DVD: Live at The Unicorn
Release Date: 13.12.18
(Pre-order available 22.11.18)
The first thing that came to mind when listening to Brain Ape‘s 2017 album “Auslander” was how beautifully raw and gritty it was. The alt-rock power trio had honed in a sound built on big sludgy riffs, haunting vocals and propulsive drums. Their blend of doom and brutality was almost screaming to be heard in a live setting. And with their new DVD “Live At The Unicorn”, this is captured perfectly. Brain Ape take to the stage and waste no time in tearing through several cuts from their latest album. Set opener “Meanwhile” builds and builds in volume until exploding into the pummelling riffage of “Blood Blister”. And the band never lets up from this moment on. From the rapid punk of “Give Me My P45”, the moody headbanger “Respect Your Icons” and the noisy rage of their set closer “Rig It”. Brain Ape have delivered a ferocious set of songs, played with sheer passion, presented and mixed in a way that shows that these songs are born to be played on stage, and this is where they truly shine.
Last week we had a chance to chat with the band. They kindly spent hellable a lot of time with quite a lot of lols too, which you can learn about the band more. Here is our third interview with Brain Ape!
Hi Brain Ape!
Great to have you again! Last time we talked was early March. How you have been since?
Minky: Yeah, we’ve been fucking busy since March. We’ve been touring all around, having played Europe twice now and playing shows all over southern England. And of course we’ve put together this live DVD, which we’re releasing in December. We’ve been working our socks off.
Exciting! What made you to decide to release a live DVD?
Sol: Minky had this theory that it was a bit of a perfect storm. We didn’t actually set out with the goal of making a DVD.
Jamie: It just happened.
Sol: After the show we had the promoter come up and tell us that they had stems of the performance, and it just so happened that a few videographers had filmed it too. So they put it together, and once we’d seen the edited version we thought it was far too good just be used as a youtube throwaway. We felt like we should do something more with this. So we’ve made it into an actual DVD release. Our first ever.
Jamie: The footage looks really good. What’s nice is that we just treated it like any other show.
Minky: I think that’s what made it work. Because we didn’t know it was going to be recorded, we just played that show like we do every other show. We played the show as if it was our last, gave it our all, sat back afterwards and felt that we’d played a particularly good set and it just so happened that it was recorded.
Jamie: I think the DVD shows that we’ve got good chemistry on stage, too.
Minky: We’re very proud to put it out, which I think is very important. We don’t want to put something out that we’re going to shy away from in a couple of weeks, or brush under the carpet. The thing is, I’d been going to that venue for years as a fan. I’ve seen a load of really fucking good bands there. So when we were given the opportunity to play the venue, that was enough for me to be happy about the show. For the whole set to be filmed, and put out as a DVD… It’s kind of spiralled out of control in a good way, really. It’s become something so much more than we could ever have predicted.
Jamie: A really pleasant surprise.
Yes, I agree! I actually saw the set list, two tracks from your first album ‘Dara O’’ and six tracks from the latest album ‘Auslander’. How would you normally select the tracks, and did you select the tracks for this setlist in the similar way?
Minky: Our setlist changes quite a lot. We usually keep a setlist for two or three shows, and then we’ll change it. It just so happened that those eight songs were in our set when we played The Unicorn. Obviously ‘Auslander’ is still a fresh album for us, having only come out last year, so that’s possibly why there’re six tracks from ‘Auslander’ and only two from ‘Dara O’’. But having said that, in rehearsing for our upcoming short tour, we’ve brought back quite a few tracks from ‘Dara O’’. It keeps things fresh for us. But the DVD was a point in time, which got captured as it was.
Sol: I think we view setlists like fireworks: they’re something that’s in the moment, never static. We’ve never really got set on one setlist that we really like, because we like to change things up every time.
Minky: For a start, we want to keep things fresh for us as well. We’d get so fucking bored of playing the same show for a whole year. Can you imagine that? It’d be fucking tedious. And it means that we can be spontaneous. At The Unicorn, the setlist on the stage wasn’t the setlist we played. During the show, we made last minute decisions which resulted in a slightly different setlist than the one that even we expected to play. We need things to feel that rash because if we’re not enjoying what we’re playing due to it feeling too repetitive, the show will be limp.
Okay. It sounds like typical Brain Ape! Do you have a favourite moment of this show?
Sol: Jamie taking off his shirt in the space of a second.
Minky: I thought we were going to keep that as an easter egg, but you’ve spoken about that in every interview.
Sol: That’s because I want people to try and find it.
Minky: You can’t really see much of it on the DVD because it was really chaotic, but I quite liked jumping into the crowd. I think I might have head-butted someone. I can’t remember. I think it might have been my guitar tech Adam, actually.
Sol: Well what about the bit where you attacked my bass with your head? I hit you back slightly harder than I meant to. You had to take a moment because you were a little bit dazed.
Minky: Dazed and confused.
It sounds even more like Brain Ape! What would you expect to hear from fans and viewers after watching the DVD?
Minky: We do have a lot of people who are fans of the band, but who live in places like the US for example, and we’ve not yet ventured to places like that with the group.
Minky: So it’s nice to bring a little bit of Brain Ape into people’s living rooms. A lot of people don’t get to see us live, and this way they can order it online and get to experience a digital window into what it’s like to see us play.
Perfect! Well… I asked you this before, but I’m gonna ask you again because the last time I asked was over a year ago. How important are the lyrics to you?
Jamie: I say this from an outsider’s perspective because I’m on neither studio album, but when I listen to our material I’m listening to a lot of different things. Obviously my first priority was to get all of the drum parts down when I joined the band, but when that was out of the way I could ask myself ‘What is the song actually about?’, ‘What is the mood of the song?’, and sometimes the lyrics do tell you that but sometimes it’s nice to get a good combination of the melodies, harmonies, and what’s going on musically, which reflects what the lyrics are saying. There’re a lot of lyrics in our material which speak to me and I relate to them. I might not know what they’re about but the message is relatable, or at least the message that I perceive is relatable.
Minky: Well that’s what I really like about lyrics. My lyrics tend to be a little more ambiguous, or shrouded in meaning, but what’s nice is that people take different things away from them. So Jamie might take one line of our lyrics completely differently than Sol does, but that’s exactly why I write how I write.
Sol: For me, it’s a bit weird. For both albums I’ve been involved at a point where the songs don’t even have lyrics yet, so during the song’s creation I get to change its mood by having an instrumental input. I can do that by changing the chords’ feel by playing different root notes than Minky initially intended for the track, so by the time he brings in the lyrics to the rehearsal space they’re overlaid over a song that we’ve already had input into as a band. But that means that the idea that I have of a particular song might be completely different to what Minky initially wrote. And then the lyrics might completely change the mood again once he’s written them, just like my bass did beforehand. It’s an organic process.
Minky: And then there’s an additional layer: the meaning to me at the time that I wrote it. We’ve been a band for so long that, quite often, the lyrics stay the same but the meaning changes for me. I’m not the same person as I was when we released our first album, so a track like ‘Rig It’ which we’ve been playing for six years now has a completely different meaning but the words haven’t changed. ‘Rig It’ was written when I was somebody else, but the lyrics still resonate with the twenty-five year old version of me as they did the twenty year old.
Sol: I consider myself a writer and I think words have great importance generally, but when it comes to music I don’t necessarily think that lyrics hold more importance than the context they bring to a song. And every instrument adds to that context. And every artist changes that context each time they play it. The lyrics might say something at one point, but as Minky was saying, they may change completely at a different point in time. While lyrics are important and relevant to us, they’re as fluid as somebody playing a particular musical piece: the notes may change every time you play it, but at the end of the day the message is still the same.
Thanks for explaining a lot. A year ago, I asked you what we should expect from your live shows. Minky answered that you are “very loud” and Sol answered “depravity”. Would you say the same even now?
Minky: The fact that we had a show shut down in Bath due to ‘excessive volume’ shows that we are still loud. And to be fair, I don’t think I can see Brain Ape being a quiet band. Even when we play acoustic sets, we’re still hammering the shit out of our instruments. The people who pre-ordered ‘Auslander’ before it was released received an acoustic album from us and I think that proves that we can be an acoustic band, too. Sol, especially, is a fan of old Leadbelly tracks.
Sol: I want everything to sound like a New Orleans, bayou-style steam-train.
Minky: I think we’re adaptable. As much as the final product on our albums is usually fully distorted with a lot of shouting, the thing about Brain Ape is that the core of our tracks are still melodic. So when you break them down to their bare essence and play them on an acoustic guitar and don’t shout the vocal melody, you realise that the songs have a lot of resonance behind them. And we’ve been doing that for years. We’ve played acoustic shows, we’ve recorded acoustic albums, and we’re very happy to strip things down.
Sol: Most of our tracks are written on an acoustic guitar before they ever go electric. Before they ever become distorted, they need a firm melodic and rhythmic base.
Minky: We’re completely off topic. We were talking about how loud we are, and now we’re talking about how quiet we can be. It’s just rock and roll man. Rock and roll hasn’t changed since the ‘50s. We’re just the next page in that book, and I’m sure there will be louder bands than us on the page after ours.
When and where can we catch you live next?
Minky: Our next show is in Luxembourg, on the 24th of November. But we’re playing quite a few dates leading up to our DVD release show in Camden at the Dublin Castle on the 13th of December, which is being put on by Live Circuit and that means that it should be a really good show. But if you’re anywhere in the world, and you want us to come and play your town just drop us a message on Facebook and we’ll sort something out.
Sol: We have a 100% response rate on Facebook, so message us there.
Minky: Have you just turned this into a sale’s pitch?
Sol: Yes. People need to buy our shit.
Minky: You need to work on your sale’s pitch.
Jamie: We have a 100% response rate?
Jamie: That’s pretty good, though. That’s worth bragging about.
Sol: Well that’s only one of our many talents worth bragging about.
What coming next from Brain Ape?
Minky: We’re a very secretive band. We’re working on stuff, but we will not tell anyone until we’re ready to talk about it. What was it we said in Bath when we were talking to Matt from Ear Nutrition?
Sol: Euhm, keeping the pot boiling?
Minky: “We’re keeping the top on the pot.”
Jamie: What does that even mean?
Sol: We don’t know, but it sounds provocative.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Minky: If we’re coming to your town, come see us live for we put on a show and you might see some gear get smashed. But then again, you might not. Who knows?
Jamie: Coming to a town near you.
Thank you for your time! Good luck!
Jamie: Thank you very much for having us.
Brain Ape DVD Launch show is on 13th December at Dublin Castle, Camden. Make sure to join the party!
The event page for more details: Click here
For the DVD pre-order and for merch, visit their record label Schlimbum Records site: Click here
You can read our Auslander review along with our first interview with Brain Ape: Click here
Also you can read Graphomania (their latest music video) review and another interview: Click here
Photo credit: Nuri Moseinco Photography (Heading), Gregory Hesse Photography and Julian Newton Photography