When bassist Gina Perez met guitarist Lauren Bevins at the Folly Beach Bluegrass Jam, she didn't think that she'd be sharing Charleston's stages with the youngster years down the road in a serious band. But last winter, Bevins approached Perez about making music at a show at the Pour House. Bevins asked Perez if she wanted to play upright bass with her and fellow songwriter and guitarist Livy Conner and multi-instrumentalist Will McKay. The answer was a resounding yes.
They worked up a set of Americana and bluegrass and named themselves the Brillers.
"We drove out to the depths of Johns Island to Gina's and had our first official practice," says Conner. "In the middle of the first song, Gina stops and says, 'Oh, I like y'all.' And we've gone from there."
Vocally, Bevins and Conner sang very well together, creating harmonies with ease. "We thought we should do our own thing and call it 'Lauren and Livy,'" remembers Conner. "It lasted five days before Lauren said, 'We need a drummer and a bassist.' "
The duo enlisted Perez, who also adds a haunting fiddle to the mix. And they didn't need to look far for drummer McKay.
"Will has the most versatile music taste," says Conner. "He likes bossa nova music and plays in an electronic band on the side."
Or as Bevins affectionately put it, "Lots of people like a lot of different music, but he plays a lot of different music ... asshole."
McKay, the only non-native, arrived in the Lowcountry from Kentucky two years ago. His tastes are so wide-ranging that Perez stumbled upon a funny connection. "Will likes a band called Black Moth Super Rainbow," she says, "who I know from watching Yo Gabba Gabba with my three-year-old."
McKay's offers an earnest defense. "They sing with a cool robot voice, but they apply great melody to it," he says. "And I guess kids like it."
Earlier this month, the Brillers kicked off a series of Monday evening gigs at the Pour House. Nowadays, they can't imagine doing shows without each other.
"The diverse nature of our band really helps us," says McKay. "We all do different things. We have no real leader. We're a four-headed monster."
Bevins adds, "We can't do certain things without all four of us."
While Conner and Bevins split songwriting duties, arranging the tunes is a group collaboration. Conner and Bevins usually write the main parts and then share them with the group.
"After the first few chords, everyone jumps in, and we just trust each other to make the magic," she says. "Like that last song [we wrote], when it all just came together."
That last song is "One Less," referred to by the band as their "African-Americana" song, since it has an African-style drum beat.
The Brillers have plans in the works to record their first album this winter, and they hope to travel to Ireland in the spring. For now, they feel great about where they are.
"The four of us have a genuine, simple, and very real love of playing music," says Conner. "We've very naturally gotten together, and it feels great. We're not sitting around thinking, 'We have to do this to get noticed.' We just love music."