By Brad Lopez
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Tim Browne always knew that being a talkative and outgoing drunk would eventually pay off. One night, the perfect mixture of cocktails and dreams led the Elway frontman to start up a conversation with Brendan Kelly of the Lawrence Arms, which eventually led to a recording contract.
"I always like talking about that night," Browne says, "because it truly is a testament to how being a drunk can lead to great things. Had we decided to stay at home and be respectable members of society...well, who knows?"
A respectable member of society is just what Browne's hyper-religious home town of Monument would have turned him into if not for a pronounced subversive streak on his part. "It's a town just full to the brim with religious fundamentalism and retired military geezers, yearning for the days of segregation to come again," Browne declares. "The only thing that felt appropriate was to play punk rock and piss everyone off."
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Upon finishing high school, Browne left Monument behind and moved to Fort Collins, where he attended Colorado State University and later formed a band. After writing and recording songs on his own for the better part of a year, Browne started an outfit with his current drummer, Garrett Carr —who says Browne only started being nice to him when he found out he played drums — and two other guys, Brandon Jenks and Matt Harison, who were later replaced by guitarist Brian Van Proyen and bassist Joe Henderer. Not too long after forming, the newly dubbed 10-4 Eleanor released a six-song EP, Words Cannot Express How Much Fuck This Band, followed by a full-length, ... Too Bad, on Death to False Hope Records.
While both releases showed promise, the production quality and songwriting made it pretty clear that the group still had some work to do. Luckily, Browne and company weren't afraid to pay their dues. By the time the band met Kelly, 10-4 Eleanor had already played more than a hundred shows, including a set at The Fest, in Gainesville, Florida. But meeting Kelly at Surfside 7 in Fort Collins provided the spark the act needed to propel it ahead.
"By whatever strange happenstance," says Browne, "Brendan happened to be at the bar with his wife." Browne's admiration for Kelly led him to chat up the Lawrence Arms frontman, whom he had never met before. Even better, Browne drunkenly persuaded Kelly to play a show with 10-4 Eleanor at Carr's co-op space, Hammer Time Tool Cooperative. "We only had three days to promote the show," he recalls, "but it ended up kicking ass."
And it proved fortuitous. Despite the lack of planning and the abrupt manner in which Browne initially approached him, Kelly was impressed. As luck would have it, besides being the longtime frontman of the Lawrence Arms and the Falcon, Kelly was also the co-owner of Red Scare Industries with his friend Toby Jeg. To Browne's pleasant surprise, the man behind the imprint responsible for releasing albums by the Mezingers, the Cobra Skulls and Teenage Bottlerocket was now interested in working with his band. "After our set," he recalls, "Brendan said that despite his worry that we were going to suck terribly, he thought our set was great and that he wanted to do a record with us."
"I still don't know how we got signed," Henderer says. "I've watched one million bands work harder than we do; we just got lucky. I feel so humbled and fortunate. I never would have thought anyone would give a shit about any music project I was in."
It was around this time that the members of 10-4 Eleanor decided a name change was in order. They thought they needed a moniker that was a little more memorable. "We changed the name to Elway after realizing that 10-4 Eleanor was a terrible band name," Browne admits, "and we were facing the possibility of being a band that people may some day care about."
Obviously, the name Elway carries some tongue-in-cheek connotations, but for a band that hopes to have its name mentioned in the same breath with other noteworthy handles, it also gives the guys a little head start.
Armed with a brand-new name, the band flew to Chicago this past January to record its Red Scare debut at Atlas Studios with Matt Allison, a producer who's known for his work with Alkaline Trio, the Smoking Popes and Less than Jake — and who just happens to be another personal hero of Browne's.
"When we started to talk with Toby about who we were going to make the record with," Browne remembers, "the first name that came to mind was Matt Allison. We live in a town with an extremely reputable punk-rock recording studio called the Blasting Room, but to work with Matt was well worth the 1,000-mile drive."
Because of Allison's pedigree, Browne was excited and understandably nervous about the experience, particularly since he had never recorded in a studio as professional as Atlas before. He and his bandmates quickly discovered that Allison was "a super-down-to-earth guy who loves Busch Light," which allowed Browne to let down his guard and become immersed in the process.
After two weeks in Chicago's bitter cold, Elway returned to Colorado with Delusions, an album that Browne says was inspired by the things he saw in the world around him. "If there is a recurring theme to this album," he explains, "it is an examination of how we, as fallible humans, convince ourselves of all kinds of irrational and untrue nonsense in the name of elation, faith or any other intangible idea.
"Delusion is a large piece of the human condition," he continues. "The album takes this idea and looks at all the ways that people deal with it. It's largely personal in that a large portion of the record is about how I use things like playing music to break my own delusions — even if my belief in punk rock as a saving grace is delusional in and of itself."
Carr, however, has a different take on the album's ultimate theme. "We originally wanted to call the album "Pussy and Religion," after a song off the most recent Kanye West album, because it best embodied what our songs were about: relationships and atheism," he says. "On a serious note, though, I think a general theme to the album would be "Shit's fucked — let's party."
But Browne has a different sentiment in mind when he sings of the life-altering power of punk on tracks like "3/4 Eleanor," the album's opener: "Wouldn't it be a shame if we lived our life dull and afraid/If we squandered and pissed it away?"
This is clearly a guy who speaks from experience. From the looks of it, he certainly hasn't been held back by his fears. Then again, it could just go to show that what they say is true: Alcohol really does make you brave.