Lafayette pop-rock band offers songs for a generation in limbo
Christiaan Mader and Jonny Campos, the creative core behind Lafayette pop-rock band Brass Bed, once saw themselves as dispassionate tunesmiths.
They built clever songs with inventive melodies, chord progressions and arrangements. In short, they were music nerds.
But sometime after the release of Brass Bed’s second album, 2010’s “Melt White,” a quarrel ensued between Mader and Campos and the band’s other members.
“They brought up the point that their friends had a hard time making an emotional connection with Brass Bed’s songs,” Mader recalled.
The criticism hit home. So Mader and Campos searched for themes within their existing songs, themes they could more fully exploit.
They found them in their generation’s disillusionment with life after college and, a subject that’s been sung about for countless generations, romantic heartbreak.
The latter themes run through Brass Bed’s forthcoming album, “The Secret Will Keep You,” to be released April 23.
The album opens with “Cold Chicory,” a breakup song with a bitter aftertaste. Heartache appears again in the grieving “I Guess I’ll Just Sing” as well as “Please Don’t Go,” a high-energy song tempered by desperate lyrics.
“Jonny went through a rough breakup with a longterm girlfriend,” Mader explained.
The other theme in the album applies to the generation of young adults who grew up receiving participation trophies. Every kid got a trophy for simply showing up.
“At first, I thought it was an esoteric thing to write about,” Mader said. “But I realized that people of my generation were taught from an early age that we’re going to grow up and get anything we want.”
On the contrary, especially during the recent economic downturn, college grads often found promises of post-college success broken. The limbo many of them experience between college and whatever direction the rest of their lives may take was another source of inspiration for the new Brass Bed songs.
“They haven’t achieved the milestones that people usually accomplish by the time they reach adulthood, like a fulltime job, marriage, children, a house,” Mader said. “I realized that I am part of that. It’s kind of terrifying.”
Mader and Campos also used disappointments in their music careers as fodder for lyrics.
In “A Bullet for You,” a song recently named by The New Yorker writer John Donahue as one his favorite Brass Bed songs, Mader sings, “I’m so tired of waiting for this knock on my door. I’ve been hoping for all the wrong things.”
“There was some alienation within the band because we felt like these aspirations that we have were becoming difficult to accomplish,” Mader said.
Turning negatives into positives, Mader and Campos again directed their disappointment into lyrics, the music for which already contained dissonance and tension.
“So there are breakup songs on the new album and stuff about banging your head against this seemingly impregnable wall that’s the music industry,” Mader said.
That said, Brass Bed, buoyed by attention from National Public Radio, The New Yorker, Spin and Paste magazines and poised for a new wave of in all likelihood enthusiastic reviews for “The Secret Will Keep You,” definitely is not gloomy about its future.
The group is especially pleased about its spring tour with the on-the-rise New Orleans band Generationals.
“Everybody is really excited about the prospects the band has,” Mader said.