By Dan Barry
6:05 PM EDT, October 5, 2011
w/ Doomsday Student, Child Abuse; 9 p.m., $5, Sat., Oct. 8, The Oasis Pub, 16 Bank St., New London, oasisnewlondon.blogspot.com
Thank god they didn't break up. There's no one around here quite like Brava Spectre. “We took a few months off to find each other and ourselves,” says drummer Steven Buttery. “It was like a bad breakup with a girl. A girl you're very much in love with. Life happened for a little bit.” While mathy rock is very much in vogue right now, the bulk of it veers in a more post-rock, mid-tempo direction, with layered instrumentation and hypnotic grooves. It illustrates how far-out New London's Brava Spectre really are.
You can kind of hear hints of Mars Volta in Brava Spectre's jazz-influenced, mathematically calculated madness, but they never waste their dexterity on musical masturbation. They're too pissed to do that. Anger always pulls them back into the realm of the accessible, whether it's a throbbing rhythm or a blunt-force-trauma guitar riff. They're willing to tread darker territory than local peers like Fugue or Wess Meets West. “We're kinda stuck here in New London because of some terrible situations, and we have to make the best of it,” says Buttery. “When it comes down to it, we kinda wanna rage.”
I interviewed the band over speakerphone, shortly after their first practice in months. “What were those terrible situations?” I asked. The band opened up like some kind of tragic Greek chorus.
“I went legally blind two years ago,” said bassist Joshua Houser, “and that's been a rather big hit to the band.”
“At the same time, I lost my mother,” said Buttery. Guitarist Kevin Hodge said, “I got in a bit of trouble with the law. I had to deal with that for a while.” Guitarist Michael LaJoie sums it up: “It was a bad couple of years.”
“But that's growing up!” adds Hodge. “Four dark boys.”
LaJoie described the general attitude of Brava Spectre. “I wasn't with the band when it started out, but we all kind of hated something about life. And we were all getting angry at things. And being dicks to people made it feel better.”
“That turned into us being dicks to each other,” says Hodge, picking up LaJoie's thread. “It's come full circle, and we've also realized that the four of us are best friends and we all get each other. We're gonna fucking rage, we're gonna fucking play music, and just have fun again.”
Then Buttery chimes in to qualify Hodge's statement. “We've been good to the people who helped us. There's a lot of negative energy in New London. We never set out to go against anybody's feelings or anything, but at the same time we never wanted to censor ourselves.”
Brava Spectre chose an abstruse type of rock music to express their rage, even though styles commonly associated with anger — notably hardcore, punk, and metal — are all easily-accessible in Connecticut. But as anyone who has seen their live show knows, they whip themselves up into a whirlwind of catharsis, and even just being in the audience, it's hard not to get wrapped up in it.
“Every show is a transcendental experience,” says Houser. “It's not a special thing. We've played probably nearly 500 shows.”
“What? It's more like 250,” says Buttery.
“Shut up. It's 500,” Houser continues. “Immersion into decibels, into sound. A spiritual crossing over into —” somebody in the background, probably Buttery, gives him guff. “I'M NOT JOKING RIGHT NOW, MAN. It's really hard to explain. We take the bad of life and put it on display for normal people. And I don't consider myself a normal person.”
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