US rock band The National has a significant and loyal following in Canada, but chances are few of their fans here realise the group's career is controlled from Hamilton.
That is through artist management company Straight & Narrow, headed by Brandon Reid. He was born in Hamilton but grew up in the States, moving back to Hamilton four years ago. Headquartered in Canada, the company has a staff of three in Hamilton and three in the US.
Right now, Straight & Narrow is in a celebratory mood, for The National, their biggest client, is on a serious roll.
The group's current single, "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness," has for the last two weeks been the No. 1 song on the Adult Alternative Songs airplay chart (Triple A) in the States, bumping Arcade Fire from the top slot. The track is to be included on the band's seventh studio album, Sleep Well Beast, that has its release on Sept. 8 on 4AD/Beggars Group.
A recent Billboard feature explored the strategy of The National's team in scoring their first No. 1 hit on this chart. It was a close call, with just two spins separating the band from Arcade Fire that first week. Call it a friendly rivalry, given that the groups reportedly get on well.
Reid's career story is an interesting one. He began his music career at Philadelphia’s Temple University as a front-of-house sound engineer at the famous Khyber Bar. He then toured as a sound engineer for bands ranging from Mastodon to Bob Weir, Grizzly Bear and The National.
After working as a recording engineer on The National's albums Boxer (2007) and High Violet (2010), he expanded his role with the band, becoming a 50% partner in their management team while also acting as their tour manager.
In early 2016 he officially founded Straight & Narrow, and at the beginning of 2017 Reid became sole manager of The National. Hires for S&N have included the US-based Julia Willinger and Grant Manship, plus Canadians Shaun Gibson and Wayne Petti.
Known as the leader of roots-rockers Cuff the Duke, Petti now manages Canadian artists Dan Edmonds (ex-Harlan Pepper) and Jenny Berkel, through Straight & Narrow.
As an artist manager, Brandon Reid is more hands-on than most. He still works as The National's lead sound engineer on tours, a role that finds him out on the road 200 days a year. This weekend, for instance, he was working the band's two shows in Copenhagen. The National has an extensive tour of Great Britain and Europe in September and October, followed by a major North American tour that includes dates in Toronto (Dec. 9 at The Sony Centre) and Hamilton (Dec. 10 at Hamilton Place). At least Reid will get to sleep in his own bed then.