WORDS: Brett Fillmore
PHOTOGRAPHY: Courtesy of Jacob Zinn for Vies Magazine
One of alt rock’s most mysterious bands just got significantly more mysterious. In the years since 2009’s Daisy, Brand New’s future has been blanketed in unknowns and unease. Whispers of writing and recording sessions were just as common as ones about an inevitable breakup. Performances were rare and sporadic, new material even more so. The announcement of a new tour and studio album (to be released sometime this year) ostensibly put all unease to rest. However, as fans left Calgary’s MacEwan Hall after a scorching set this week, there was more questions than ever.
To begin, all signs pointed to the band being tighter than ever. The set primarily consisted of re-worked tracks from 2003’s Deja Entendu and 2006’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, extended to include guitar interludes and brick-by-brick crescendos. Several long builds included additional guitarists and drummers that appeared on stage simply to provide an added weight to the swelling wall of reverb and distortion. Throughout the night the stage was a hazy shadowbox, smoke machines perpetually billowing and the band members always backlit—shadowy, faceless silhouettes. As an encore, band luminary Jesse Lacey appeared alone for a hushed version of the haunting “Play Crack The Sky.” As he strode off stage left, that’s when it happened: as the guitar feedback faded, a graphic appeared stating only “Brand New 2000-2018”. Raucous applause quickly turned to murmurs.
If it’s a breakup announcement, it’s a peculiar approach. Why a full two years in advance? And what of the new album? Titled I Am A Nightmare, the album is available on pre-sale—but there’s no release date and the band didn’t play a single song from the album at the Calgary show. Does this mean they’ll finish this tour, and then tour again with new material? Stranger still, will we see this tour, an album release tour, and a farewell tour? Unlikely, since this would mean that a group that hasn’t toured in six years would do so three times in two.
There is much confusion among fans, even the most devoted of which are scratching their heads. Most confounding is the fact that, with most signs pointing to the end, the only public statement by Lacey is that the band is not breaking up. At the outset of tour dates than run through the end of July (with the big media centres and music scene hotspots still to come) the questions will only grow more heated. Is this the end for Brand New? Or, maybe, the beginning of the end?