By Sheena LyonnaisBrand New are one of the most successful cult bands in contemporary rock. The Long Island band started as an angst-ridden melodic pop punk effort, with 2001's debut release Your Favorite Weapon beaming with tracks about young love and feuds with hometown rivals Taking Back Sunday. They've since developed into perhaps one of the most intricate and hard-hitting bands in this genre, moving away from the pop in favour of an ambient hostility that stretched across their later releases, 2003's gold-certified Deja Entendu and 2006's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.
They've just released their fourth studio album Daisy, an album that finds the band branching out and exploring another new musical avenue. Vocalist and guitarist Jesse Lacey waves much of the songwriting duties he's become known for, allowing guitarist Vincent Accardi to move in. Joined by bassist Garrett Tierney, drummer Brian Lane, and guitarist/keyboardist Derrick Sherman, Brand New took a rare moment to tell Exclaim! about their new album, the dark themes and what they hope to add to their already impressive list of accomplishments. With an almost entirely sold-out North American tour scheduled to kick off October 1, it's no surprise the band has a lot to talk about.
The album begins with a recording of the hymn "On Life's Highway." Why did you choose this and what relevance does it have to the album in particular? Lacey: A lot of things extra that we include on records like artwork and things like that, it kind of more chose us. I bought some tapes online from an estate sale and they had a bunch of old sermons on them and that song was just on there. It wasn't like we went looking for the song, but it turned out to be a song I remembered from when I was younger, growing up in church and stuff. Not just the song itself, but the way it sounded was really fitting to a lot of the things on the record, so we just decided to include it.
Did you edit it at all or is it presented as you found it? Lacey: It's pretty much as is. What's there is there. There's not much thought behind things like that. There's no great story to it or anything, some things just interest us and we like the idea or the sound of it and that's all the reason we need to ever do something. Sometimes we don't even need that. Sometimes we just do stuff to do it. I wish there was a greater motive behind it, but most of the nine years of our band has been kind of let's do this and that's what happens. That's the culmination of the record there.
I understand there's a shift in the dynamic of this album, with Vinnie taking over a lot of the reigns in writing the lyrics. What happened here? Lacey: Everyone has always had the opportunity to write anything that anyone wants in the band, it's just when we started this record Vinnie came with so much already. It had nothing to do with me; it had everything to do with Vin. He just came with everything completed already and it was so good we were all really excited as a band to follow his lead. Accardi: A lot of times when we have breaks on tour, I continue to go into our friend Mike [Sapone]'s studio and work out anything I have. When we started the record, I kind of had more material than we usually start with when going in to write a record, which was good because we wound up with a shortage at some point. Things just kind of spilled over as they did and turned into us working on everything together and filling in the weeks. I don't think there was ever a point where I raised my hand and said I want to do this now; I think it's my turn. Lacey: You probably just noticed me being lazier about things. Accardi: A little bit. Lacey: Instead of stopping at the point he usually did when he was writing a song to let us put whatever we're supposed to put on it, he just took it further than he normally does. Instead of taking it 50 percent, he did it 75 or 80 or 100 percent.
Often when bands switch lead writers you can tell, but this record sounds organic throughout and stays true to the sound. You can't really tell there are different lyricists. Did you alter them in the studio, or did it just work as is? Lacey: I think the funniest thing I've seen in the past two weeks in the small amount I've looked at people's reactions at least to this part of the record, is everyone thinks they know what Vin wrote or what I wrote or what Brian wrote. Everyone who thinks they can tell who wrote what, pretty much across the board everyone's been wrong. That's not something I'm even conscious of. For the most part, I've lost track of what I wrote or what Vinnie's wrote because it was such a collaborative effort with the band. Vin might write a drum part or Brian might write a guitar part or whatever. We're not really keeping tabs of how much everyone has at stake on each song. Everyone's doing everything they can to get the song finished. It's funny that no one really has any idea.