Years Performed: 2017
When Mike Bernos wrote the songs for Nine Lives Down, he wanted them to give vent to his New Orleans R&B roots and “open” up his music.
I wanted a band that could give expression and interpretation to my songs,” he said. His first band formed in 2010, named the Mike Bernos Band, was a five-piece ensemble in which he traded off on guitar and piano. After a few years, he started playing guitar regularly and brought in Cyrus Quaranta on keyboards and Richard Garcia on saxophone to join Jeremy Gray on bass and Sam Rodriguez on drums.
During those years, the band featured several singers to handle lead vocals.
“Finding the right lead singer is like finding the right woman to marry – you have to love her and like her,” said Bernos.
That singer, Brittany Wescott, came at the recommendations of friends. Bernos and Wescott worked with each other for a year when Mike Hamilton of Swagsonville recorded the band’s performance at 1904. Listening to the recording the next day, Bernos was astounded at Brittany’s vocals.
Bernos said it was like a switch was turned on. He said Wescott let loose that evening displaying a remarkable nuanced vocal dexterity, which was captured by the recording.
“It’s tough to hear through the monitors when you’re playing live,” he said. “Maybe it’s always been there and I just never heard the amazing elements to her voice.”
To begin with, he adds, she has a gospel foundation that allows her to fill her songs with much more emotion and then she does this thing where she takes the end of a note and bends it ever so subtly, “it’s crazy good.”
Wescott’s break-out performance was perfectly timed – Bernos had been in talks with Aardvark Records in the UK about his music. Now he had the singer. In 2013, the band recorded Nine Lives Down, a 10-song mix of blues-rock pop and reggae driven by Bernos’ dirty guitar, Garcia’s gutty sax and Wescott’s powerful vocals. The band was signed by Aardvark in 2013 and released the CD later that year.