Feature: Wednesday, January 30, 2003
Brasco Redux

Fort Worth alt-rockers return louder, stronger, and healthier than ever.


Back on the boards after a year-long absence, Brasco’s Kevin Aldridge was waxing philosophical recently.

“A lot of bands start out with this idea that there’s this formula for success,” said the guitarist-singer-songwriter. “Sign with a label, make a record, tour, become stars. I don’t know anyone around here that it’s worked for, but people still dream about it. Only thing is, when you get there, you might find out that success isn’t what you needed.”

Onstage, the dark-suited Aldridge looks like a Mafia hitman or maybe a funeral director. He writes moody, minor-key melodies and sings them in a high tenor (like a hybrid of Roy Orbison, Neil Young, and the Mavericks’ Raul Malo). His voice is at odds with his somewhat menacing appearance.

One-on-one, Aldridge is a personable fellow, talking about his bassett hound Trapper and old tv shows. (That’s right, kids, Brasco’s frontman is a M*A*S*H fan!) But he has a dark side, too, and there have been several times over the past couple years when Aldridge considered packing it in. One particular rough spot was when the band took a break from performing to record the recently released e.p. Sing Tunes the Young People Will Enjoy. The events of Sept. 11, difficulties in the recording process, and Aldridge’s own mental health issues were all contributing factors to the disc’s difficult birth.

“Our first tracking session was on Sept. 5 [2001],” he recalled. “The second one was on Sept. 12. I remember being in the studio at the Echo Lab in Denton with [engineer] Matt [Barnhart] and we both finally agreed, ‘We can’t do this now.’

“We originally recorded basic tracks for four songs, then it took a real long time to get the guitar parts done,” Aldridge continued. “Six months later, we went back in and recorded two more.” Those two songs, “Slow” and “Anastasia,” represent a real leap forward for Brasco. They lift the e.p. above the level of “just another OK local record,” with soaring melodic hooks that practically demand radio play.

“I learned a lot doing this recording,” he said. “Mainly I learned that I’m really not a nice guy. I can be very cutthroat when it comes to doing what we do. I do 95 percent of the stuff in this band ... writing the songs, hustling the gigs. So I’m not real receptive to a lot of songwriting input from the other guys.” Perhaps Aldridge’s conviction in this area contributed to drummer Damien Stewart’s decision to depart following those sessions, in order to work full time with Pablo and the Hemphill 7.

Stewart’s replacement, Dallas drummer Greg Antoneus, originally joined on a fill-in basis for a few shows, but Aldridge said that he’ll become a permanent member. With the addition of Antoneus, Brasco looks to have a stable lineup for the first time in the band’s history. Bassist Barry White (a skinny white boy, not the Love Unlimited Orchestra guy) has been in the lineup for a little more than a year now.

Earlier, the band had scaled down from a three-guitar configuration, leaving Aldridge and guitarist Jared Blair as the only original members. “Back when we had three guitars, we used to be the loudest band in town,” said Aldridge. “The third guitar was good for arpeggios and all this Radiohead-like textural stuff. And, by the way, we were the first band around here to do stuff like that. Now, everybody’s doing it.”

Blair used to play in a Houston band with Woodeye’s Scott Davis; Woodeye and Brasco are often mentioned together. Aldridge dismissed the comparison. “We get lumped in with Woodeye a lot,” he said, “and they’re our favorite band to do shows with, but I can’t write anything as simple and direct as Cary Wolff does. I’m too into metaphors and things like that.”

Besides shifting personnel and the stresses and strains associated with recording, Aldridge also has his own set of unique concerns, which he sings about in the second track on the e.p.

“‘Journal of Burden’ is about some of my psychiatric experiences,” he said. “I’m clinically depressed, but I was originally misdiagnosed as having [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder]. They gave me a bunch of different prescriptions, and when I called the doctor and told him how I felt, he said, ‘OK, I guess you’re not ADHD after all.’ I had a job in a medical laboratory, and I’d look up all the drugs they were giving me. Two of ’em did exactly the same thing. When I was writing this song, I kind of thought it’d give me clarity and closure, but then I realized that if I had clarity and closure, I wouldn’t be able to write these songs.”

Aldridge can find inspiration for a song in anything, from the film Fight Club to a vacation in Florida with his wife. For example, “The song ‘Fan’ from our first record is written from the perspective of a stalker. I wanted to get inside the head of someone who’s losing his mind and decides to just let it happen. ‘Take’ [on the new e.p.] is about a friend of mine who vanished. He tried to kill himself. He’s OK now. When he came back, I learned some more about some of the things that happened to him while he was missing and had to revise it a bit. ‘Slow’ is kind of my podium where I get to tell everybody off. ‘You’re slow, you’re sad, you can’t even lie there dead.’

“I like to see the bad in life and exploit it,” he continued. “No one wants to hear good news. I’d rather write about ... the fall of western civilization. We really are the new Romans.”

So down to the nitty-gritty: Why the suits? “We wear them because I just wanted to distinguish what we do. A businessman wears a suit to work, and, when I’m playing, I’m at work. Plus, I like the Afghan Whigs a lot, and they wear suits. Also, with a band named Brasco, people expect you to look like a mobster. A friend of mine told me that when I wear the suit with the red shirt and tie, I look like the devil’s cabana boy.”

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