Great Caesar's Goat celebrates musical storytelling of new album, 2 solo CDs Thursday
Ames band Great Caesar’s Goat is having a triple-release party at the Alluvial Brewing Company on Thursday night to celebrate its new album, “Gasoline and Gravel,” as well as the solo albums of the band’s founders, Chris Patterson and Spencer Braly.
Patterson’s new album is “Too Old to Die Young,” and Braly, under his artistic name Spincer, has released an EP, “Angels of the End Times.”
The Goats include two longtime Ames musicians, with Todd Cumming on drums and Greg Bruna on bass.
Patterson and Braly founded Great Caesar’s Goat in 2014 after they met by chance in Ames and discovered they had a common connection: Austin, Texas.
Patterson is a longtime Ames restaurateur who owned Oddfellows Burger Kitchen and Cafe Northwest.
“Spencer and I met at Oddfellows,” Patterson said. “He was sitting at the bar one night, and I was pouring a drink. He had a Texas UT shirt on, and I was, like, ‘Are you from Austin? I used to live there.’ ”
They started talking and the discussion quickly turned to music. Braly does sound. They both play guitar. They both write songs.
“We decided we’d get together and play some songs,” Patterson said. “It just kind of snowballed from there. It was really cool.”
Oddfellows had a wall covered with band posters, Braly said, and a bunch of them were from Austin.
“I’d stand at that wall going, 'I know them. I played with them. I worked that show,'” Braly said. “We had come that close to meeting in Austin so many times. We knew a lot of the same people.”
Patterson remembers where he was in Austin the day of the shooting at Virginia Tech, in April 2007. As it turned out, he and Braly were at the same outdoor bar, Doc’s Motorworks on South Congress, at the time — the bar was just a couple blocks from Patterson’s studio.
“So we were there at the same time but we didn’t meet until we were both in Iowa,” Patterson said.
Braly grew up in Tyler, Texas, and moved to Austin in 2001. Patterson started going to Austin regularly in 2000 and moved there in 2009 to live for nine months.
Patterson worked in the restaurant industry for many years, and wound up in Washington, D.C., as the president of a chain of restaurants called Austin Grill, which is loosely based on Chuy’s, an iconic Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin. He decided he needed to learn more about the city, so he started taking trips there to get a culture fix.
“That’s when I really got involved in music, especially the songwriting aspect,” he said. “I found the music that I really loved and a bunch of artists out of Austin. So for me, that’s the trigger that really happened.”
In 2004, Patterson founded the band Leaving, TX, which quickly became popular in the Washington, D.C., music scene.
With Americana or 'y'all-ternative,' the key is storytelling
Americana is one way to describe Great Caesar’s Goat’s music. They’ve also been called alt-country and the humorous “y’all-ternative.”
“Our stuff is very focused on the songwriting and the stories. At heart, Spencer and I are both singer-songwriters,” Patterson said. “But we like it done with a loud, distorted guitar.”
They’ve both spent a lot of time behind acoustic guitars.
“I’ve also spent a lot of time in punk bands and jumping through drum kits and setting things on fire on stage — and getting banned from places for that,” Braly said. “Great Caesar’s Goat is kind of like that — making loud, feedback-y, rock ‘n roll stuff, but with an acoustic-y heart to the whole thing.”
Their goal is to tell stories.
“For ‘Gasoline and Gravel’ and the road theme, we didn’t intend to write it like this, but all the songs end up being stories about some kind of home,” Braly said. "'Take it Away’ is about me leaving Austin. ‘Gasoline and Gravel’ (the song) is about leaving somewhere.”
Being on the road and having kids, “the album ended up being this path, ending with ‘Crooked Roads,’” Braly said.
Patterson wrote “Crooked Roads” when he left D.C. and moved back to Iowa.
“I was kind of looking east and trying to figure out what was going on,” he said.
Since the Goats’ last album, “Rust,” two new band members have joined the group — Todd Cumming on drums and Greg Bruna on bass.
“Once the four of us have been together, it’s just kinda worked. There’s never been an argument, there’s no egos,” Patterson said. “We just bring a song to the table and then we just see where it goes.”
“We’ve had some ballads that have just turned into complete rock n’ roll songs,” Braly said. “’Breakdown’ started out soft and now we tag Jimi Hendrix songs on it.”
'Gin Kisses' inspired by a grandmother's run-in with Bonnie and Clyde
When it came to the solo albums, Patterson and Braly each had a different take on how they worked.
When she was 17 years old, he'd read in a newspaper article, Patterson’s grandmother was robbed by Bonnie and Clyde. While he was in South Dakota, he sat down and wrote a song about it titled “Gin Kisses.” He played it for the band even though he didn’t think it was well-suited for the band since it was a ballad.
“We started playing it, and it just became this rock anthem. It was so cool,” Patterson said.
On Patterson’s solo album, “Gin Kisses” is peaceful with an acoustic guitar.
“Crowds get into it because it tells such a story,” he said.
Patterson has wanted to do a solo album for years, with some of the songs that weren’t for the band. He wanted a banjo and a fiddle and a stand-up bass.
He worked with Bryon Dudley at The Spacement, who brought in several musicians including Braly, Bruna, Cumming and Dudley. Other musicians on the album are David Heer, Will Pett, Tom Russell, Fiddlin’ Bill Kearney, Rachel Dudley, Jeff Hart and Dean Erikson.
“There’s a lot of reflection on this album,” Patterson said. “You get to a certain age and you realize you’re closer to death than you are to birth. When I wrote the line ‘too old to die young,’ I just loved that line, so I decided to use it as the title.”
Braly's pandemic isolation inspired 'Angels' characters
With a pre-existing condition, Braly was careful to self-isolate during the pandemic.
“So my album was born out of boredom and frustration,” he said.
Stuck at home with nothing else to do and access to a demo recording studio in his basement, Braly felt compelled to write about the situation in the world. The result was an EP titled “Angels of the End Times.”
“I started writing a few songs — not so much about what was going on as the feelings that were going on,” Braly said. “I’ve always made music that’s doesn’t fit with the Goats.”
He was playing with samplers and synthesizers and keyboards. There’s even a sewing machine on “In the Valley.”
“Really, it’s an EP of songs born from pandemic anxiety. None of them are very happy,” he said with a laugh.
Braly is a character-driven songwriter, he said. He takes influences from his own life, but the way he writes songs is to imagine a main character for each song and then follow them through a story.
“’In the Valley’ is about a soldier in the boredom of war, waiting to die,” Braly said. “None of them end well, but it felt like the end times when we were going through it. And these characters are my Angels of the End Times — they’re the ones who kept me distracted.”
See the show:
Where: Alluvial Brewing Company, 3715 W 190th St., in Ames
When: 7 p.m. Thursday