Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Bri Carmel! Together we discussed 916 Growth Gigs, their folk-punk soul, their EP “Building Blocks”, and so much more!

1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?

I’m grateful to you for having me! I’m doing pretty alright, I just got off work and I have my celebratory post-shift matcha latte.

2. Before you began performing onstage at age 14, what was your relationship with music growing up? Can you recall some of the first songs you played on stage?

Oh man, my love for music honestly goes back as far as I can remember, so I might get really wordy right off the bat.

I have early memories of being a very small child, probably age 4, and singing the choruses to pop songs by artists like Jennifer Lopez and Hilary Duff on a loop, which is how I know I’ve always been a vocalist first-and-foremost. I also have an older sister who introduced me to more alternative music, beyond what was on the pop charts and on the Disney Channel — bands like The White Stripes, AFI, and My Chemical Romance. I didn’t really get into bands like that until I got a little older, but I think having an older sibling was very influential to me. And, in a way, even the particular pop artists I used to listen to in my earlier years paved the way for my more alternative tastes — I remember specifically really loving Aly & AJ, Miley Cyrus, and Demi Lovato (have you heard Demi Lovato’s first album that was released when she was still with Disney, by the way? Because listening to her song La La Land, as an adult, knowing the hell that Disney put teen stars like her and Miley through, made me realize that she’s always been punk at heart).

Then, at 12-years-old, I listened to Green Day’s American Idiot in its entirety, which genuinely changed the trajectory of my whole life, a true gateway album for me. After that, I finally sat down and listened to the albums I remembered my sister listening to when I was younger. From there I discovered Paramore, who I still have the deepest love for to this day, my love for them really paved the way for everything else. The progression makes sense to me, because, even though it’s a little awkward to admit, I think the concept that was so often presented by the Disney Channel at that time, through things like Hannah Montana and Camp Rock — this idea that you could be a awkward, quirky young girl and still kill it onstage — was hugely inspiration to me. So to have that kind of lay the ground work, and then to specifically see Paramore being fronted by Hayley Williams, whose lyrics were my first exposure to lyrics that I could relate to as a mentally ill adolescent, watching live videos of her playing to huge crowds in jeans and a t-shirt, yelling at a man for kissing her on the cheek without her consent when she was bringing fans onstage to sing Misery Business… It was all hugely influential to me as a young femme person.

To answer your second question — I got my start in music through a local music program for kids and teens called Stairway To Stardom, and this program actually encourages kids to write originals instead of playing covers. When I was in the program, covers actually weren’t even a part of it, now the bands are allowed one cover. That being said, most of the songs my first band performed were originals that you’ve never heard of, that were absolutely riddled with teen angst, but we did play a few covers at various shows after the program ended: “Swing Life Away” by Rise Against, “All The Small Things” by Blink-182, and “The End./Dead!” by My Chemical Romance.

3. You play a big part in the Sacramento DIY music community. What was your first introduction into this community? How has it grown since you’ve been there?

Honestly, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact point of introduction, it was more of a natural progression as a young person in a band that was doing everything independently. When you’re a teenager in a band doing things yourself, all ages DIY spaces are often some of the few places that will let you play. I was introduced to the venue that eventually became my home base, The Colony Sacramento, in early 2013, when my voice teacher and mentor who I’d met through Stairway To Stardom asked me if my Stairway band wanted to open for a cover band she was in at the time. It was maybe my third show? In between that time and 2016, I played houses, bar & grills, churches(??), and the occasional pay-to-play show, but I always gravitated back to The Colony, or its sister venue right nextdoor, Cafe Colonial. I turned 18 at the beginning of 2016, and by the time the end of the year came around, I was volunteering there as a door person.

Eventually, in 2017, I started booking shows there myself, after spending a year having various bands ask me how to book a show there, and seeing how other DIY show promoters I met were running their shows. Another determining factor for me wanting to book my own shows was that, at that specific time and place, many local promoters were exclusively booking and promoting shows with metal or punk bands, and I wanted to break away from the tradition of exclusively booking specific genres. I’ve booked punk and metal bands, but I’ve also booked hip-hop artists, solo pop artists, industrial bands, folk punk bands, emo bands, and more. I’m also known to put eclectic lineups together, I really enjoy throwing shows where there are different genres throughout the night, and it could just be me, but I feel like I’ve noticed that practice become more common in my local scene since I started booking.

4. Could you share more about 916 Growth Gigs? What it is like to book a show? How far in advance do you need to reach out to artists and venues?

I’d love to! 916 Growth Gigs is the moniker I use to promote my DIY shows. I was initially booking exclusively at The Colony and Cafe Colonial, but as of right now, I have connections to a couple other local venues as well — The Library of Musiclandria, a music library that doubles as an all ages DIY space, and Golden Bear, a 21+ bar that has live music a few nights a week. Sometimes, when the stars align just right, I’m able to throw a house show, but those are few and far between.

I don’t know if other promoters have the same experience I do booking shows, because I actually really enjoy the organizational aspect of it. Settling on show dates, deciding what kind of lineup I want, writing out set times, it all really scratches that itch for my neurodivergent brain. I’ve kept it up this long because I find it fun.

I don’t really have set rules in terms of “how far in advance,”, but I’d say generally, I try to book shows at least a month or two ahead of time. I also try to have at least most of a lineup put together before I reach out to a venue to book a date.

5. In addition to your solo efforts you are also in two bands: Blooming Heads and Little Tiny Knife. How do you balance both bands along with your solo work? When did you join each?

The funny thing about that is that I’m in both bands with the same person, one of my best friends, Josiah, which makes it much easier to balance. What I always tell people is, Blooming Heads is my brain child, and Little Tiny Knife is Josiah’s brain child. So it’s not exactly like I’m doing all of the writing for all three of my projects, Josiah writes all the songs in Little Tiny Knife.

I started Blooming Heads with Josiah in 2018, a year that I was forced to play solo much more often than I was comfortable with at the time, because I’d gone through two catastrophic band breakups in a relatively short amount of time, and was left with no bandmates. I’d actually met Josiah in mid-2016, at my old band’s album release show — their band was also on the lineup, and we played a few more shows together after that. I was a huge fan of their band, known as Wayne Jetski at the time, and throughout 2017 and 2018 we got to know each other much better as friends. So when 2018 rolled around and I was left with no bandmates, my first instinct was to ask Josiah to start a band with me — I hesitated for a long time, because they were playing in a few different bands at that point, but now I know that Josiah says yes any time anyone asks to start a band with them and that I didn’t have anything to worry about. I showed them my lyrics to our first song in November 2018, so that’s when I consider the band’s “birthday” to be.

In mid-2022, Wayne Jetski became Little Tiny Knife. I officially joined toward the end of the year, about 5 or 6 months after Josiah changed the band name. But I’d been occasionally hopping onstage to sing with Josiah for a song or two during LTK sets and Wayne Jetski sets since 2018, and I even sang backup vocals on their Monster Mash cover for a Halloween cover compilation that was released in 2020 (curated by Lokeigh himself, you can listen to the whole compilation here, WJ’s Monster Mash cover is the first track: Because of all this, Josiah was calling me a member of the band for a long time, maybe half-jokingly? But, technically, it was only in late 2022 that I started playing full sets with LTK and became an official member.

6. You’ve got a folk-punk soul. Could you elaborate more on that?

I always thought that was pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll do my best!

Discovering my local folk punk scene, which Josiah is a part of, was another hugely influential thing for me. I believe I’ve heard it said that folk punk is the most accessible genre? And I think, because of this, there’s a certain honesty to it that I’ve always gravitated towards.

I started describing myself this way in 2020, because, as a solo artist, I didn’t exactly start out very folk punk, especially back in 2018 when I first started playing solo more, for a long time I specifically had an indie singer-songwriter vibe going on, mostly because I didn’t really know what else to do. But I found myself in the folk punk community because of Josiah, and was welcomed with open arms. It wasn’t until 2019, when I wrote my song Wired, that the folk punk influence in my music really started to show, and even then, I’m not sure if that song technically fits into that genre? But it is manically fast, lyrically expressive and dramatic, and only has like four chords, which I always felt was pretty folk punk. I also alternate between guitar and ukulele now, which I think adds to that vibe. So to sum it up, I guess what that means is that I’ve always felt like I had the spirit of folk punk in my music, it just took a long time for it to really show. And, honestly, at this point I’ve ended up being almost exclusively a folk punk show promoter, so I do feel like I’ve earned the right to claim the title, even if it is a little silly.

7. What is your songwriting process?

It kind of depends on which project I’m writing for. I’m a vocalist first and foremost, so for a long time I worked with guitarists who would just write a whole song, and then hand it to me when they were finished so I could write over the whole thing. But Josiah is much more collaborative than that; when Blooming Heads first started, they would write the guitar before I wrote lyrics, because that was the only way I knew how to proceed, but they’d do it while we were having band practice, asking my opinion on just about every chord they played, every progression and riff, every transition — which was a completely new experience for me. And then, one night some time later, while I was having a really hard time with my PTSD, I had lyrics pop into my head, with a melody to go along with them. I liked it enough that I decided to record myself singing it via voice memo, and then I sent it to Josiah, asking if we could build on it and make a song. The next time we got together, they wrote guitar parts, gave me feedback on how to move forward lyrically, wrote more guitar parts, I wrote more lyrics, and before we knew it, the song Axis Access was made, and we had the three songs that would eventually be recorded and released onto The Background EP. Nowadays, I’m actually writing a lot more guitar in the band, which is pretty fun.

As far as my solo project, or when I’m writing guitar for a Blooming Heads song, I don’t really have a specific process. Sometimes chord progressions come to me first, and sometimes lyrics and/or melody come to me first, it’s generally easy enough for me to build one off of the other. But in both projects, the thing that always inspires me to write is feeling the desire to express myself — I’ve written as a way to cope with difficult feelings for a long time.

8. Who (or what) influences you?

As you might’ve picked up on, I’ve always gravitated towards female vocalists. A few bands/artists (other than Paramore) that have been influential for me, especially as a vocalist/lyricist, are Meg & Dia, Tessa Violet, Metric, and Rituals of Mine (formerly known as Sister Crayon).

I’ve also been hugely influenced by my inner circle of friends in my local DIY community, as an artist and as a human being. Honorable mentions include Josiah (obviously), Xahferd, Lokeigh, Autumn Sky Hall, Luhan Si Hadin, NineFingers… I am so grateful to have met all of these people, and I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have such a wonderful group of friends as a support system.

9. 2018 saw the release of your EP “In My Mind.” What was it like to put this EP together?

Oh man. You know why I recorded that EP? I was booked by a promoter friend at a venue that required me to sell a minimum number of presale tickets, and it was my first time having to do that as a solo artist. I mentioned this exact year previously, it was the year I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone because my only option was playing solo. And, honestly, I just didn’t want to be the only one performing who didn’t have any merch. Originally I was going to make CDs with a few cell phone recordings that I’d posted to SoundCloud, but at the time I had a roommate who was trying to get better at recording their own music, and they offered to record me for free, partially to help me out and partially so that they could get some experience. So yeah, that EP was recorded in my house, and at the time I only had two solo originals written, so I recorded two covers to throw on there as well. Cardigan Weather is by Meg & Dia, Lazarus is by David Bowie.

10. Mustard has observed that humans often remember things from the past. Are the things that were in your mind back then still on your mind now?

Oh, I’m autistic and I have PTSD. I remember all sorts of things, random details and traumatic events, with astounding clarity. Sometimes I ruminate on the badness of my past a bit too much. Sometimes I get nostalgic about random interactions with friends that I’ve remembered for years, and then I realize it’s probably long after the other person has forgotten about that specific interaction and I get a little sad. So yeah, I do tend to ruminate on the past, maybe a bit too much at times, but songwriting and therapy have both been helpful tools to help me process the past and sort of balance out those tendencies.

11. When can you tell it is Cardigan weather?

When you’re outside and it’s slightly too cold in the shade, but slightly too warm in the sun.

12. You covered Bo Burnham’s “Goodbye” on your Depression Demos. What does that sound mean to you? How did you connect with it?

Wow, you really dug through my bandcamp!

I honestly related to so much of “Inside,” but something about that song really did hit me. It’s selfish, but as someone who finds catharsis through performing my songs that were written about my mental health issues and life struggles, and also as someone who is hugely influenced by music in general, being deprived of live music during 2020 and the first half of 2021 was immensely difficult for me, and all that alone time lead to a lot of nostalgia, a lot of self-reflection, and, eventually, a lot of wondering if anyone still cared about my art. And “Goodbye” just captured a lot of those feelings I had. Technically, I changed a few of the words to match my life as a DIY musician, but I really didn’t have to change much.

13. How has social media helped you as an artist? Do you have a favorite platform?

My favorite platforms are probably tiktok and twitter. Tiktok is the place I’ve been able to most easily expand my reach, make other musician friends, etc. — and twitter has been pretty good for that too, but it feels more personal, which I find appealing.

14. You allowed Mustard the pleasure to review your EP “Building Blocks.” This EP features some personal songs. How did it feel to write and let these feelings out? Would you still consider yourself in the stages of block building?

First of all, I love you for asking that last question, because I feel like you actually understood the meaning of the EP title, at least on some level.

Like I said, I’ve always used songwriting as a way to cope, and I wrote that EP while I was processing the fact that my trauma is a lot more complex than I thought it was. I always knew that there wasn’t one specific traumatic event that lead to my having PTSD, it was moreso a variety of events throughout my life that kind of piled on top of each other. But as I started settling into young adulthood, and was eventually confirmed to be autistic, I found myself feeling immensely triggered about very specific experiences that happened in my teen years and very early adulthood, which, like many things, were made harder by the fact that I didn’t know I was autistic until I was about 23-24. (For context, I’m 25 now.) So I wrote three solo songs in a few months or so, all having to do with different aspects of my complex traumas.

I am indeed still in the stages of block building, but I think a lot of us are.

15. You recently partnered with Xahferd on “Make It Work.” How did this collaboration happen? Do you plan to collaborate again in the future?

Xahferd says hello! Haha.

So, Xahferd is someone I’ve been close to for a long time, and when we first became friends, we were both in relationships that weren’t super great, that lasted longer than they probably should have. They sent me a phone recording of “Make It Work” sometime last year, and I loved it so much, and related to it so heavily, that I couldn’t help but ask if I could hop on backup vocals.

They’re in the process of recording an album at the moment, and I’ve already recorded some backups for another song of theirs, and they’ve mentioned wanting my voice on a couple other songs. So, yeah, it’s only a matter of time before we continue collaborating.

16. What is next for Brianna Carmel?

I’m so glad you asked! As a solo artist, I’ve always just kind of been winging it, but Blooming Heads and Little Tiny Knife both have a lot planned.

So, Blooming Heads has been on a show hiatus since February, because we are currently recording our debut album. We’re still in the early stages, so I can’t give you a release date, but I promise you’ll be one of the first to know when the time comes! We also plan on releasing a few singles to promote the album before it’s out, so I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop about that too.

Little Tiny Knife has also been recording for a while — I believe Josiah’s plan is to release more singles, rather than a whole album.

I’m sure I’ll continue to sporadically release solo material as well, I’m actually working on a cover for a compilation that should be out on Bandcamp in July.

17. Do you have any upcoming shows?

I do! I booked a show for Lokeigh to celebrate the release of his debut EP, “Destined To Eat Your Flesh” (out on May 16th).

The show is at Golden Bear in Downtown Sacramento, which is a 21+ venue. I’m opening with a solo set, and we also have our friends Salacious Wizard Cult and Lightweight on the lineup. Music starts at 8pm sharp, and there’s a $5 cover at the door.

I’m really trying to make it a successful EP release party for Lokeigh, so if anyone reading this is in the area, and has the funds, I’d love it if they came out and said hi!

18. Where can readers listen to your music?

I like to point people to my Spotify playlist called “Self-Made Faves,” which is made up of my personal favorite songs that I’ve written, covered, or otherwise sang/featured on, and it’ll definitely be updated as Blooming Heads and Little Tiny Knife release more material:


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