“Once We Started Playing, The Whole Place Turned Around”
An Interview with Jersey City band Crazy & the Brains
Not many rock bands feature an xylophone on stage amongst the guitars, amp stacks and drums. Well, of course Bruce Springsteen does but that’s more of a background thing. The Boss uses the chime of the xylophone to give a little bit of texture underneath his band’s wall of sound. But rare is the band who puts that xylophone right up front, giving it just as much importance as those guitars, stacks and drums.
Crazy & The Brains are a four piece xylophonic punk rock band from Jersey City who I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with last summer when they shared some dates with my own band as we all partied across the midwest. Packed loosely into some sort of former city van (which I believe they’ve since sold), Crazy & The Brains are one part travelling rock and roll freakshow, one part incredibly sincere and supportive dudes, and one part totally sick rock band with tunes for days. They’re the rarest breed of band who successfully blend kitsch, skill, sound, fun and songs in such a way that you can just as easily put on a Crazy & The Brains record as background music as you can drop it on your headphones and get completely and absolutely wrapped up in their tunes. Mixing the size and scope of Spector-esque hooks, the nasally skater punk-next-door vocals of Atom and His Package, get in the van Op Ivy-level punk rock ethos and insanely danceable first wave rock and roll rhythms, these cats deserve all the accolades they’ve already earned and so much more, which I’m sure is yet to come.
Check the interview below.
How long have you guys been making music together as Crazy & The Brains?
Jeff and I (Chris) started Crazy & The Brains about 4 years ago Brett and Lawrence joined 2 years ago.
Explain to me how you got this group together?
I started to write songs. I wanted more instruments and more people involved. I only knew one other musician who also happened to be my best friend. He met 2 more musicians and now here we are!
Explain the band name to me.
I made songs and wanted to share them on the Internet and needed to call it something in order to do that. Crazy & The Brains was the first thing that came to my head. Once we started playing in the anti-folk scene people started calling me “Crazy” and Jeff “The Brains” but that’s not really what I intended. I guess it describes us pretty well, so that’s cool…I didn’t really intend for that to happen either. I guess the name made itself up.
How many records have you guys put out?
2 EP’s of acoustic songs, a full band ep “ Don’t Need No Snacks” a 7” “On The Otherside” and our first full length record “Let Me Go“
Has anyone ever played in any other notable bands?
Haha notable to the Meatlocker scene in NJ. Jeff and I were in a punk band called The Rilladiks that played at the then DIY punk spot -The Meatlocker every weekend. That place was packed with 100 kids every single night. it was a byob, all ages, shit show and so much fun. I don’t think it’s like that anymore. We stopped going there once that band broke up and people were bummed. One girl cried so i guess you could say were notable.
What are you guys working on now? Anything in the pipeline we should know about?
A new EP titled “Good Lord” all the songs are done we will record it when we come back from tour in July!
Without naming any other bands, describe your sound to me?
The energy, ambition and creativity of the punk movement mixed with my life experience and shit that happens to me, things I make happen and how I see things, is what makes us sound how we sound I think. All 4 of us came up loving the rawness of early punk and rock and roll and we all have our own separate personal influences that we sprinkle in there too. Whether its hip-hop, or classical music or stand up comedy. Our sound is just us. You can’t over analyze it too much. We are just tryna do something NEW.
Ok now who are three bands people say you sound like?
I always hear The Modern Lovers, The Violent Femmes and The Black Lips. I don’t necessarily agree but i like all those bands so I don’t mind!
Who are you favorite local artists?
Toby Goodshank, Pizza Underground, Kung Fu Crimewave, LIttle Cobweb,The Disconnects, Wyldlife, Candy Boys, Verbal Phantom, Nizz Sentine, PISS MOBB. Check out all of them!
What’s been the best show you’ve played? What’s been the worst (you don’t have to name names on this one…)?
Every show is our best show! One of my fav shows was in a squat house in Oakland. There were about 200 kids there and they HATED us the second we walked in. They hated on us for being from NJ and double hated on us because we were coming from another show we just played earlier in the night on the other side of Oakland. Apparently there was some kinda rivalry going on. Once we started playing the whole place turned around. Everyone started dancing, mosh pits were going, kids were singing along. it was amazing. We ended up making some great friends and chilling with with these kids all night. Worst show? I don’t know. I don’t consider any show bad. When we were just starting out Jeff and I played to literally no one once. Even the girl running sound went outside while we played. Haha we still laugh about that now. But I don’t care it made us who we are.
What happened to that bus you used to travel in?
That thing ruled. HAHA yes that thing ruled. It barely made it back to NJ. On the last stretch home from Ohio we were riding on 2 lug nuts on the back tire. so basically if that thing popped off we were all dead. Once it pulled into the driveway back home it never started again. it severed its purpose and it was awesome. RIP the Atlantic City jitney bus.
If you could collaborate with three people that you could realistically get on the phone RIGHT NOW who would they be?
Realistically? well im sure i could find Mick Jones or Paul Siminon’s phone number on the Internet some how! HAHA. I actually have Kesha’s phone number bc i met one of her dancers on tour and she drunkenly and mistakenly gave it to me. I would like to work with her. Maybe next time i call her i will ask her about doing a song instead of pranking her. We’ve already collaborated with some cool people and i am grateful for that. I def plan to collaborate with more artists. Jeffrey Lewis would be cool.
Describe the current scene to me? Where do bands play? Where do locals musicians hang? Is there a scene?
There is always a scene. There are always multiple scenes. I guess it depends on which one interests you. We tend to be more at the DIY type spots…Death By Audio, Shea Stadium, Glasslands is pretty cool. There is a new venue that just opened up in Brooklyn that a few of my friends help build called Pallisades. I suggest checking out that place for sure.
How does this area influence what do you do?
Well you cant help but be influenced by where you’re from. Being from this area taught me alot of important things and def kept me grounded. I love NYC but there are also alot of pretentious mindsets there. Coming from here def taught me alot about what NOT to do too. Its a great place to be from if you take advantage of all it has to offer and you don’t get lazy and complacent like i see alot of people do. When i drive over the bridge form Brooklyn back to Jersey City those are some of the times i get inspired the most.
Where do you see this area in five years?
Prob alot like the direction Brooklyn is going in right now. A lot of people dont like that but i dont think it’s a bad thing. It is what it is.
What brought you here?
Well my parents had sex, conceived a human and that human was me!
What keeps you here?
I love this area. I need to be in a city environment. I love being 7 mins from NYC but also being able to get away from it if i want to. I don’t know if i will always live exactly here but ill always have some kinda residence here to come back to, like a second home or maybe I’ll sleep in the park or something. We have some nice parks.
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