Bowling and Booze with Bud Bronson & The Good Timers
by Adam Perry for Westword 7/1/2015
When the members of the punky rock-and-roll quartet Bud Bronson & the Good Timers walk into a room, their camaraderie — which conjures up classic American-youth ensemble flicks like Bad News Bears — is obvious. The genuine kinship among them is easy to see, whether the group is on stage or, say, gathered at Chipper’s Lanes in Broomfield to talk music over bowling and beer.
“This is too nice,” says 28-year-old singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Brian Beer, a New Jersey transplant, after rolling a seven in his first frame. His preferred local alley is Crown Lanes. “Crown is the kind of shitty you enjoy.”
It’s a description you might also apply to Bud Bronson & the Good Timers themselves. Featuring four good friends from three different states (Colorado, New Jersey and Texas), the band plays heavy, fun, distorted-guitar-driven rock with equally uplifting and debauched lyrics about what Beer calls “glory days that continue forever.”
The foursome is full of unsavory stories, from eating what they thought might be barbecued cat the first time they played Tijuana to buying their “Partycraft” van with $4,000 from a dog-bite settlement. (“Ever since then, we’ve been looking for dogs,” quips bassist Austen Grafa.) And the Good Timers’ music, which is a tad less gritty on the two-song seven-inch released last week than it has been on previous efforts, is becoming a priceless mixture of legendary guitar rock and a faster-paced, more punked-out version of Titus Andronicus’s pub rock.
“As far as themes go,” Beer explains, “when you spell ’em out, it’s hard to make it not sound cheesy. But it’s just coming of age, that prolonged adolescence, that in-between feeling with wanting to be a kid forever and wanting to have fun forever but also realizing that maybe the party can’t continue your entire life. Whether that’s a lifestyle that is tenable is a question we don’t need to answer quite this second — but within the scope of what this band can do, we want to continue that for as long as possible.”
They chose the group’s name to embody those ideas. “It’s just a fictional name I made up,” Beer says. “Bud Bronson sounds like someone who hangs out in the bars every single night and can change your motor oil for you by hand and can drink twenty beers and drive his car home and not hurt anyone.”
“It’s just a fun name. And the Good Timers — we have no problem with saying things directly, and we’re the Good Timers. How direct is that?”
Since 2012, Beer has been fronting the Good Timers in front of sweaty, drunken, smiling crowds at Denver venues like the Lion’s Lair, Lost Lake Lounge and the hi-dive (which he calls “the center of our scene”), recently opening for notable national acts Twin Peaks and Diarrhea Planet. The group’s four members work day jobs ranging from tire dealer to copywriter, and three of them work for Lyft when they can, describing the experience as “driving around Denver making friends and handing out fliers.” There is no independent wealth backing this band, and that take-nothing-for-granted spirit comes out in the Good Timers’ welcoming music.
“I think we all have the self-awareness to do the rock-and-roll thing with some knowledge, and we take it seriously enough to make the music good. But we know that at the very least, it’s just a little form of escape,” says Beer, who puts it another way in the opening lines of “Denver Rock City”:
I know a place we don’t gotta get old/Run wild ’til the day we die/And if you’ve got a sweet koozie and an empty stomach/We can lose our minds tonight.
Guitarist Luke Gottlieb, who grew up on early Metallica in Grand Junction while Beer was cutting his teeth on the Drive-By Truckers and ’90s punk in New Jersey, adds that Thin Lizzy, in particular, is an influence not only because of the band’s tasteful, harmonized guitar solos and boys’-club lyrics, but also because the bandmembers “really took their music seriously, but were a good example of people who didn’t take themselves too seriously.”
When a punk band sings about “learning what it means to be a man” by watching football with Dad, and the first single from its debut LP (the upcoming Fantasy Machine) is a rock anthem about preferring blunts to vape pens, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to opine that it takes itself too seriously.
“When you think about classic rock, you think about those radio DJs making really cheesy puns, and you think about big, sweaty dudes almost embodying all the worst stereotypes of what a guy is like,” Beer explains of the Good Timers’ vision. “But if you’re a good person, if you’re a cool person and you like good things, why can’t we take that back and do it in a fun way? Why do all the assholes get to have good times? We can have good times, too.”
The four musicians, who can often be found around Denver wearing matching jackets, like members of a cheerful motorcycle club, have just launched a two-month tour that they hope will take good times from Colorado down to Tijuana and up to Vancouver, then all the way around the Midwest before returning home.
“We’re all in on this,” says Beer. “We really want to take it as far as we can, touring a bunch and having people in other cities come out to our shows and know the words and sing along and have fun and [feel] the way we do when our favorite bands come to town once a year. I’d love for people to look forward to our shows in that way.”
Fantasy Machine, which the Good Timers say will be ready for release in September on the Illegal Pete’s label, was recorded at the Black in Bluhm studio with Denver stalwart Chris Fogal, who Gottlieb says served as more than an engineer on the album’s twelve tracks.
“I think we had a lot of ideas going in, especially for how we were gonna set up the guitars. We’re a guitar-heavy band. He sat down with the guitar players and just hashed out every song and what guitars were going to come in where and everything. We had ideas for that going in, and Fogal really helped put it all together.”
The Sandlot mentality that’s so obvious when the Good Timers walk into a room is also joyously evident in the brotherly guitar leads that Beer and Gottlieb play on the new tracks. And it’s just as present in Beer’s fellowship-intense lyrics, which touch on all-night salad-days shenanigans with at least as much “we” as “I.”
“That feeling of friendship is huge,” Beer says. “I can’t imagine going through life without it. I know that all of us are just gonna be hanging out forever, and we try to pass that feeling on with the music. What else is life but a celebration of hanging out with your best friends? What’s more important than that?”
As for the young band’s goals, those can be found in the lyrics of the soon-to-be-released track “Living in a Beer Commercial”: We’ll play the hi-dive until the day we die/Or at least until we sell out.