Published May 12, 2010Over the better part of the past decade, the Brains have become Montreal's premiere psychobilly brigade. With their ravenous, hyperactive beats, rousing harmonies and inspiringly tongue-in-cheek lyrics, the trio continually provoke proponents as much as they challenge the fastidious borders of their respected genre. However, while we think we know the Brains, they've still got a few tricks up their sleeve with fourth full-length Zombie Nation. On this expedient follow-up to last year's eponymous affair, vocalist/guitarist Rene de la Muerte, drummer Franck O'Brains and newfound double bassist Colin the Dead reach even further than we thought their abilities could manage to take them. Zombie Nation takes on a life of its own, offering a sense of cohesion even the trio seem surprised by, resulting in a raucous, yet endlessly melodic, experience. Essentially, Zombie Nation not only encapsulates the intentions of its predecessors in their most distilled state, but with the addition of fresh meat, things get especially hot and randy. From hip-shaking opener "We'll Rise" through the eerie "Devil's Crossroads" and "Evil Never Dies," the album's modus operandi is obvious, admirable and accomplished: rock out, trigger some adrenal glands and leave a succession of frustratingly catchy melodies in a monumental wake.
The turnover from your self-titled release to Zombie Nation was your quickest yet. Why?
Rene de la Muerte: Since we have a new member, we wanted to go full-force on a new album as soon as possible. After the first European tour, we had some new ideas and we wanted to record them in Berlin at Wild At Heart Studios, which we did. We did four songs there, which was a springboard.
How do you feel you've advanced stylistically on Zombie Nation?
We feel the writing is stronger on the new album and we've found a new sound with the help of some new gear. We took a lot more time to put this album together: three months instead of one. But it still came together pretty quickly, in the end.
It worked extraordinarily well. Can you improve on your best effort yet?
[It's] definitely our best work to date. Since we're touring all over the world, we're constantly improving as musicians and becoming infused with new ideas from other bands and friends on the road. Seeing all these different bands every night, you can say, "Wow, that was cool what they did" or "I like that sound." Consciously or not it sticks with you.
What impact does intensified touring have on your creativity/realizing Zombie Nation?
We hear a lot of different bands on the road, which opens you up to new sounds, be it punk, psycho or whatever. Also, just the experiences you have on the road can be a source of inspiration and can make you strive to be a better musician and songwriter.
There are a number of guests here. How did you select them?
Over the course of our two-week stay in Berlin, we became friends with the guys from Mad Sin and started talking about having guests on the album and they offered to be a part of it. [The] same thing with Blood Sucking Zombies From Outer-Space: we met them at a festival in Desau called Back To The Future and [we all] clicked right away, became buddies and decided we would love to work with them as well. With Resurex, we had been fans of them for a long time and through Facebook we started talking and, surprisingly, they were fans of us as well. [Vocalist/guitarist] Daniel Deleon came to see us in Huntington Beach, CA and in a brief face-to-face meeting we knew we all wanted to work on Zombie Nation together.
How did you arrange their contributions?
With the technology now it's pretty easy to record anywhere in the world and send the work via the Internet. It all came together within the last two weeks, right before we submitted the finished product to the record label.
How is Colin the Dead changing/improving the band's attack?
He's the whiz kid. Franck says he brings a lot more energy onstage; it's faster and tighter, bringing a more in-your-face attitude. Everything is cranked to 11 now with Colin in the band.
What are some of the musical influences going on here?
We took some ideas from our first album, going back to a harder sound. The fact that we toured Germany and the United States influenced us too. Colin says he takes a lot of influence from European psychobilly, especially bands like Mad Sin and players like Strangy of Klingonz, Celtic Bones, Dead Kings and so on.
Colin: Rene and I did a lot of the writing with the help of Ryan Stick [Rockets Away], and I have a different approach from the other guys. But Ryan and I work together really well and Rene helped keep me in touch with the vision for the album. Together, we formed Team Awesome. By the end, we were finishing each other's sentences and really bouncing ideas around. It came together pretty fast.
What are The Brains offering the world of music that wasn't there before Zombie Nation?
Rene: Colin the Dead and a Zombie Nation. (Stomp)