Johnny Whitney, one of the Blood Brothers' two singer/screamers, thinks the experimental angst rockers' forthcoming fifth album, Young Machetes, is not only the "most accessible" record they've ever produced, but also "the crown achievement of this band thus far."
But fans of the Brothers shouldn't expect the straight-ahead lyricism that saturated the group's previous outing, 2004's Crimes, on Machetes, which is due October 10.
"I tried to take a very different approach on the lyrics for this record," said Whitney. "I actually wrote the majority of the lyrics during that Coheed and Cambria tour we were on last fall. With Crimes, there were certain things that were weighing on me — political issues — and the presidential election was in the not-so-distant future. I wanted to try to address that in a sort of direct and poignant way. But with this record, I tried to do the opposite. Rather than addressing things topically, the way I wrote most of the lyrics was through free-writing and associating."
And the band's experiences on the Coheed run (see "Coheed And Cambria Plot Fall Trek") did wind up bleeding into Whitney's words.
"That tour was a little bleak for us," Whitney admitted, "just in terms of not really feeling any emotional connection to the band we were touring with, and getting a bit of flack from the audience on a pretty regular basis. So, that had an effect on the lyrics, because, in hindsight, they seem a little bit darker than our last record.
"Before that tour, we were headlining," he continued. "So, we became used to playing for people who were familiar with our band and stoked that we were coming to their town to play. Like it or not, the Coheed audience is a very mainstream audience, and a lot of people weren't ready to hear our band. And I think that's great. A part of me loves the challenge of getting up in front of 2,000 people who were extremely skeptical of what we do, and try to make this effort to convince them we were worth listening to. But it was a long tour, and after a while, that gets old."
This fall, the Blood Brothers will hit the road once again, this time with a band they feel is a better match. Afer a spate of club gigs in October, they'll team up with ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead for a full U.S. trek later that month. Whitney said Trail of Dead are the sort of band the Brothers should be paired with.
"It's hard to find bands that we can tour with," he said. "People want us to tour with bigger bands, but there aren't that many new bands that we're excited about. Trail of Dead is the one band we can all collectively agree is pretty awesome, so it will be a fun tour."
Of course, the Brothers need to tour if they're going to get the word out about Young Machetes. The band started recording the LP at Robert Lang Studios in its native Seattle in late April, with former Fugazi guitarist Guy Picciotto (Blonde Redhead) and John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, the Gossip) producing. Five weeks later the album was in the bag, and, at 15 songs, it's the band's longest offering by far.
"It's weightier than any record we've done," Whitney said, adding that the album is extremely eclectic. "There are a lot of really short songs, and a lot of really long songs. There's songs that expand on the basic ideas that we laid out on our first two records, in terms of trying to create these really short, chaotic soundscapes — just bursts of energy and noise. But then again, there are songs that go the opposite route, and try to create something that's more restrained and maybe a little bit more emotionally charged, because of that restraint."
And believe it or not, Whitney believes the album contains at least five songs that could hold their own on commercial rock radio, including "Lazer Life," the likely first single. Other tracks include "Set Fire to the Face on Fire," "Lift the Veil, Kiss the Tank," "We Ride Skeletal Lightning," "Street Wars, Exotic Foxholes," and "You're the Dream, Unicorn!," which he added is "one of the more spastic, chaotic numbers."
"Of all our albums, this is the most accessible to the average music listener," he said, adding that the band doesn't consider this the make-it-or-break-it record. "We started this band when we were 16 years old just to have fun, and we won't stop being a band unless it stops being fun."