Rock quartet takes the long road to its excellent new album
Brat Curse's new, self-titled album is the product of both a short, intense creative burst and long months of fun, sometimes arduous experimentation.
Basic tracking was done nearly two years ago in a single six-hour day at Musicol Recoding Studios with engineer Keith Hanlon (the band had scheduled eight hours but came in firing on all cylinders at the close of a tour, wrapping early as a result), and the session provided a loose framework that gives the finished tracks an immediate, recorded-in-a-room feel. This despite the lengthy mixing process, which allowed the band members — singer/guitarist Brian Baker, guitarist Joe Camerlengo, bassist Justin Baker and drummer Chris Mengerink — ample time to experiment alongside engineer Chris Young, adding alien synth tones, doubling guitars and tracking vocals, which are crisply recorded even in those moments when Brian Baker artfully obscures his words.
“I think we have like 50 versions of each song,” said the singer, who joins his bandmates for a release show at Dick's Den on Saturday, June 22 (the album, which is being pressed to vinyl and released by Anyway Records, will be available at the show). “As far as overdubs go, Joe and Chris Young and I were just trying to do the freakiest shit possible, and [Young] had tons of strange instruments that we could never imagine using. It was like, ‘Yeah, let's do a take with this synthesizer that you plug a guitar into.' It was this old, outdated, outlandish, '80s shit.”
Going into sessions, the members of Brat Curse knew they wanted to do two things: The first was to record in a proper studio for the first time, and the second was to track direct to tape, owing to a sonic quality that Brian said can't be recreated using digital means. “You can try to recreate the way tape sounds, but it's never quite right,” he said. “I like tape because it sounds like a band playing, and you're watching them.”
The sensation carries into the record, which careens between adrenalized guitar rumblers (“Sweat Pants Lawyer”), hazy slow burners (“Go Down”) and instrumental rockers where the guitars briefly spiral off like crackling, whirling fireworks (“Spring Break Reagan”). Throughout, Baker delivers words that frequently sound born of frustration, singing: “It doesn't have to be this way”; “So many reasons to go crazy”; “It's on, until it's not.”
At other times the lyrics are vulnerable and revealing, particularly since the vocals are often front and center rather than buried in the mix as on past efforts. “You didn't think anyone was home when you cracked open and revealed your bones,” Baker sings on the short, startling “Sobriety Butcher.”
“In the past I buried everything, but these [vocals] are so clear it's frightening,” Baker said, and laughed. “I always get paranoid that I'm revealing too much. … But with this, I was like, ‘If I'm going to say something on a song you might as well be able to hear it, for better or worse.' Also, I'm tired of people being like, ‘What are you saying?'”