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The Arts

What is the Brattleboro sound?

BRATTLEBORO—Is there a “Brattleboro sound”?

Luke Csehak, leader of The Lentils, thinks so.

The Brattleboro sound earned street cred in the national and international underground music worlds, Csehak says. He describes it as “a small, small niche,” and maintains that one still hears it referenced as the Brattleboro sound.

Csehak places The Lentils firmly in the Brattleboro zeitgeist.

In his view, the local scene is marked by “a spirit of true freakdom” that’s rare to find. He also worries “that creative local thing” may be coming to an end.

He explains that during his first few years here — up until about a year ago — he saw Brattleboro experience “a micro-Renaissance.” Then he adds, “I say that lightly.”

He notes that many of his musician friends have since moved away and strikes a mournful note for “a supportive community of serious, eclectic songwriters offering a cohesive sound.”

We asked Csehak what separates the Brattleboro sound from that of other places. He says a main difference comes down to nightlife.

“In other cities, they have an active nightlife, and the artist gets distracted by the networking possibilities. Here, you’re free from the pressure of succeeding, so you can really concentrate on your craft.”

He adds that when musicians have to engage in so much interaction at live events, the music “can be secondary to the social function of shows.”

Here, he says, “you sit in your room and you make music often: It’s a dedication to not exactly not being successful, but it’s a general distrust of success.”

Moreover, Csehak describes the aesthetic as “a commitment to strangeness while still being fun. [...] A lot of people use the term ‘fake pop’ because it’s like pop, but there’s something that’s gone horribly wrong and you can’t put your finger on it.”

He continues, “While it doesn’t go out of its way to be offensive, it’s disquieting. It’s this juxtaposition of tragedy.”

He pauses. “Not comedy,” he adds.

Anything else? Perhaps. Overall, he says, Brattleboro’s music scene has “a disregard for musicianship. It’s secondary to the strength of the song and the performance itself, which shouldn’t rely just on musicianship skills. It makes people uncomfortable in a subtle way, and some people really go for that.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #290 (Wednesday, January 28, 2015). This story appeared on page B4.

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