The first thing you needs to know about The Brankas’ new album — “My Parkour Body Is The Paint And The World Is My Canvas. I Don’t See Obstacles, I See Opportunities” — is that it’s an absolute mess. From the long-winded title to the DIY album art to the skittish arrangements of the songs, the entire product is immediately disorienting. However, it becomes quickly apparent that this presentation was done both purposely and purposefully; each member of the San Francisco’s two piece’s stellar musicianship is as noticeable as the songwriting prowess that is evident in their previous releases.
Like Vincent van Gogh breaking his subjects into their geometrical origins, The Brankas sat down before writing this album and made the conscious decision to make a “broken record.” Lead singer/guitarist Theo Slavin explains “anybody can make a good record or a lo-fi record, but it’s more of a challenge to make something unsuccessful that still makes sense. Also, it’s kind of a broken record because it’s really repetitive but you know …”
He laughs, in person the members of The Brankas aren’t as heavy or “broken” as their music, they drink beer and talk shit like every other musician but they’re exceedingly quick to talk about and praise their influences, “Yeah, Tera Melos, Hella, and Deerhoof are the three bands we listen to a lot and we try to just take their stuff and smash it together.”
The sounds of their influences are apparent not only in the heavy nature of their music, but in the rich and textured nature of the guitar tones that aren’t as abrasive sounding as the chords themselves. “My Parkour Body,” as a whole, is beautifully unhinged and cohesively clashes with itself in precisely the ways The Brankas intended. But even though they tried to avoid singable choruses and predictable rhythms the album standout “Sleep Scared” and the single “Cameras” have both.
The album was recorded over three weekends at Joan & The Rivers’ rehearsal space inside The Practice Place in San Jose. While the album was mixed by JATR singer Eric Smith from October to December 2016, it was mastered by Dave Madson in February of this year, as Theo notes “it’s a pre-Trump mix and a post-Trump master. Sad days.”
Smith and bandmates Caleb Dunkle and Mike Hickel are known in the Bay Area for welcoming bands of all genres into their practice space/recording studio and removing the stress that goes along with recording. Slavin and drummer Taylor McElroy said their experience was no different, “The process itself was the most comfortable we’ve felt recording. Eric knows our sound and how to keep a session moving efficiently, while still being way more fun than recording should be,” Slavin said.
Even with the laid-back atmosphere, the members of The Brankas set their own parameters and Smith was accommodating in making sure their sound was varied from song to song, “we limited ourselves to five takes (per song),” says Slavin, “and we used a bunch of amps, effects, drums, cymbals, Gameboys & samplers and put microphones all over the room to vary the sound options.” The varying tones only add to the album’s intentional discord and leave the listener engaged and guessing. While the intention was to make a messy album, The Brankas — thanks to their measured approach to recording, cunning musicianship, and imaginative yet sensible songwriting — have crafted one of the most refreshing releases of 2017.
Their tour starts today in San Jose at The Caravan Lounge with Joan & The Rivers, The Loose and Eugene Ugly but they’ll be in Reno tomorrow night at The Holland Project with Get Well Soon Band and Family Sedan. Check out their full tour listing below.
- The Brankas on tour
5.27 – Caravan Lounge – San Jose
5.28 – Holland Project – Reno
5.29 – Generator Show – Springville, Utah
5.30 – Vague Space – Salt Lake City
5.31 – The Fixin’ To – Portland
6.1 – The Alternative Library – Bellingham
6.3 – Puffy Nubs – Seattle
6.4 – Central Saloon – Seattle
6.8 – Programme HQ – Fullerton
6.9 – Tower Bar – San Diego
6.18 – Hemlock Tavern – San Francisco