Photo: Agustin Farias

Track-by-Track: Bria tell us about their debut release, Cuntry Covers Vol. 1

Bria is a new project comprising Bria Salmena and Duncan Hay Jennings, who are both in the band FRIGS and have toured as part of Orville Peck’s band. During the long aimless days of the pandemic, the duo decided to give birth to this new project, and use their first release to both have some fun and show a bit about who they are. “I wanted to listen for what might reflect my life back to me,” Salmena says, “six tracks that could be my mirror.” 

Thus we have Cuntry Covers Vol. 1, a set of six covers of songs by classic songwriters that Bria have re-moulded in their hazy country style. We wanted to know more about how they came by the choices to put their own spin on each of these songs, and how they developed in recording. Kindly, Bria have given us their track by track guide, which you can enjoy below.

01. “Green Rocky Road” (Karen Dalton)

Bria : This song was a part of the early batch of tracks we decided to try. Karen Dalton’s vocal delivery have always been a big inspiration to me, and I wanted to try and showcase that influence. The initial recording of the song was to a drum machine, but Duncan thought it might have a nicer feel with live drums so we brought Kris Bowering in and redid the whole song. This more than any of the other tracks really encompasses the spirit of our time up at The Outside Inn last summer. All of the home footage we used in the music video is from the day we finished recording the song, so it holds special meaning for us. 

Duncan: I’m a big fan of Bria’s guitar playing on this one. She turned the original guitar part on its head wonderfully. It really informed the overall feel and vibe of the song. We had a good time recording this one — the environment was really laid back. Every once in a while in the background you can hear Jaime cooking in the kitchen. Bria did a casual vocal take for reference afterwards and it ended up being the final take. 

02. “Dreaming My Dreams With You” (Waylon Jennings)

Bria: Honestly, I’m not really sure what to say about this one. Obviously, this is arguably one of Waylon’s most well known recordings and I knew it had already been covered by multiple amazing performers. This song, in my opinion, is one of the most distilled expressions of heartbreak which is why it resonates with so many people.

Duncan: Like “Green Rocky Road”, this one started out real sparse with only a drum machine, bass, and a lone guitar — more akin to Waylon’s original version. But when we started doing vocals, Bria’s delivery steered the song in a new direction dynamically. The choruses have a little drama to them, which is fun. 

03. “Buffalo Ballet” (John Cale)

Bria: There were two things that drew me to this Cale song. The first being the beautifully descriptive and morbid story telling, and the second being the powerful backing vocals that I think really make the track. The latter was something I really wanted to try and capture, and recording those vocals with Jaime and Ali Jennings was a really special experience. This might be one of my favourite tracks from the EP. 

Duncan: Bria more or less had this one mapped out from the get go. She knew she wanted it to have a bit more of an edge than the original. We decided to keep it pretty simple as far as the instrumentation goes. I really like the simplicity of Kris’ drumming on this one. We added the drums after the fact and got a nice beefy sound for them. They ended up defining the sound of this song.

04. “Fruits of My Labour” (Lucinda Williams)

Bria : Lucinda Williams is such a huge figure for me in country music. As a result, this song was a daunting one to try and cover. We did so many vocal takes, I can’t even begin to tell you how challenging it was to get her voice out of my head. I really wanted my delivery to be purely and truly from my own experience because I would never even dare try to emulate hers. The lyrics of this song might be some of my favourite of all time. I’m happy with how it turned out and grateful to find so much of my own experience within those words. 

Duncan: This one was a treat to do. The original version is really important to me, but it was important to us to try to completely reimagine it. Bria’s vocals are pretty nuts on this one. A real nice performance. It was a challenge trying to get the instrumentation to match her intensity in the final verse. I ended up layering multiple guitars, synths and an accordion to try and get there. This one, for me, is the standout track on the EP. 

05. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” (The Walker Brothers)

Bria: This was another daunting track to try and cover, and I know a lot of people are going to hate the fact that we even attempted. When we discovered that drum beat pattern I immediately could sing the melody and lyrics over it, and it just felt good. Recording this one was extremely satisfying, especially when we were layering the vocal harmonies. I loved the treatment Duncan did to the ending of the song, destroying the sonic landscape with overwhelming noise. 

Duncan: We started this one with just two acoustic guitars in an open tuning with the drum machine pattern driving things along. Once we added Bria’s vocals, the whole vibe was feeling a little too precious for us. We put this one on the shelf for a month or so and revisited it with fresh ears. We found a way to give it just the amount of grit and dissonance to offset the inherent positive nature of the chord changes. Again, great vocal performance from Bria here. 

06. “I Don’t Wanna Love Ya Now” (Mistress Mary)

Bria: Like most music that grabs my attention, I was very much drawn to Mistress Mary’s vocal delivery. Languid and drawn out, I loved the use of the double vocal effect. When we were recording our rendition that was one thing I really wanted to try and emulate. Duncan recorded all the instrumentation on this one himself, you can even hear his baby chicks at the end of the track. This was the first cover we attempted, the one that sparked the beginning of this project. 

Duncan: I threw the instrumentation together kinda haphazardly on this one — I wasn’t expecting it to be the final product, but instead just a reference for Bria. Jaime and I were raising some chicks at the time and they were chirping away in the living room while I was recording the acoustic guitar. It’s a nice sonic snapshot of that time for me. 

Cuntry Covers Vol. 1 is out now on Sub Pop. You can find Bria on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.