Hesitant is the solo band of Brooklyn based musician Brandon Reese. Initially formed in 2020 as a recording project during the pandemic lockdown, Hesitant has gone on to release 3 EPs, most recently 2023’s ‘Seasons of Grief’. The album was inspired by the passing of Brandon’s close friend and long-time musical partner in 2021 and is a cathartic expression of the messy emotions that come from the loss of a once vibrant presence in one’s life.

Following the release of ‘Seasons of Grief’, Brandon assembled a live band of close friends to bring Hesitant’s music to the stage. The band has brought their grunge-laden take on shoegaze to notable venues around New York City, such as Bowery Electric, Gold Sounds, and Trans-Pecos with even more to follow throughout 2024. (Photo Credit: Connor Zaft)


How did the band form and what does the band name mean?

The band started as just a solo recording project for me to kill time with during the pandemic lockdown. I hadn’t been in a real ‘band’ in about a decade, but I’d accumulated a bunch of riffs and ideas with nowhere to put them. I envisioned them as full-band songs, but I don’t play drums or have a drum set, so I was limited in how I could turn them into something worth sharing.

One day during lockdown, I randomly found an old MIDI keyboard someone put out on the curb near my apartment in Brooklyn and decided to take it. I figured out how to use it with my recording software to make MIDI drums and that was a total game changer. I eventually bought one that wasn’t literal trash and the ideas started flowing out of me. 

I came up with 4 songs that I thought were good enough to call an EP, threw it up on Bandcamp under the throwaway name mötley jëw, and that was really the start of this project. I made a second EP as well and eventually decided to recruit some old friends to help play these songs live. 

I thought mötley jëw was a funny name, but once we were ready to start playing shows, I felt like the project deserved a moniker that was more than a throwaway joke. I kept telling people “I’m hesitant to keep the name mötley jëw” and eventually realized that a great name was right there in that sentence, so I went with it. I like the name ‘hesitant’ because it’s a little self-deprecating, but doesn’t really take a stand in terms of sounding like it belongs to any particular genre, and everybody loves a one-word band name, right?

 Previous musical projects? How'd you first get into music?

I was deeply obsessed with The Beatles as a little kid thanks to a cassette my parents used to play in the car all the time. I took my first guitar lesson when I was about 6, but didn’t stick with it until I was about 10 and heard Nirvana for the first time. They blew my mind and inspired me to really pick it up again in earnest.

When I was in middle school, a classmate saw me wearing a Kurt Cobain shirt and remarked about how he loved Nirvana too. His name was Johnny and it turned out he was a drummer.  We started jamming together that summer and ended up playing in bands together for most of the next decade. We went through more names than I could count, but the most successful projects we had were one called Wasteland and another called Scattered Earth. We weren’t known at all outside of our small local scene on Long Island, but playing music became a core part of my identity thanks to the time spent in those bands.

The live band I have playing with me for Hesitant actually includes two members of those bands  – our drummer Scott was in Wasteland, and our bass player Steve was in Scattered Earth. So it’s been really cool to come full circle and be playing again with some of the same people all these years later.

 First concert that you ever went to? (Locally and National acts)

The first local show I went to was probably when I was maybe 11 or 12 and some friends had a ska band called Malibu Boyscouts that would play around Long Island. Ska was never my thing really, but I thought it was so cool to see people I knew on stage and that was definitely an early inspiration for me.

As far as national acts, my first real concert was Billy Joel and Elton John on their Face2Face tour in October 2002. Elton was kind of boring to me as a 12 year old, but Billy was still running around and standing on his piano and stuff, and that ruled. I still love both of those guys today, though.

What's your writing process like?

Unlike my previous bands, which were very collaborative, Hesitant is very much a solo project - I write and perform all the instruments on our recordings by myself.

For ‘seasons of grief’, the writing process was a heavy one. Everything about this album stemmed from the death of my friend and longtime musical partner Johnny, who I mentioned above, in December 2021.

I was completely devastated and found myself spending a lot of long nights sitting on my terrace, just zoning out in the haze of grief while listening to music. I eventually started noticing melodies coming into my head that were inspired by what I’d be listening to. At some point, I decided that the best way I could work through my grief was to do what Johnny and I did best – write songs about it.

I repeated this process for months – getting lost in my thoughts while sitting on my terrace listening to music and letting ideas come to me naturally. I’d make little demos of whatever I came up with and listen to them over and over, figuring out how to refine and add to them along the way until they resembled a real song.  

Oftentimes when a vocal melody pops into my head, a single phrase will come along with it and that will inform the next line and so on. For instance, the song “lost grace” started because that first lyric “I just can’t face your fall from grace” popped into my head along with the vocal melody – everything else was built off that. Lyrically, I tried to capture moments along the way of grieving my friend, and each song represents a different step as I learned to live with this new, sad reality.


5. What other artists or songs inspire your music? 

My taste in music is all over the place, as you'll see in this playlist, but I’ve lately found myself most inspired by a lot of heavier shoegaze-esque bands like Nothing, Cloakroom, Hum, and Smashing Pumpkins. Those were definitely some of my biggest influences when writing ‘Seasons of Grief’ and you can really hear it in songs like “Lost Grace” and “Melisma.” Something about those thick and fuzzy riffs combined with shimmering leads makes this dark, ethereal quality that really does it for me and totally fit with the morose mood of what I was writing. 

There’s no quicker way to get me to love a song than by having strong vocal harmonies, so bands like Alice in Chains and Low are giant influences as well. Both bands essentially have two lead vocalists and the way each pair’s voices weave in and out of each other gives me chills. There’s harmonies all over ‘Seasons of Grief’, but you can probably hear the biggest influence of a band like AIC in the bridge of “The Pit of Self,” where I’m essentially just doing my best Layne/Jerry impersonation.

Overall, I’m really drawn to music that has heavy, noisy instrumentation combined with catchy vocal melodies - it started with Nirvana and extends today with bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Ovlov. There’s a bit less of a direct influence of those bands on the new album, but you can definitely hear a lot of it on older Hesitant songs like “Promise & Run” and “Lag”. 

Though the heavier end of the “gazey” spectrum tends to be a bigger influence, I also totally love the first wave of shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine - the song “Just Say No To Never” actually started as my attempt at capturing the vibe of MBV’s “Thorn”.

Finally, I’m not sure that it totally comes across when you listen to my songs, but my favorite singer in the world is the late, great Mark Lanegan. I adore his entire body of work from the garage-y Screaming Trees records through the more new-wave stuff he did with Mark Lanegan Band. I thought he had the coolest sounding voice in the world and I’ve definitely subconsciously absorbed some of his phrasing in my own vocal delivery. He died just 2 months after my friend Johnny and, though I didn’t know him personally, I spent so much time with his music over the years that I genuinely grieved for him as well and that definitely was imbued in the mood of these songs.

6. What's the live experience like and your philosophy on playing live? Do you think the music live should be identical to the recorded version or should it be it's own thing?

I think there are a lot of different and valid ways to look at this, but for Hesitant, there’s definitely a big distinction between the recordings and the live show. 

Since I’m the only person playing on the recordings, there’s just naturally going to be a difference in the sound when 3 of the 4 instruments are being played by different people, even if the parts are the same. 

I want the live experience to resemble the recordings, but the guys I have playing with me are all incredibly talented, so I like to give them a chance to shine and add their own touches where it makes sense. So we are a little looser with the structure of the songs when we play live - we leave some room for improvisation, extend some parts, add some leads that aren’t on the recordings, etc. 

7. Has the band toured? What has the touring experience been, best shows?worst shows?

No touring for us yet, but I’d be thrilled if we could find an opportunity to do so. We only started playing live this past November, so we’re still working on building up our live show and getting a solid audience in our homebase of NYC before we trek out anywhere else. 

I feel lucky to say we haven’t really had a negative show experience yet, but the best one was definitely when we played at Gold Sounds here in Brooklyn at the end of December. It was our biggest crowd yet; the room was filled with friends from all walks of my life and I was blown away and totally overwhelmed by the love I felt in the room.

8. What's up next for the band?

We'll be playing at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC on Thursday, April 4th. We’re looking forward to adding some songs we’ve not tried out live yet on that show and might even toss in some new ones if all goes well. Working on getting some more shows around the city in the Spring/Summer and beyond too.
But the big news is that we're going to be partnering with the label Pleasure Tapes for a cassette release of Seasons of Grief that will be out in April! Super excited to be working with them and to be getting a physical release for this music I worked so hard on. Release date is TBD but keep an eye out on our socials @hesitantnyc for updates.



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