I Will Fight for Brand New to Be Crowned the Best Band of a Generation
Much like Nirvana or Radiohead before them, Brand New open an avenue into something more than just the music.
Illustration by Joel Benjamin
This article was originally published on Noisey UK
Each day this week, one Noisey UK staff member writes about one of their all-time faves (in some cases, one you might not expect anyone to love this much in 2017). Today: associate editor, Ryan Bassil on why he will forever give a shit about Brand New.
It's rare to be able to gush openly about a band you adore. But that's the thing about Brand New: they make terrible people do terrible things. In the decade and a half since the release of their debut album Your Favorite Weapon they've become a lifeline, the alternative scene's own Radiohead, a space for fans to project the most personal of stories—or at the least, a crush on Jesse Lacey.
Before kick-starting the motor to this flagellating ode however, it should be noted Brand New were never intended to become the band they are now. Born from the 00s emo/pop-punk/rock scene they should, as history tells it, have fallen prey to the following things (all of which have have happened to many other bands from their era): an emotional fall-out; a terrible fourth album which, when released ten years after the first, received three stars in Kerrang; eye-raising side projects, including collaborations with rap and pop acts.
But Brand New have seemingly avoided every pitfall of the modern emo, alternative band and transcended to become something more; going beyond the music and smashing through the wall into what can only be described as art or the higher tier of what it means to create—and value creation—for a living. As I said, Radiohead, but for people with a slightly altered collection of quirks, thoughts, encroaching sense of loneliness or complete displeasure toward going outside.
The story of how I came to know about Brand New can go and fuck itself. What's more important than any emotionally self-aggrandizing story is how each person who becomes a fan of Brand New has their own tale, their own version of events of how they came to be obsessed with the band. The results of this adoration is evident in the countless fan-forum posts, the forever sold-out tour dates and—in cases that evaded even some of music's biggest stars—lyrics tagged on various bridges and concrete slabs across North America.
Your Favorite Weapon and its follow-up Deja Entendu brought Brand New into the muscle memory of broken-hearted suburban teens. But the two following records solidified the group as something that went beyond writing catchy songs with really long titles (the phase where most other bands of their era fell off). The turning point came with the November 2006 release of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me—a record that's previously been eulogized on Noisey here, and saw Brand New fall off the precipice and into life's great, dark unknown.
"We became more comfortable with the idea of a funeral," said Jesse Lacey of the record's themes, at the time. "I would walk into a funeral home and it was like I had just been there a few weeks before that—and in some cases I had. That felt strange." No longer the band to drunk-dial your high-school ex to, the group captured the chasm between dark and light, life and death and the complete evocation of its title, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. They retained the inherent darkness of emo bands at the time, but erased the angst and replaced it with cold, dark reality.
Follow-up Daisy expanded on Devil and God, smoothed out the edges yet also threw itself off a cliff, submerging itself in an ocean of thought, at the bottom of everything. "A lot of the songs came from places we don't know much about—it was a very unconscious thing writing this record," explained Lacey in a fan-shot video from 2009. Zooming out on a widescreen to the honed-in tightness of The Devil and God, Daisy was a breathtaking accomplishment, a deep dive into everything we feel as humans but laid out in a way that hadn't yet been explored on a record.
Then: they fucked off for seven years.
For most bands, an interim period of seven years could spell the end. For Brand New, however, it was a moment to grow even more. Take, for example, a note they left in the inlay to The Devil and God CD. On it they asked fans to send a letter to an address, enclosing a $1 bill. In 2016, almost ten years after the release of the record, they mailed out fanzines to each person who had sent off money. Inside each booklet was a selection of handwritten lyrics and guitar chords. It's a small gift but a considerable one when you consider the time frame and the thought involved.
Since then they've released their fifth and last album Science Fiction. As Emma Garland wrote for Noisey at the time, the album "feels like a fitting ending, and parts with the same sort of advice an older sibling or a mentor might give to you before they fuck off to college or otherwise move on with their life." It's as dark as their previous albums with references to emotional trauma, death, rebirth. But there's also the sense it took a lot for Brand New to return to these subjects, waiting years for the right moment and the right songs, knowing it's what fans wanted. "When you do an interview and meet a fan outside a show, the only reference they have of you is that album—that's almost what they want and expect, to be that person," Lacey explained in an interview in 2007, after the release of Devil and God. "But we were only those people for four, five months. We still live with those things but it's only a part of who we are."
New album or not, however, Brand New are a band who offer an avenue into something more: into learning about yourself and others, life, or indeed music. Watching them live or delving deeper into fan forums brings a wealth of new information and new bands to discover. For example in the past they've covered everything from Weezer's "Say It Ain't So" and "El Scorcho" to Modest Mouse to Morrissey to Jawbreaker to Neutral Milk Hotel to Archers of Loaf—to a whole bunch of other records that may well have otherwise gathered dust in Midwestern record stores.
As time passes and I grow older, I can't always bring myself to listen to Brand New. Sure, I feel shitty a lot of the time. But I'm also aware of how listening to depressing music when I'm depressed is part of a vicious circle for me and, as such, haven't given Science Fiction much of a listen. What I'll always remember and love about Brand New, though, are the moments I've attached to their previous work, the bands I've discovered through them, the years they helped me through. Then there's all the extra effort they've gone through to facilitate these things, going above and beyond in terms of letting loose with emotion and pleasing fans. And that's what makes Brand New so great—they're a deeply personal band telling their own stories but they're also helping others write theirs in their own special way. Plus, unlike Radiohead, they do not write about computers.