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Emotions feel Brand New

The Milwaukee band's new songs are informed by loss and angst -- a bit Radiohead, a bit Nirvana.

March 29, 2007|Melinda Newman | Special to The Times

JESSE LACEY believes he wasn't made for these times, when style trumps substance and marketing supplants talent. The Brand New frontman wants his band to stand out for its music.

"In the state of things right now, faces sell music and it's a hard fact to deal with," says Lacey, calling from a sound check in Milwaukee. "We never wanted to be anything but songwriters and song players."

In a era when a demi-celebrity's every move is deemed blog- or tabloid-worthy, the Long Island quartet even temporarily quit giving interviews, in part because "I don't know if we have anything very poignant or important or relevant to say that's not in a song," Lacey says. "So the easiest decision for us was to just stop and let what we're doing stand on its own."

The band says plenty on its major-label debut, "The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me," a tumultuous collection of songs with a protagonist so exposed and damaged that divine intervention seems beyond his grasp. ("So what did you do those three days you were dead?" Lacey asks on "Jesus," " 'cause this problem's gonna last more than the weekend." "I died for you one time but never again," Jesus replies on "Limousine.")

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 30, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Brand New: A headline accompanying an article about the band Brand New in Thursday's Calendar Weekend said the quartet is from Milwaukee. The band is from Long Island.

Performing the tunes live can feel akin to pulling the scab off a wound for Lacey and bandmates Vin Accardi, Brian Lane and Garrett Tierney. "You put yourself in a strange head space when you record a record like [this], and once you come out of the studio, it's like this exodus," Lacey says. "Then when you go back on tour you find yourself sinking back into those feelings."

The album was colored by the deaths of 15 of the band members' friends and family over the course of its creation. "We wanted to take some time off [after 2003's "Deja Entendu"] and just try to feel a little bit normal again," Lacey says. "And we ended up going through a period of two years where we really experienced some things in our lives that we'd never experienced before, and the deaths of friends and family was just one of those things."

That helps explain the band's radical transformation from the lighthearted pop-punk on its 2001 debut, "Your Favorite Weapon," to the angst-ridden emo of "Devil." On that first album, released on indie label Triple Crown, Brand New drew comparisons to Blink-182; now, it conjures up Radiohead crossed with Nirvana, with Lacey's voice morphing from a mumble to Kurt Cobain-type yelps within a few bars.

"If there's anything about our recordings that we have come to realize is [they're] a very literal and chronological documentation of us growing into men," Lacey says. "We all feel a little bit naked because of it."

For his part, Lacey concedes there are days when he's unsure the rock 'n' roll life is worth it. "I always have ulcers and stuff. Sometimes I get these symptoms and I think, well, maybe this is someone telling me I need to stop and go work a 9-to-5 or something like that," he says with a self-conscious chuckle. "But I don't really know; I'm just kind of trucking through it."


Brand New

Where: Avalon Hollywood, 1735 N. Vine St., L.A.

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday

Price: $19.50 (sold out)

Info: (323) 462-8900;

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