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August 18th, 2009
Southern rock meets alternative abandon

Left to right, Earle Brown is Dan Irwin, Jeff Mills, Chritopher Balcom, Evan Styles, and Michael Francis McGuinness. Photo by Sarah Stevens.

Scene Reporter

For the last four years, Earle Brown has appeared in various places around San Marcos and Austin, playing a refreshing take on funky Southern rock with an almost Alternative sense of abandon.

Evan Styles’ rich, soulful wailing and Dan Irwin’s meandering bass line bring a rough, bluesy edge to the band’s sets. Christopher Balcom is the backup vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Jeff Mills is the drummer, and Michael Francis McGuinness takes lead guitar.

“Basically we grew up, as a band, on Earle Street,” Irwin said. “The Brown is just that the primary colors combined make that. We all feel that we bring a unique side to the music. It’s not a name of a person representing the band.”

Said McGuiness, “I almost hate to say it because it’s so cliché, but we started as a garage band. It was a lot of ruckus and not a whole lot of progress for a long time. We were lucky enough to have Jeff Mills join us, which added an irreplaceable element to the band. It tied us all together and made everything that we were already doing more serious, as opposed to just having fun. Dan was a relatively new bassist at the time. It’s pretty intriguing to know an individual who put themselves above and beyond what anybody could have asked. It’s pretty special.”

Each musician’s creative process is, naturally, different. In the case of Earle Brown, and the main lyricist Evan Styles, the music comes before the lyrics.

“Usually the band’s collective creative input forms them musically, and I’ll come up with the vocal melody to suit the music that we have come up with,” Styles said. “The lyrics come after that to match the melody with the music. The lyrics are always either an idea that’s been brewing, and is finally coming together, or it’s inspired by the music.”

Said Balcom, “Somebody has an idea or a song sometimes, and we just pick up on that. Sometimes we just jam and the songs develop, but it’s definitely a group effort.”

The band’s favorite song to perform right now is “Feet on the Floor,” an original work.

“I think it’s a very dynamic song, and I think everybody gets into it in different parts,” Balcom said. “For me, it’s a song that emotionally allows everyone to escape. There’s a lot of leeway within the music, and it allows everyone to be expressive. My favorite part is that it gives everyone a chance to shine, and no one outdoes anyone else.”

Obviously comfortable with both its material and performances, Earle Brown puts on a decidedly fun live show. The staccato funk builds smooth, deliberate crescendos in one song, only to change the pace later with a slightly revised cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of “16 Tons.”

Said McGuinness, “My favorite place to play is in a bedroom. That is where everything that we are capable of doing onstage is created. It’s hands down my favorite place to play. I think that, as an artist, you tend to have a reclusive side, and when we’re in there we’re allowed to be that person. It’s just the five of us and nobody is passing judgment.”

The band put out a four-track demo earlier this year, recording it at Fire Station Studios with Ashleigh Stone. The band expects to record again around the start of next year.

“We’re definitely trying to spread a positive message, that despite all the difficulties you might face in your life, music and any type of art is a chance to transcend the mundane aspects of life,” said Mills. “Whatever issues you’re facing, it’s a kind of release. We try and take people above the earthly problems for a minute and connect on a different level.”

Earle Brown will play in San Marcos at the Greyhorse Saloon on Aug. 27. The band also can be found online at

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