(The Pleasures - Catherine Britt and Lachlan Bryan)
THE BEGINNING OF THE END had a beginning, though maybe not where you might expect.
Consider this: you’re searching for what to name a band built around a set of country/blues songs where a warring couple are going at each other in verse rather than – or maybe as well as – in the flesh. Called The Beginning Of The End it’s a classic duets album where love isn’t merely dangerous, it should be illegal in every state, a mess of fireball and spitball, vitriol and, well, vitriol that makes Tammy and George look like romantic softies.
Would the first name that comes to mind for you be The Pleasures?
Is it so-named because the singer/songwriters at the centre of it, good friends and definitely not ex (or current)-lovers, Catherine Britt and Lachlan Bryan, thought The Agony And The Ecstasy, But Mostly The Agony or The Twin Natural Disasters Of Two People Who Are Lethal Together But Can’t Stop Themselves, too long?
No, blame it on the best* little whorehouse in Texas.
“We named the band after a brothel that we both went to. That’s actually the truth,” says Bryan, adding quickly “It was accidental.”
Accidental? Both times?
“We visited together,” he says. “It was the first night that Cate and I hung out. We didn’t really know each other but we were kinda in the same circles and we ended up on a night out in Austin with Catherine’s manager at the time. It got very late in the night and Catherine’s manager at the time had an idea to go somewhere which we reluctantly went along with.
“He miscommunicated with the taxi driver exactly what place he wanted to go to and we ended up at a house on the outskirts of Austin.”
Two things to note here: Bryan’s careful clarification, twice (and repeated later) that it was Britt’s manager “at the time” who was making the calls; and the fact that no one so far was being forced into anything, like actually going into the house, which he admits they recognised immediately for the business it was.
“I was busting for the bathroom,” says Bryan in his defence. “Cate and I went in because I was like, I’m going in, whatever is happening, I’m using the bathroom. We went up the stairs and were greeted by one woman who seemed like the boss and there was this group of other women dressed as furry creatures. And we were asked to choose.”
Pardon? Not only do they find this establishment but it caters for furries? What are the chances eh? No wonder it stuck with them a decade or so later, even though the name didn’t.
“When we were bouncing band names around, I wondered whether the place had a cool name, so I googled – on Safe Search – for about half an hour and finally tracked down a picture and it said Pleasures across the front of it,” Bryan says. “In pretty much the same font that is now on our record cover.”
Setting aside the name – though after hearing this story that is hard to do, admittedly – you might suspect that Britt and Bryan constructed this sideline from their usual projects (her decades-long solo career; his almost as long a time fronting Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes) for nefarious country music fan motives. Specifically, being able to use this song title, including brackets: You Made Another Woman (Out Of Me).
If that isn’t a song title these two could use as the lynchpin of their album, they should hand in all of their Golden Guitars.
Britt points the finger at her collaborator for that one.
“Most of the songs we really did write together,” Bryan says. “But that was a song I had the verse for and had the title written, and I knew immediately that I wanted the brackets. I have a bit of a thing for song titles that include brackets.
“Luckily that was one that Cate jumped on as well. Any other idea I brought in she immediately dismissed.”
Reader: he lies. Sadly, while the back-and-forth/slash and burn, of the songs might offer hope of some incendiary action originally in the songwriting or today when these two come together for the interview – albeit from their homes at opposite ends of the East Coast – the combination starts with friendship, travels with ease, and concludes amicably.
“We’ve managed to be the kind of friends that have largely ignored each other’s behaviour for years,” he says. She chuckles, and adds “un-judged”. Unlike some of the exes who might well be bundled up in the two central characters of the album, people who feel decidedly judged.
“The best songs come from reality,” says Britt, and there’s no shortage of that here, beginning with the beginning.
“For Lach and I this project was so random in a way. It started when I sent him a drunk text message asking to work together, and thankfully he said yes.”
“The next day, because he was sober and in bed [when she had texted],” she smirks. “Well done Lachlan.”
Her original plan was maybe a song, probably a duet, but something anyway. As she points out “It’s really hard in this industry, particularly the small wing we are in, to find like-minded people”, and you can’t waste that.
“I’d just left my husband, I was in a bit of a state, and I’d always loved Lach as a friend, and we got along musically,” says Britt. “My ex-husband didn’t really like Lachlan that much [”I’m just learning that now,” Bryan says.] And I was like, screw him, I’m gonna work with whoever I want to.”
The songs came quickly when she flew down to Melbourne to write and lay down a few tracks. “I was like, what was that?” she remembers, as a possible EP became a full-length album.
“The good thing was, I was going through a really hectic time in my life so we were able to draw upon it, and that definitely played a huge role in the majority of this album, my shitty heartbreak and life at the time.”
Bryan confesses that “I try not to make my shitty heartbreaks so public; mine were deeper, darker secrets”, and adds that co-writing has never really been a comfortable experience for him, especially when he felt he had to be nice to the potential collaborator even if he didn’t like their idea much.
“There’s a lot of someone will say a line and you’re thinking in your head, that’s an absolute piece of shit, but you can’t say that because this is a vulnerable person on the other side of the table. What I really liked about working with Cate is we know each other well enough that she will just say if it’s a piece of shit.”
He will also confirm that “that kind of honesty, she applies that to every conversation in her life”.
This may not come as a surprise to others who have dealt with Britt of course, though Bryan is only just managing that level of honesty/directness/bluntness outside the songwriting room, admitting that “partners I have had have been much better in real life at articulating the problems with me than I have with them. I have buried them in songs”.
It gets trickier though, or maybe more useful, in that the old Bryan behaviour was not unfamiliar to Britt.
“Where it felt easy to sing and to write parts of these songs is, honestly, I’ve often been the exact character that Catherine is singing about,” he says. “As much as I am on Cate’s side, I can see there are two sides to all this.
Even if she didn’t always agree with an opposing perspective, for Britt the benefits are real.
“This band has been really good for me, from talking from a purely selfish point of view,” she says. “I needed that outlet and I didn’t have it in my life. A lot of healing came from this project and it was good to have Lachlan to keep me balanced and keep the songs in a place that could be sung the way that we do sing them.
“He’s giving his point of view, and I’m giving mine. This was special about it: it has those two sides.”
To celebrate the uniqueness of this project for them, and to mark its origins, I presume the album launches will be held at select brothels across Australia.
“Are there brothel venues? Is that a thing?” wonders Britt, who clearly missed some of the very late-night gigs in Sydney’s King’s Cross in the 1980s.
Hey, don’t ask me, you’re the brothel experts.
“Only in America,” she demurs, though Bryan confesses that when he lived in South Melbourne his house was between three brothels and a methadone clinic.
“I never had any problems with any neighbours, always felt safe,” he says. “I think people just gotta get a little being less uptight about this kind of stuff.”
Maybe that is the special purpose of The Pleasures, to bring the music world and brothels closer together again: nice comfortable place, small stage in the corner, a pole that Bryan is not allowed to use.
“You’d be amazed by my flexibility,” he says.
The Beginning Of The End is out on August 4.
*We don’t know for sure if this is the best little whorehouse in Texas, but we’re happy to hear from people who can confirm or otherwise.