Interview:
Brand New

Glory Beckons

It’s an exciting time for Brand New at the moment. Not only have they created two marvellous albums and grown in stature pretty much by word of mouth (thanks to their excellent, energy packed live performances), but they’ve even had the legend that is Johnny Marr stalking them at their recent shows! Lead singer Jesse Lacey took some time out to speak with Atomicduster on the eve of their recent Leicester show.

AD: How was Brighton last night?

JL: It was perfect. The perfect start to our new tour. It’s the first time we’ve been over here since about a year ago when we were opening for Finch, and it’s nice on your first night to have that many kids go all out for you. It really sets the tone for the rest of the tour.

AD: And there are quite a few queueing outside already here, even though you only finished your soundcheck a few moments ago…

JL: Apparently so. I haven’t been outside, but I’m told they’re already queueing around the corner.

AD: I wish I could have had that at some stage with the band I was in. We were lucky if we had twelve people there by the time we broke up.

JL: Ha ha. We did that for years too! And you feel so much more nervous if you’re just playing to your mom and the sound guy too!

AD: So how did you make the transition from playing to one man and his dog at the proverbial “toilet venues” to playing packed venues all over?

JL: Honestly? I have NO IDEA! It just happened, and although most bands would deny they had “overnight success”, I’d have to say that’s exactly what happened with us. It really DID seem like a case of playing to three people one week and then turning up to see a full house everywhere. It kinda snowballed and it’s just been amazing.

AD: You’ve made two very diverse albums in “Your Favourite Weapon” and “Deja Entendu”. How did the recording differ this time around?

JL: It was kind of easier this time, because whereas the first time we did EVERYTHING ourselves – I mean, not just the writing but the promotional stuff, marketing – right down to selling our own merchandise at the shows, this time we had the label behind us to do all that.

AD: Is it true that you had problems with Steve Haigler? (Legendary sound engineer best known for his work with Pixies)

JL: A little but, but you know, I don’t wanna put the guy down because he was just doing his job. And whilst we had several disagreements with him, when it comes down to it all, he’s done such a good job with it, and I think that’s reflected on the album.

AD: He’s done a fantastic job. It’s a great record.

JL: Thank you.

AD: Just out of interest, knowing how deeply personal some of your lyrics are (NB “Guernica”, for example, was written after Jesse’s grandfather was diagnosed with cancer), do you ever feel overcome with emotion while you’re singing them? I mean, “Deja Entendu” is for example a much sadder album in places than “Your Favourite Weapon” was…

JL: Sadder? Yeah I guess it WAS sadder. I mean, I was definitely sadder when I was writing it, due to several circumstances and changes in my life, and most of the songs I write ARE from experience so I guess that’s reflected in the lyrics. I do try to inject some humour in there too though – I don’t think it’s a depressing album in any way…

AD: Well no, it’s not. And you certainly make me laugh every time I hear the line “I am paid to make girls panic while I sing”…

JL: Haha, that line makes me laugh every time I sing it too! I remember when I first sang it, it just kinda came out. The first few times we played it I was like “Hmmm…do I REALLY want to keep that line?” but the more we played it, the more I liked it and I realised “Yeah that HAS to stay in”!

AD: And you hardly ever mention the titles of your songs in the lyrics…

JL: Yeah, I think that’s half intentional and half coincidence really. I think a lot of the time it sounds really corny and cheesy if you sing the title too much in your songs, but most of the time it’s just that I write the song and then think about the title afterwards. Anyway, I think some of those tracks would sound ridiculous and ruin the song completely if I sang the name of it.

AD: “Play Crack the Sky” probably wouldn’t have quite the same effect admittedly.

JL: Yeah I’m glad you said that. That’s probably my favourite track I’ve ever written because it’s just so personal to me and it’s quite a deep song too. I remember being at a friend’s house and just recording it there and then on an acoustic guitar. I dunno, I guess that one just means a lot to me.

AD: Have any of the band got any other artistic aspirations outside the world of music?

JL: Lots. Well I have anyway. I’ve always been fascinated with the film industry, so I’d like to do something relating to that. And books, I’ve read so many books since we went on the road it’s unreal…

AD: That must be why your lyrics are so good!

JL: Ha ha yeah thanks. What a lot of people don’t realise though, is that when you’re writing songs, most of your inspiration comes from OUTSIDE the music world anyway. I mean, I take an enormous amount of inspiration from books and films as well as music and my own personal life.

AD: So which film character do you most closely identify with?

JL: That’s a tough question…(thinks for a while)…I think I’ll have to say Owen Wilson’s character in “The Royal Tenenbaums”. I’m kind of like that myself – someone who fumbles his way through life. Before you go online with that though, I ought to point out that I can only relate to that character BEFORE he commits suicide! I have no intention of doing anything like that!

AD: I’m glad to hear it! So how do you relate to the people you were five years ago?

JL:Me personally, not very well! I’m totally different now and have only recently become happy with who I am. It always amazes me how I’ve met so many kids of 16 or 17 years old that seem to be totally comfortable with themselves already! I’m sure when I was that age I was totally insecure and so, for that matter, were all my friends!

AD: I remember asking Johnny Marr that question a while back, and he said that, although he still likes The Smiths’ music, he doesn’t really like, and cannot relate to, anything about the person he was back then.

JL: Really? That must have been cool. I’m glad you mentioned him, because he followed us around for about three dates on our last tour and we were really hoping to catch up with him because The Smiths were one of my all time favourite bands, but unfortunately it never happened.

(Side note for Johnny Marr – If you’re reading this, get in touch with Jesse now! It would be fascinating to see Brand New and yourself working together on a future project!)

AD: Last question then – can you recommend a band that I (and the readers of Atomicduster) have probably never heard of and should check out?

JL: I would have to go with Mew. It’s kinda rare these days that you can buy an album and be blown away by every track, but that’s what these guys did for me. And they’re incredible live too. You really should go check them out.


And so, after a brief melee in which I produced a copy of “Deja Entendu” from my pocket for the band to autograph, but like a muppet realised I hadn’t actually bothered to bring a pen, Jesse was kind enough to search for about 5 minutes until he found a permanent marker with which he and the band were able to fulfil my request. Now that’s what I call “fan friendly”. Good luck guys. You deserve to be huge (alhough, going by tonight’s turnout at the gig, you already are)!


Interview; Tone E

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