Earlier this week American rock band Brand New announced the rarest of UK tours scheduled for early 2012, this marks the end of a two year absence from the British touring circuit for the act and hopefully means a possible fifth album for the Long Island five. As a scarily huge Brand New fan and with them being my favourite band ever (since hearing of them in 2009, yes I’m a late starter I know) I thought it only fitting to bring WhatCulture! readers and the world wide web in general, a brief history of the band and an introduction of sorts to people who have yet to hear this very underrated, unique sound from one of the most private of bands.
The Early Days: (late 90s early 00s)
How did it all begin? Brand New’s lead singer and rhythm guitarist Jesse Lacey (born in Levittown New York) was brought up on the melancholy sounds of The Smiths and Neutral Milk Hotel. In those early years him, Garrett Tierney (Brand New’s bassist) and Brian Lane (Brand New’s drummer) formed a post hardcore band titled The Rookie Lot in legendary Long Island, releasing demos in 98 and 99.
Long Island then on the verge of greatness and with a music scene growing rapidly, were carving a rocky punk sound thanks to acts like Glassjaw and Taking Back Sunday. They were just a few of the rising talents in the late 90s on the independent scene and would go on to be a valuable part of Brand New’s history. Even Jesse Lacey himself was a part of the Taking Back Sunday outfit in those early years as bass guitarist, yet he left after their debut EP released in 2001 to form Brand New.
The main 3 of Rookie Lot along with the ice cool guitarist Vincent Accardi formed the act Brand New one stormy night in a basement deep in the heart of New York. They toured those early years with Glassjaw and acting as a sign of things to come, were signed to Triple Crown Records after just 2 initial shows. Working with friend/producer Mike Sapone they started on their debut album.
Your Favorite Weapon (2001)
October 9th 2001 Brand New’s debut album, a pop-punk 42 minutes of teenage heartache and angst was released in the US, yet no-one seemed to care. Appealing to teens across the land this tale of broken relationships and crazy nights out hit a nerve with a pocket of people yet stayed under the radar mostly in those early months. It wouldn’t reach the UK till 2003 and Australia 2004.
Their sound was unashamedly immature and Lacey’s delicious lyrics talked of twisted girls and painful nights by the bottle, it’s a testament to the bands youthful nature (the band being in their early 20’s at the time) and to me, is the purest slice of pop punk going.
Only one single was released from Your Favorite Weapon, the playful Jude Law & A Semester Abroad yet every song on this debut album is punk perfection. The band had real heavy weights in Seventy Times 7 and Failure By Design, whilst Mix Tape and Soco Amaretto Lime showed a sweeter side to the four piece, Lacey constantly crafting a sympathetic heart through every line. Interestingly Seventy Times 7 spoke of an argument between him and Taking Back Sunday vocalist John Nolan, it proves that in hindsight Brand New may have grown as a band since those early days, yet from the very start they had undeniable talent and irrefutable heart.
Deja Entendu (2003)
After touring their debut for a good year and a half the band along with being exhausted, were exposed to a new array of sounds, returning to the studio for the difficult second album they quietly reinvented a genre and found new fame in the process with Deja Entendu.
Deja Entendu (which means ‘already heard’) feels a millennium away from the whiny pop punk sound of Your Favorite Weapon, instead going for a more crisp, yet distant rock feel. Deja Entendu is a band stripping down to the bone and pouring their heart and soul into a record. Hit single Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades (a Rushmore quote) with its punky beat, screaming vocals and darker, maturer lyrics introduced fans to a distinct yet differing brand new Brand New sound. This stylistic change would meet fans with every release.
The themes behind Deja Entendu include fame, touring, death and a darker side to sex; Lacey’s bare lyrics of Your Favorite Weapon seem childish compared to the bitter brittle feel of Deja’s. The other single The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows sees a poet at his most vulnerable creating something so uplifting and intense from a sore subject. Other songs ‘Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ and the spine-tingingly simplistic ‘Tautou’ show a band with the upmost confidence communicating with fans their roar yet crafted sound.
Fght ff yr dmns / The Devil & God Are Raging Inside Me (2006)
Early 2006 9 untitled demo’s (later known as Fght ff yr dmns – Fight Off Your Demons) were leaked online. The band had been recording their third album and first under Interscope Records since late 2005, understandably the news deeply affected Jesse Lacey who decided to scrap the songs and start a fresh with The Devil & God Are Raging Inside Me. The 9 demos can be found in the dark reaches of the internet and although unfinished were extremely promising. Parts of the demos and the overall feel can be heard throughout Devil & God, yet the leak may have been a blessing in disguise.
Devil & God can be seen as a further maturing of the band, as their sound once again transformed and lyrics got even darker and disturbed. The third record is an even ghostlier and bare record compared with Deja, with the rock styles going deeper and more alien. Jesus continues the theme of death that lingers in most Lacey songs and is a ballad in which Lacey bleeds his heart on a less discussed philosophy. Devil & God has further haunting songs, with Limousine (MS Rebridge) and the exhilarating Degausser which all go to cement Brand New as a force to be reckoned with.
Ending the decade Brand New went darker still with a screamo-orientated fourth album, Daisy produced by regular Mike Sapone is Brand New through and through, but combines many distinct genres to create one very unique sound. The album was as tradition now hardly advertised and stand alone single At The Bottom snuck onto the scene in 2009.
Accardi had began writing on Devil & God with ‘Handcuffs’ on Daisy he became co writer with Lacey. Daisy’s sound which blends classical, rock, western and blues into a strong beast had minimal lyrics and sampled archaic sound recordings, yet Vices and Gasoline are just a few examples of a band rocking at the top of their game, whilst slower songs like Daisy and Bed juxtapose perfectly. I think Daisy will be the least liked of all their outputs, but for any fan it’s a must have, and a fine example of a band still breaking all the rules and still connecting with audiences in a way other artists would kill for.
Whatever Brand New have next up their sleeves only time will tell, yet I’ll be front of the queue come release day no matter what. Lacey’s poetic lyrics and heartfelt music has connected with me as it will most fans, and I hope to have created some more with this article. They are an anti-fame, quiet group of New Yorker’s and a band that’s all about the music, but not in a pretentious way. I commend singer/songwriters that bleed emotion on the stage and artists that continue to push their sound with every record, I think Brand New are the perfect example of a band which aren’t afraid of taking risks, breaking the rules and brandishing pure emotion, it’s a crime that they aren’t seen in the same league as other rock bands around. That’s my 2 cents.