Nathan Brown thinks it’s “late-’70s police investigation/chase music,” but even if you were a kid in that time period, you probably spent your fair share of boring nights lounging on the couch as Kojak knocked yet another street tough out of his shoes with just a sideways glance or as Quincy, straining the bounds of poetic license, went a-houseboating with yet another babe half his age or as Starsky and Hutch tried to pretend they weren’t in love with each other. Folks like us, we can’t forget cheesy TV anthems if we tried.
The project Brown’s talking about is Programme, his all-instrumental trio with guitarist Ben Hance (Secret Ghost Champion, The Cush) and keyboardist Landon Cabarubio (guitarist for Cleanup) that definitely has a thematic, dramatic sweep. But there appears to be more to the sound.
Including prog. Imagine: The Lamb Lies Down on the Streets of San Francisco. Or Cannon’s Supper’s Ready. Or Starship State Troopers. You get my drift. Programme –– noticeably bereft of symphonic strings, sassy horns, and funky rhythms, three key elements in ’70s cop show soundtracks –– isn’t mere novelty, said drummer/sequencer Brown.
“No. That’s the thing. A lot of this stuff is just really a pure voice of ideas that are just coming out of my head. … I’m almost 43, so watching CHiPs, Starsky & Hutch, The A-Team, and even the less cop-y St. Elsewhere and L.A. Law as a kid when [they] came out was an influence. I didn’t know who Mike Post was, but I loved what he did.”
However, if people dig Programme for either its novelty or nostalgia-inducing qualities, Brown said that’s fine with him. “It’s better than nothing.”
Some of Brown’s other influences: U.K., Yes’ Drama, late-’70s Genesis, and late-’70s Steely Dan. Obviously. The tone and shapes of the interplay between Cabarubio and Hance are very Tony-Banks-and-Steve-Hackett-esque. “I like the kind of drama that’s involved with that kind of music,” Brown said, “where it just seems it’s almost like keyboard cock-rock or something, I dunno.”
While the initial plan was to put on a visual and auditory extravaganza, Brown and company now simply want to perform onstage. “I guess we’re just going to get on the horse and start riding,” Brown said.
Programme, Brown said, started to solidify in January. And it started the way most Brown collaborations probably do: A local musician sees Brown do his one-man-’80s-R&B thing onstage, is blown away, approaches him after the show, and suggests getting together to jam sometime. Brown and Hance’s friendship dates back to the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards Festival of ’09. That’s when Hance first caught Brown shucking and jiving, his tall, thin, blond, bearded visage at odds with the gritty, sexy tunes coming from him and his keyboard. Hance’s prog-rock band, Secret Ghost Champion, subsequently released an 8-track on Brown’s record label, Dead Media Tapes. Cabarubio came along a little later. Like Hance, he too was floored by a Brown extravaganza. “I think [Cabarubio] secretly still wants to do the ‘Nathan Brown’ thing,” Brown said, “but his stuff fits really well. He wrote … some stuff we’ll end up doing.”
Most of Programme’s music goes back to material Brown says he was writing in the late 1990s, long before he manifested the R&B goodness that he’s known for. None of his pre-Programme work has ever been released, he said, but shadows of it appeared in a band that Brown was part of when he lived in Little Rock, Ark., about a decade ago. Brown said he has rearranged some Meager Bob material he co-wrote with Joel Doyle, Daniel Craig, and Geoffrey Wossum to “fit Programme’s cinematic sound.”
Cabarubio, Hance, and Brown, he said, are “using that as a starting point to get a little more out of bounds” with what they’re doing.
Brown believes Programme will record an album in a few months, probably at his home studio in the TCU area. Talk about cop drama.