I had translated some of the Rockzone interview, and now here’s the full translation thanks to Reddit user kawhisenberg.
The Sound of Silence
Being a Brand New fan isn’t easy. The band that has been called the emo Radiohead is known for its large periods of inactivity and its distant relationship with the press and the circus that surrounds musicians. But after many years with no interviews, on May 27 we were able to speak with Jesse Lacey in Madrid, the charismatic leader of the most mysterious, unpredictable and fascinating rock bands.
(Skipping to the first question)
Today is a special day, your first concert in Spain. What do you think of it so far? Have you been here before? Exactly. I haven’t been here before. I got here with my wife two days early and we were able to explore the city, we even had the chance to have a beer and take in the vibe. We’re from a small place in Long Island and weren’t able to travel until we started touring Europe and this city seems vibrant and alive like other cities we’ve been in but people are friendlier here. They seem calm and relaxed- do people honk their car horns a lot?
Haha, I guess so like in any other big city
These past few days I’ve seen people look joyful and peaceful, I’ve even felt happier myself. In NY, people are stressed out and everything moves fast- they live an anxiousl life to get the next big thing as fast as they can. But it’s also a great city indebted to the great strength and dedication of the people there.
I know what you mean, I’m also from a small city. Kevin Devine also told me that he likes the city, I’m guessing he told you good things about it.
Yes, he did, and with good reason. The parks are nice, the climate is great…seriously, I want to move here! laughs
*You’d be very welcomed here…
Thanks. laughs The truth is that with all the people I’ve seen here that like the band, I’d be able to make a living.laughs
That’s something I wanted to talk about, have you seen the line outside? The people seem to have responded pretty good to your visit.
Yes. We haven’t been to Europe many times and when we play in places other than the U.S. And UK, we can feel the difference. For example, this our first time playing in this city we are approaching it differently than somewhere we’ve played before. There’s a distinct feeling because it feels like a new show every single day. We’ve been a band for about 15 years and we’ve played LA maybe 50 or 60 times and lots of those people have seen us before and to come here most of these people have never seen us or have never had the opportunity to see us. To feel the emotion radiating from the crowd makes us feel more content in the new environment.
Personally, I’ve always admired the way mystery and uncertainty has always followed the band. Do you think the fanaticism following the band is something you all were able to create yourselves?
Are you asking if we did it on purpose?
No, I’m referring to how you all seem more like a group of friends who get together to play music than a huge commercialization of a band
Right, that was an option. There was a time in America where we could follow one path or another in a moment of indecision. The way in which we “got big” could have cost us a part of ourselves or our identity. We had to abandon a few things that were intrinsic, know what I mean? Not just as a band but as individual people, because as we had to make that decision as a band we also had to make it as people. We had to ask ourselves questions like: Are we famous people? or Are we musicians with a family and kids? I don’t think you can have both things and if you do, it’s very hard. When we got to this point we had to take a step back and think, “Maybe we’re not good enough to reach that level or be in that situation. Then we’d think, "If we appreciate all of what we have, and maintain it, maybe we can see if we have what it takes. Because we know how valuable it was, we had to take the chance. We’re very grateful to our supporters and the people that come to see us, but sometimes I felt like it wasn’t what we wanted and sometimes the support of the people was more than we could handle. It was something that scared me but now that we’re older and we continue growing, a little slower than before, I feel more comfortable and ready to take the next step; that probably would’ve destroyed me before.
I was going to comment on that, it seems that your activity is a little more steady with lots of concerts and festival appearances in the USA and Europe
Yeah, we’ve done other big festivals in the UK throughout the last 5 or 6 years…lots of people go to those festivals and in that moment sometimes it’s hard to comprehend the number of people that come to see us. We always want to have perspective on who we are and to be thankful for what we have. I feel bad for saying that it’s difficult because it’s such a marvelous life to live. You have the opportunity to travel to all kinds of places…
Is being a musician the life you dreamed about?
Yes, it’s my dream life. But we also want to preserve our humanity in all of this- highlighting what it is to be humble and modest because there’s been other moments in my life when I haven’t done that. We have to remind ourselves daily that there’s nothing special about us.
No, really. We’re lucky. What’s special is the opportunity that the people have given us and that’s why we always want to feel grateful for what we have. To tell you the truth, I can talk about this all day, it’s quite strange…laughsYou wake up in a new city each day, including those you’ve never been to, like today, where people are waiting to see you and the first thought that pops into your head is, "Who am I?” “Who am I that these people want to see me?” I always have to remind myself that people don’t come to see me but to see what I’ve created. I feel fortunate to be with these people and to have reached the goal of my group.
But I’m sure that you’re proud of your work
Yes, I feel proud but I want to feel more grateful than proud because there’s other things that I have more pride in. I’m proud to be a husband, a dad/parent and other things of that nature. People think that I’m a musician, but I’m not, even though I dedicate a lot of time to it. If I thought about myself the way that the fans thought about me, it would be a disaster. I always want to think of myself as the person who I am at home with my wife or with my son/child and be that person.
So you’re saying that’s one Jesse and the one we see on stage is another Jesse?
The other isn’t real, he doesn’t even exist. It’s simply a job that I feel fortunate to be able to do/have and it’s really fun.
[Pg. 54 Quote on picture: “Being a musician is my dream life, but we also want to preserve our humanity in all of this- highlighting what it is to be humble and modest because there’s been other moments in my life when I haven’t done that.”- Jesse Lacey]
In addition, it seems that everything is going good.
Yes it is, that’s what we intend to do. We always try to give our all in everything that we do. When I have a concert and feel that my voice sounded good, or when something surprises me or I’ve had a good session in the studio, I go home feeling satisfied just like any other person who works and puts all of their effort into whatever they do. It’s like I’ve won/earned everything that I have. If I ever feel that I haven’t put 100% into what I’ve done, I won’t be able to feel as though I’m a part of it. I can speak for the rest of my band mates and they all want the same thing, they want to earn it.
How do the rest of the guys feel right now in regards to the band? Do they want to keep playing and ____ like before? We’ve always had that question floating around us: how long will we continue playing? We wake up every morning and we ask ourselves, “what’s up? How are you feeling today? Do you feel inspired?” We talk amongst ourselves about an array of things and we’re always concerned about how all of us are doing.
Do you feel inspired? From what we’ve seen so far, you have some new themes…
Yes, I feel inspired but that doesn’t mean that I can inspire the rest of the group. For example, I can have one or twenty songs or ideas that I can show to the rest of the guys but they might not like any of them. And I can understand that, sometimes it’s been my fault that some songs haven’t come to fruition. Other times, we agree on seven, four, or one of the ideas and we immediately begin working on them. Like I told you before, we put our family and friends first and the band comes second, What we don’t have is the need to create music together in order to create good relationships amongst ourselves- making music is a job to which we’ve dedicated time. Sometimes it’s hard, we’ll get together but we won’t feel inspired to create new music, or work on a song, or show/teach the others an idea we have. But those times serve as a reminder that we have work to do and it’s our responsibility to do it. It can be that sometimes we don’t have to feel inspired and take time to reflect on things in order to get back to finding inspiration. Lots of bands who have been in the situation as us can tell you similar things.
I suppose that not having much pressure has benefited you while working on new music. Pressure comes from us. We especially feel it in the people who have followed us throughout our career, we’ve had the necessary freedom to do something that we feel satisfied with and those who accept the way that we are is something else that we have to be grateful for. We are the way that we are and the people respect that; even with all the time that has passed they keep coming to every concert…it’s really incredible.
That’s what I was trying to say about the support of your fans. I’ve always thought that ignorance about your band and not knowing what’s going to happen at any moment creates more expectations.
The reality is that we don’t even know what’s going to happen next.
Have you seen the series LOST?
I have, I hope our band doesn’t end like that. laughs
Every ending is a bad thing, but I don’t know, it seems that sometimes the less information you give, the more you hook the audience. As you know, they would play with the audience a little bit more and more and only released the information that they wanted to. It was impossible to know what was going to happen next.
Exactly, you never knew what was going to happen next. I get what you’re trying to say. I was very invested in that series and the stories of each character- I liked it a lot and it was an incredible adventure. I don’t know if I’ve already told you this, but the mystery that surrounds our band and the respect that the fans have for us, sometimes that includes us. Sometimes we ask ourselves about new things that haven’t happened yet and sometimes we include our listeners in that. Sometimes we say, “look at this foolish/dumb thing that has happened to me” and that can turn into something else or it’s just simply something we want to share with our listeners. I think it’s something that shows that we’re real people.
A while back you talked about new forms of communication with the public. In fact, you’ve announced that you’re going to release music on cassettes and the infamous leaked demos from 10 years ago through limited supply. While it may sound a bit hipster, it’s something different.
(laughs) Yes, for sure. I grew up listening to cassette tapes and I saw the change from tapes over to CDs, the idea behind it is more than being trendy, is to have a physical connection to our music. Things like this, our CDs, the release of vinyl or our library of music- we’ve come to find that we shouldn’t just dedicate/concentrate on the digital format that has taken over the world of listening to music today. Personally, I feel more attached to something physical more than something that I see on a screen or hear but can’t touch. I remember the feeling of sharing a CD, being able to open the lyric booklet and explore the design with my hands, following along and flipping the pages. I can also say that we haven’t discovered everything there is about the digital world, maybe we haven’t used it efficiently, and that’s fascinating. I think that the tapes are going to be released soon and I think something released in such a (limited) format is something that’s attractive to the public. It’s not going to be possible to copy the cassettes an infinite amount of times the way you’d be able to copy other forms of release, since the quality would deteriorate with every copy.
Speaking of digital formats, I have to ask if you’re aware of an Instagram account that has been spreading rumors about a new album throughout the past few months.
Yes, I do, I have no problem with talking to you about this. You’re the first person that I’ve had an interview with in quite some time. We have a new album to release; that’s not a secret. The thing is that it isn’t finished yet, we hope to release it this year, at least that’s our goal. We don’t know if it’ll be an EP with 7 songs or a traditional LP with 14 songs. We have quite a few songs that we’re working on at the moment but sometimes I think that you have to look at what you have and let it sit a while. It’s something that we have to adapt to, one day we feel ready to release it and the next day we feel like we need more time before its release.
You’ve been playing some of those demos that we were talking about earlier. In your last interview with us, 6 years ago, you said that you’d like to re-record those songs in the future.
Yes, that has come as a natural reaction since so much time has passed. How do I explain it…those songs were like an abandoned child, but when we saw that the people listened to them it helped us to rescue them and approach them with more happiness as time went on. I have to say that, to me, some of those songs are the best that I’ve ever written and I used to think that they had nothing to do with our identity as a band but they do. Because of that we want to give them the respect they deserve, because of that we want to release them even if it’s iin that form (cassette tape).
Can you tell us a little bit about the themes that you’ve worked on/written about?
The truth is that they’re hard to speak about at the moment because there’s some songs that are far from being complete. We have to see if we like all of them, and when I say that I mean any song that we’re involved in the creative process with right now.
At the very least, can you say anything about Mene, which is the only song other than Sealed to Me that you have released at the moment and have been playing at shows.
I can say that those songs aren’t reflective of the new songs, those are a little older than most and we wrote them around the time of The Devil and God, we just recently remembered they existed and started playing them live. We didn’t like them 10 years ago, but we like them now. I think they’re a little more melodious than what we last worked on. I think you can listen to them and catch on/ be able to sing along to them rather quickly- that’s what I can say about the new music we’re working on. If you look at Daisy, you’ll see that the melodies were a little more complicated- I don’t want to write or listen to music that tires me out after hearing it and I think that’s our goal with the new music. We don’t want to bore anyone but we want to be back at the point where it’s easy for people to understand us but with added maturity, of course. More than anything, I feel that the songs are catchy.
[The road manager tells us that we’ve run over the time for our interview but Jesse pleads for five more minutes.]
Speaking of things that are catchy, I have to ask you about your work as producer of Bubblegum by KD + TGDB. I love the rawness of the sound on it- a style that you’re quite accustomed to.
Thank you, it’s something that I’d been wanting to do since the only experience I had was with my own band. It’s a process that we’ve gone through together with Mike Sapone, the producer on all of our records, in that we all get together and discuss how we are going to do things. I’d been wanting to try it and the easiest way to get that done was on a friend’s album; someone who we were sure could be real and tell us if they liked something or not and then be able to change it- whether it be on my part, Kevin’s part or anyone else in his band.
Kevin and I can be pretty critical with one another and we can tell one another what we are thinking about their work without really feeling the need to discuss it. Now that some time has passed, I see some things that I didn’t think about in that moment and other things that satisfy me because we were right about them. Even though I don’t have time for it right now, production is something that I’d like to add to my musical career. I’ve been ___ about other groups that I can share with and it’s good to see that there’s people who respect my opinions, and as for those who don’t- something that I’ve had to learn is that not everyone is going to think that I have good ideas. laughs
[Quote on picture: We have a new album to release; that’s no secret. It just isn’t ready to be released yet.- Jesse Lacey]
Now that we’ve talked quite a lot about you, I’d like to hear a little bit about your opinion on Kevin Devine.
He’s my best friend, I have a very special connection with him both as a musician and as a person. He has such a unique personality, not many people can be like him. Since the first time that I met him, I felt an immediate adoration and after that I fell in love with his music, from the way he sings to the lyrics that he writes. He is the best guitarist I know, he does things with the guitar that other people can’t do. He has an incredible talent that can’t be appreciated if you’ve only seen him with a full band. He has this certain ambience about him when he plays solo because he knows a million chords. There’s many things that I’m not able to do that leave me fascinated when he plays, I have tons of appreciation for him both as a musician and as a friend. When we were recording it was incredible to watch him and Mike Strandberg, a member of TGDB, who’s another genius on guitar like Kevin. It was great having both of them in the studio. It felt like a competition of who could come up with the best riff that I have ever heard in my life. In a lot of the takes it was difficult to figure out which was better than the last (laughs). Along with all of members of Kevin’s band, I have to remember other groups that we can really identify with and have formed somewhat of a little family, like Manchester Orchestra, Thrice, mewithoutYou, O'brother or even Dinosaur Pile-Up and now The Xcerts. We share a lot amongst ourselves, not only staff and gear but they’re people with whom we feel total peace and harmony when we’re around them. I have no doubt that the mutual support in creativity and what it means to be human that we’ve shared with these people has got us to the point that we’re at now. For example, the formation of Bad Books, I believe that without them we wouldn’t have strengthened the values that we have today; mixing work with personal relationships has solidified the ties between all of us.
Lastly, is 2018 the year that Brand New ends, as that postcard hinted?
Who knows? Maybe… I’ll let you know sometime his year. Sound good? (laughs)