dudes driving a 1982 Chevy Suburban to Atlanta to play a show for some band that we thought was cool back in the day. 

Jon Harris: Hahaha, 16 to 18 year old high school kids is driving around in 1982 Chevy Suburban on the way to Atlanta, playing shows, networking with other bands, as you mentioned, going to Atlanta just to play for a band that you wanted to play with. And the crazy thing is that everything that you mentioned still exists today. 

Brandon Mullins: Yeah. But not everybody's doing it, right? So I think you're right. Back in the day, I can remember going to as a kid, like, Warp Tour or something, right. And somebody would come up and give you a CD because the CDs were new then, and it was something they pressed. It wasn't from a label. They had their handwriting on it. I personally went to one in Atlanta one time, and some kid came up and handed me the CD, and it was like, Check out my band, it's really cool. And I say, okay, whatever. And I played it later, or whatever it was. Jim Atkins from Jimmy Eat World gave me a CD. It's like, hustling for his band. It might have been like, '98, but I mean, think about where they are now. But you're right. It was an art form. You had to be able to talk to people, and that's lost a little bit these days, right. To see somebody you don't know put a flyer in their hand and say, hey, come see my band. It's $4, or whatever. Right. It's a free show we're playing. Come out and see it. And I think sometimes it's easy to get behind a screen and send an email and say, well, that's it. That's all I have to do. And that might work for some people, but I don't think that's how you gain loyal fans or entice people to come and see your music. 

Jon Harris: Yeah. Putting a physical CD in someone's hands, obviously that's changed. There's other ways, I'm sure, that bands are figuring out how to do that. But you have that experience. What turned out to be Jimmy Eat World, I remember having that experience, and it turned out to be Evanescence when they hit the radio. I remember having that experience, and it turned out to be 10 Years, you know, when they hit the radio. So it's not just sitting behind the email screen, as you put it, or just sitting behind the Instagram screen like I like to put it, but actually getting out there and putting in the work to build a loyal following and entice people to see your music. Which takes me to my next question, Brandon.

Brandon Mullins: Yeah?

Jon Harris: It's not the year 2000 anymore, and we have TikTok. How would you do this again? Luck aside, I guess, because I know luck is a part of it. You mentioned luck. Sure. How would you do it again? 

Brandon Mullins: Yeah, that's the question. Right. Because hindsight is always 2020. I think you hear so many stories about actors or business moguls, they say something like, I was about to give it up, and then this happened. I think in the case of my first band, Embraced what kind of haunts us, if that's the right term, because we're all in good places, but I think we gave up a little too soon. We're talking about a short time frame here. We existed from maybe a little bit before 2000 to a little bit around 2004, when we really kind of found our swing, but we gave it up just a little bit too soon. And I think it had something to do with our immature internal band arguments that we could have easily resolved. But we were young and dumb and short sighted, and if we had found a way to work through those, I mean, who knows? Because some of our contemporaries at the time were in the trenches, but they found a way to hang in there and found real market success like our music genre had never seen before, playing to hundreds of thousands of people. I talked to a guy that we were in a band with at the time and a few years later chatted with him. It was this band called Copeland. I don't know if your listeners are familiar with that band, this indie rock band from Lakeland, but he was in a band that played in front of the Pope, in the Vatican City, in front of a million people, all because they stuck it out and didn't give up when things got rough. So I think that's the first thing I would do differently, right, is stick it out a little more and try to be more mature about the intentionality of our music. But I'd also say, looking back, one big approach to how I view myself would change. I think when you're young, you often think about yourself as a member of a band. Like I was Brandon from Embraced, and it's easy to kind of get stuck in that kind of egocentric area again. Being short sighted and young, I would definitely think of myself more. I would take a step back and think of myself as a musician who has something to give to the world, right? What I mean by that is, I feel like if you're a person in a band, you tend to think of yourself in that ecosystem. But if you are a musician, you get to spread your wings and be creative. And there were so many times where I had opportunities to play in other bands or do my solo thing, and it didn't because I was Brandon from Embraced. I would definitely be more intentional about thinking of myself as a musician because for a long time, it was like kind of sacrilege to branch out from your main band or your social, your musical endeavour. I would approach it that way. I would think of myself as a musician first if I had to do it all over again and being more intentional about my musical journey and the person that I am creating music as opposed to just being a dude in a band. 

Jon Harris: Yeah, we hear that everybody, don't give up too soon. Think about that market success. But at the same time, I think where that market success comes from is something that Brandon touched on. He's not just Brandon from Embraced. He is a musician who has something to give, and I always parallel music to food. I don't know why my parallel to that was, am I a chef because I want to be, I don't know, the next big name, or am I looking to use my talent to ensure that somebody has an experience with food that they wouldn't have otherwise had? 

Brandon Mullins: Yeah, I get that. Again, as a musician, it was I'm in a band. This is the music that we make. But if you think about it, from this is the thing that I'm creating. I get to share with the world. You can go in so many different directions. It's not so single minded. And you're right. Like, what do you bring to the table? What stirs your soul? As opposed to what can this thing, this entity do? What can I do? 

Jon Harris: Okay. You mentioned market success earlier on in the interview, Brandon and hustling for two years, getting in major label interest. You did mention a bit of luck, but you've also mentioned being able to play with, Underoath, Norma Jean, Rx Bandits, New Found Glory, I guess, at this stage, how would you define success as a band? 

Brandon Mullins: Yeah, in my opinion, success can really only be defined by the individual that's looking for success. Right. What is success? Becoming the next Aerosmith or creating music you can be proud of or getting paid to play music? By that measure, street performers are successful. But I have a little bit of a story here, if that's okay. One of my first jobs ever, just right before embraced with forming. It might have even been, like, the first couple of months of embraced. I was 17, and I was working at this photography company called Sepia. Essentially, they were contracted by shopping malls, if you remember what a shopping mall is. And they did, like, Easter Bunny photography and Santa Claus photography, and they did a picture experience for kids. Anyway, I was working as, like, a Santa's Helper thing, and one of the Santas that we contracted was this guy named Jay Carrington Scott. You can look him up if you want to, or your listeners should look him up. Anyway, he found out that I was doing the band thing and performing my own music, and we got to chat. And apparently in his younger years, he was a hired saxophone player for Leonard Skinner and, like, Alabama and some of these other bands, and he just loved the fact that I was, like, getting started, and he told me his tour stories. Anyway, he's really nice guy. He passed away in 2009. But when I was talking to him one day, I had mentioned to him that we made $400, one time, which was a huge sum of money for a 17 year old playing in some rinky dink band back in the day to play some kids birthday party. And I felt really cheesed out that we were playing a birthday party and he said, because it was a birthday party and it wasn't like a real show or anything, and he said, I'll never forget it. He said, you got paid to play music, right? That makes you a successful musician. And that always kind of stuck with me. But although I don't use that as my definition, but it always comes to mind, I think, for me personally, Brandon Mullins defining what success is as a musician, I think it's being able to create music or create a sound that has meaning to you and that you are able to do on your own terms. Labels will often tell you what to do or what to dress like or what to sound like. But I think a band like Jimmy Eat World or MxPx or even like a Taylor Swift who get to make their own music and own it and do what they want to regarding their own sound, that's what real music success looks like. 

Jon Harris: Making music on your own terms, getting paid to be a musician. I mean, there's a couple of things that we've said there, right? You can get paid to be a musician. You can rock those birthday parties, those bar mitzvahs like Drake, I just got back from a bar mitzvah in the States. So it's definitely something that happens in the music industry. So get ready for that. Definitely nothing to be ashamed of. But then, as you mentioned, Taylor Swift's of the world, the Jimmy Eat World's of the world, making music on your own terms. What did you want people to do from this call? We have so many value bombs that have been dropped, or some heavy hitters, as I like to call them, for bands listening in that I think need to just hear a refreshing ear. There's just so much noise going on right now and so much wrong information about how to promote your band. I just wanted to get back to the brass tacks that everything that we're talking about still exists today and bands are ignoring. And it's almost like you'd be on a fast track because you'd be doing what nobody else is doing, to cut through the noise. But what do you want listeners to do right now? Is there a place you want them to go on the web? What do you want them to do? 

Brandon Mullins: Sure. Well, let me start by saying thanks for giving me this opportunity. It's been a lot of fun. But I'm hoping that some of your listeners that are sitting there enjoying listening to some old heads talk about music the way that it used to be, have found some measure of kind of inspiration from our conversation or took an anecdote or a suggestion, and they think, I can run with that, or if I change that thing, I can run with it. So I hope that that exists, right? But I guess my call to action would be for your listeners to go get it. Go make music you love, go borrow a car, go get with your best friends, hit the road. I'm in such a great spot right now. I feel like I have a wonderful family. I've got two great kids. You know, my wife is wonderful and I wouldn't trade that for anything. But I'm also thinking of what 21 year old me that found some European or Japanese promoter who was willing to fly us to play songs to some kids that don't even speak English that we wrote in our garage halfway across the world. And those kids are singing along and I get to do this travel the world thing with four of my best friends. I kept those networks going and I didn't burn those bridges and it allows me now, as a 40 year old man, the opportunity to have my own children come and see me perform in front of 4,000 people at their first concert. So I guess I hope somebody finds the courage to take the next step to start your musical journey. Embraced has been playing on and off for 20 years now and we've all gone on to form a few different bands and we took those steps for me with a band called Across Five Aprils, if you're into that. We found some success on Victory Records and got to tour the world and Steve went on to go play and Go Radio and they're still touring. You should go see them if you like the pop punk side of things. They're playing with fans like Plain White, T's and Paramore and they did a whole run of Warp Tours for several years. And Embraced. This 40 year old dude is going to get to play with some of my best friends back in the day. We're going to be playing a reunion show again on June 24 in Panama City at Panhandle Throwback Fest. They've been kind enough to let us headline that and I get to hang out with all my friends. I guess I would say to your audience is listening, go get it. And if you happen to be out there at our show on the 24th or you see me in the future, come up and say hey, because I'd love to chat about what your musical journey looks like. 

Jon Harris: Go ahead and hit up Brandon at the Panhandle Fest. That's June 24 is going to be happening in Panama City, Florida. And my goodness gracious, so many incredible valuable were dropped today. So please make sure to head over to where I will have all of the extra information from today, the transcripts, everything that you need to know to make sure that you have everything that you need from today's episode. So, Brandon, thank you so much for coming on to the Rock Metal podcast today. 

Brandon Mullins: Yeah, man, I really appreciate being here. This is a lot of fun. Thank you for letting me bend your ear for a little bit.


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