Quantifying an artist’s popularity has gotten more convoluted, but knowing whether or not a band still has the loyalty of their fans has yet to carry any uncertainty. Name any early 2000s emo revival band and take a look at them today. You can probably separate the bands that are still adored for nostalgic reasons from the ones that retained a high level of fandom once high school was over.
In recent memory, very few other bands have succeeded in keeping the undying love from their fans that Brand New has.
As a matter of fact, Brand New has reached the point in their musical career where they can throw a dart at a map of America, and no matter where it lands, they know that their fans would flock to see them. I actually experienced this firsthand a few years ago when Brand New performed in Grantham, Pennsylvania. You know, Grantham, Pennsylvania: home of Messiah College and the historic Gilbert Bridge. I’ve heard other travel stories far more impressive, though. Some traveled from several states away, others went cross country. One guy even flew from the UK to Oakland.
A lot of what has Brand New head and shoulders above the other bands in their scene, like say, Taking Back Sunday or Straylight Run, has to do with them simply being better at making the type of songs those other bands wish they could make (see: Deja Entendu’s “Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t”). And unlike their contemporaries, Brand New never let the earth grow around their feet, either. They started as a straightforward pop-punk band on Your Favorite Weapon. How easy would it have been for them to channel those three chord progressions and poppy anthems across their next three records? Too easy.
But instead of playing it safe, Brand New continued working out their sound and amplified all that grit and visceral rage. Each album has seen them dig deeper, so deep in fact, that going from Your Favorite Weapon to their most recent full-length, Daisy, might confuse the hell out of a first time listener. Through each release, they’ve been able to completely alter their sound while keeping their identity. Such a constant progression has led to an impressively diverse catalog of music.
What really separates Brand New from all the other post-hardcore and emo bands isn’t just their willingness to experiment with their sound or their undeniable talent. What really separates these guys from other bands in the scene is their frontman, Jesse Lacey. The impact that Jesse Lacey’s lyrics have had on others is what makes their passion for this band so profound. Each line, each song, each album, holds a unique importance.
When I asked a friend to choose a lyric that meant the most to him, he answered, “There’s always a lyric waiting for me to dissect the shit out of. Some line that I can’t shake off.” I then asked a Brand New message board and got about 30 different responses. If you simply Google ‘Brand New Tattoos‘, you’ll see similar variety, from “I see God in birds, and Satan in long words,” to “My lungs are fresh and yours to keep, kept clean and they will let you breathe”.
The unparalleled devotion of Brand New fans everywhere is what actually makes the band more fascinating than it already is; especially when examining the relationship between the fans and the band, most importantly Lacey, who has only become more reclusive throughout the years. He’s seldom interviewed, and nobody really hears from him unless it’s on stage.
It’s hard to not be a cynical brat and think Jesse Lacey’s complete rejection of the spotlight isn’t an angle he’s been working in order to add to the mystique that is Brand New, and that people have been feeding into it all this time. But after asking more and more about it, it appeared that for the most part, fans of the band didn’t have an issue with Jesse Lacey’s public persona. One fan told me, “I don’t think there’s anything disingenuous about Jesse Lacey. I feel like sometimes people forget that he’s a normal guy and has a right to his privacy as much as anyone.” To these people, it’s inconsequential. They’re sincerely just in it for the band’s music and not for whatever contrived allure an apologetically negative minded person (me) might assume.
That isn’t to say Lacey doesn’t fuck around with his fans heads a little bit. He’s done some real screwy stuff to them, most notably with the CD packaging of The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. Now, as I’ve mentioned, when it comes to Brand New, people take their lyrics pretty seriously. So it would be safe to say that those who purchased the vinyl would be expecting to read along to the songs with the lyric sheet given to them inside the LP. Although there was a lyric sheet, it became immediately obvious that the words on there were not lyrics to the songs whatsoever.
Original album art from The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Of Me
Brand New isn’t a stupid band. Jesse Lacey and Vinnie Accardi didn’t have synchronized strokes mid-way through typing up the lyric sheet. This was a premeditated goof, which is why, at the bottom of the cover, there was a message instructing fans to send $1 to a PO Box address in exchange for a copy of the lyrics. Fans obviously complied, which is hilarious to me because I’m just imagining a 27 year old guy with a sleeve tattoo and gauged earlobes delicately licking an envelope to seal in his little dollar bill for those punk rock lyrics that he has to have.
But that sleeve-tattooed 27 year old didn’t get his desired punk rock lyrics. Nine years went by, and not a single one was sent out. Not even an apology haiku. That suddenly changed last April, when completely unannounced, Brand New started mailing these long awaited lyric books to a few random fans, with their dollar bill returned to them. Of course, not everyone had this unanticipated surprise, but they were still able to purchase the book for $2. Stupid inflation.
No matter how ridiculous that story might seem, what other band has such an amusing relationship with their fan base that they could pull off such a long con of a joke like that? It’s a strange and special connection very few outsiders might fully understand. The love for Brand New is so prevalent throughout the music scene. And Brand New fans everywhere have proven that no amount of distance, introversion, or shitty pranks can put a stop to that.
This summer, Brand New will embark on a co-headlining tour with Modest Mouse. For more Brand New updates and your chance to win a copy of the Brand New 2006 leaked demo tape, follow @LIKEYOUSAIDnews on Instagram.
Article written by Gregory Cala.