Folk-rock band Be Brave Bold Robot discovers its raw, animal power
You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but local musician Dean Haakenson is a closet hippie. He sports a clean-cut hairdo, a neatly trimmed beard and—to top it off—a cushy downtown government job.
Lately, though, Haakenson has been revealing glimpses of his granola style in the office. He’s taken to dressing casually at work, and he signs off all his emails with “Ride Your Bike!”
After hours, Haakenson bares his free spirit as part of his folk-rock band Be Brave Bold Robot, a name that directly comments on the duality of his life: the robotic rhythms of the office, juxtaposed with his true animal self.
“I think of humans in our fast-paced society who are robotically doing repetitious things to make a living. It’s good to remember to be brave. Get out of that!” Haakenson says with passion. “A lot of people aren’t engaged in the outside world. I would really like to see a lot more people on the sidewalks, on the streets, being more outspoken.”
Be Brave Bold Robot—including Haakenson (guitar-vocals), Matty Gerken (bass), Jeremy Pagan (guitar), Catie Turner (viola), Mike Ruiz (drums)—is a fixture in the local music scene. The five-piece creates laid-back, unvarnished acoustic rock, loosely stitched together with lush three-part vocal harmonies and a funky, shuffling beat. Haakenson plays the part of a scatterbrained storyteller who can—and will—belt out the perfect emotive note when you’re least expecting it. Haakenson remains the only original member, but much of the band has been with him for a majority of its 10-year history.
After listening to the new record, But To Hate God Do Get A Hot Tub, you’ll recognize Haakenson’s flower-child ways. One song describes a couple who enjoy a life of selling organic maple syrup, and in another, he sings earnestly, “The best thing to do in this life is hiking.”
“We’re animals, straight up,” Haakenson says. “But we’re just some smart animals. Our natural place is doing some hippie stuff. Being in tune with nature, that’s important.”
Each of the seventracks on the record captures a character at a new phase of life, from teen years to old age.
He sings tales of fiction, but also weaves in his own autobiography. For instance, in the closing song, “Old Man,” an office worker helps an older man who had been swindled. At his own job, Haakenson handles these complaints in the investment industry.
“The office worker is definitely me; I’ve thought many times about the plight of the older people whose complaints I see, and feel saddened,” Haakenson wrote me later in an email.
This marks the first time Be Brave Bold Robot has dabbled in a cohesive thematic album, and the resulting tracks reveal nuanced emotions. The most potent line of the album from “Better Late” can be interpreted all sorts of ways: “It doesn’t matter where you are, if you’re too drunk to see the stars.”
Digging deeper, Haakenson’s hippie outlook feels darker than on first impression.
“There’s sadness everywhere,” Haakenson says, “but also the potential for boundless joy.”