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Evolution of New: Alt-rockers Brand New experiment with harder sound

Toben Shelby

New York-based alt-rockers Brand New will play to a sold-out crowd for the September First Tap at Bear Tooth. Known for songs like “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,” “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad” and “Jesus,” the band’s built up a loyal following since it began in 2000, despite -- or perhaps aided by -- going more or less off the grid for long stretches of time. Brand New hasn’t released an album in five years and, depending on whom you ask, the band might not release another, at least in the traditional sense.

Comprised of vocalist Jesse Lacey, guitarist Vincent Accardi, bassist Garrett Tierney and drummer Brian Lane, Brand New seems to maintain a pretty low profile when it's not on stage. Facebook and Twitter accounts for the band contain just the essentials: tour dates, some photos, information for ticket holders. Their website doesn’t include biographical information, a discography or links to their rare media interviews (requests for one here went unanswered). There’s just a short message posted over the summer that ends with: “Stay tuned for more information on things we happen to do. Peace in the Middle East.”

It looks like Brand New primarily maintains its connection to fans via live shows, of which there have been many over the summer. How strong is that connection? Does Brand New still strike the same chords with audiences today that it has for more than a decade -- especially with notable changes in sound between albums? With no one in the band available for an interview, answering these questions fell to a corner of the Internet known for its endless repository of memes, AMAs, shower thoughts and discussion groups for nearly any interest -- Reddit. Thankfully, a few users of the Reddit page for Brand New were willing to share opinions about the band and live concert experiences.

“I feel like there's no such thing as a ‘casual’ Brand New fan,” user 348D, who attended a Maryland show in June, wrote. “It seems as though people either don't like them or are straight-up obsessed with them.” 

Much like their appearance in Anchorage, Brand New shows apparently sell out pretty quickly. Another attendee of the Maryland concert said there’s a reason.

“I’ve heard criticisms from people who aren't too familiar with Brand New that they don't sound amazing live,” user freshasuarus wrote. “I respectfully disagree with that entirely. Their shows tend to be very emotionally charged …Guitars get thrown around and it gets noisy but it's all amazing. If you're a fan of the band, seeing them live is one of the best opportunities you can have.”

The emotional aspect of live shows was something commonly mentioned amongst fans. “Whether or not you dig that thing, that’s up to you,” user Skatinbrad wrote. “Being such a specific band, a LOT of people I've showed them to get quickly turned off. The yelling and angst on stage can also produce sub-par live shows, where his [Lacey] vocals are off (which are really the focal point of the show).”

That’s not just an opinion shared by fans. Playing into the "love them or hate them"/ "not for everyone" narrative, a review from the Buffalo News harshly laid into Brand New’s set at Edgefest in Buffalo in August: “Horribly out of tune, dedicatedly dirge-dedicated, apparently hostile to anything resembling a melody, and, one would guess, comfortable with the idea of blending emo, metal, hardcore, and punk with an ear for the atonal.”

The last album Brand New released was 2009’s “Daisy,” featuring a more experimental, harder sound than the band’s earlier pop-punk/emo days. Since then there have been rumors, statements about studio time and mentions of working on new material, but nothing officially announced. If a new album or songs are released for sale, Brand New could very well shy away from a physical album. Back in 2010, Lacey told Rock Sound he didn’t “see why we couldn’t release a song a week or a song a month or just put out what we like from whenever we record. I think that might work out but we’ll see what happens.”

The most recent bit of fuel for speculation about new material came in August via the Facebook page of producer Mike Sapone, who was involved with several of Brand New’s albums. It wasn’t much, but there was plenty to infer -- a photo of a drum set in a New York sound studio that Sapone tagged Brand New in. Hardly anything concrete, but for the diehard fans, who love the noise, emotion and evolution of Brand New, it was certainly enough to get excited about.

Brand New

When: Doors at 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 4

Where: Bear Tooth Theatrepub 

Tickets: Sold out