Artist Spotlight: Brand New ignores expectations but never disappoints

Brand New are one of the most important rock bands of the 2000s. Most bands would fade into obscurity if they took eight years to put out an album. Nobody would care about any other underground rock band that stuck to their guns instead of playing to the interests of rock radio. Somehow, those rules don’t apply to Brand New.

Brand New can get away with dropping an hour-long surprise album after eight years of no new studio material. Not only did they get away with it, but the alternative scene went nuts for it.

The band’s most recent release, “Science Fiction,” was their first album to debut on the Billboard Top 200. The single “Can’t Get It Out” is full of everything fans love about Brand New. It’s moody and dark, powered by vocalist Jesse Lacey’s gut-wrenchingly honest lyrics. Lacey has written openly about having depression throughout his career. “Well I guess that’s just depression/No sense in fighting it now,” he sings in a low voice over a dredging power chord-driven riff. Later in the song, the vocal backing track rises to a near scream under Lacey’s low, almost calm voice. It creates a haunting effect, as though the emotional backing track is a screaming inner monologue, while the lower calm voice is what others hear. “Not just a manic-depressive/Toting around my own cloud/I’ve got a positive message/Sometimes I can’t get it out,” are the final lyrics of the song.

“Science Fiction” contains a unique blend of musical influence. There’s folky mandolin and distorted electric guitars. At times, the standard-time pounding drums and downtempo guitar give the album a Western feel.

Perhaps this album is so important because it’s potentially Brand New’s last album. When the band released t-shirts reading “Brand New 2000-2018,” fans took it as a sure thing that the band was planning a break-up. Lacey has said at live shows the band is calling quits, but it’s never truly over ‘til it’s over, right?

The musical evolution over the band’s years has kept fans interested. On their debut album “Your Favorite Weapon,” they were a snot-nosed punk band in the vein of New Found Glory and Sum 41, putting out songs fueled by simple power chords. In “Failure By Design,” Lacey sings of the utter frustration of songwriting and writer’s block, similar to lyrics in “Can’t Get It Out.” “This is a lesson in procrastination/I kill myself because I’m so frustrated/And every single second that I put it off/Means another lonely night I gotta race the clock,” Lacey sings in the chorus.

Brand New explored a darker side as their albums progressed. On “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me,” Lacey’s lyrics turn from adolescent frustration to depression and existentialism. “Before you put my body in the cold ground/Take some time to warm it with your hand,” Lacey sings on “Sowing Season (Yeah).”

Whether Brand New defies expectations on purpose or by accident, it’s proven to be unbelievably successful for them. Perhaps it is the brutal honesty that subverts the lighthearted mainstream that’s made Brand New’s music spread like wildfire.


Schae Beaudoin is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at schae.beaudoin@uconn.edu.