There is a unique movement going on in music if you choose to listen. Grunge and punk bands from the past are influencing young bands of the future and one of them is Brain Ape.
Minky Très-vain and Sol Albret of the London area, are creating wonderfully nuanced music that evokes an earlier time, but adds a forward spin, making it unique unto itself. Several months ago, along with drummer Jacob Powell, the group released “Auslander,” an album that blends grunge and punk tones successfully.
After reviewing “Auslander” recently, (https://r8singer.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/brain-ape-is-brilliant-with-new-album-auslander/), Minky and I had a chat about the band, the album and Minky’s musical plans for the coming year. Brain Ape is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Here’s what Minky had to say …
So tell me your background … What got you started in music and when?
Minky: My background is one of moving around quite a bit when I was younger. I’ve lived in quite a few countries, but I ended up in Belgium at a fairly young age and then spent my formative years there. That’s where the music started for me. I made a friend very early on called D-D and he and I started our first band together. We called it the “oRaNGUtaNZ,” although back then we were terrible at what we did. It took a good few bands and a good couple of years before I found my way musically.
It’s incredibly cliché, and I consider the answer very boring, but the album that changed my life musically was “Nevermind.” After hearing that album, I knew exactly what type of music I wanted to make. Fast forward a decade, and I’m sat here in a band called Brain Ape.
Many musicians have been influenced by the grunge scene. It’s a shame Cobain let his demons get the better of him. Who knows what Nirvana could have done and how many more would be influenced …
Minky: I think one of the most interesting things about that band is the legacy that they’ve left behind having only made a handful of albums. I was actually having this conversation with the lads in False Heads quite recently. I think we came to the conclusion that the impact that Nirvana have had on both the American and British scene has been overall positive. I think it’s safe to say that neither Brain Ape nor False Heads would have existed without Nirvana. Or at least, they wouldn’t be what they are today.
How much has grunge influenced the British scene, that you’ve seen? Here in the US, it basically killed hair metal. The slickness replaced by soul-searching grit …
Minky: I can’t really say how it affected the British scene when it first came about, as I wasn’t there. All I know about it I’ve read in books, seen in films, or drunkenly theorised about with friends of mine. But I can say with certainty that it’s had a huge impact on the underground British scene now. Countless bands are clearly taking influence from bands of that movement. Even within my friend circle, they’re (Nirvana) a huge name. I only know one person who doesn’t like them as a band.
I think it’s almost what unites this recent London scene. We’ve all been drawn to this type of music by that common interest. It’s almost like Nirvana is our common ancestor.
Have you found any influence in the ‘70s punk movement?
Minky: The ’70s punk movement is very interesting to me now. Recently I’ve been reading a lot more about it. In fact, a good friend of mine, Gregory Hesse-Wagner who takes a lot of photos for us, loves to talk about that scene. We end up talking about it a lot during shoots we do together. But personally, it never did too much for me growing up. I was always far more interested in the American punk scene of the ’80s. Bands like Black Flag, The Bad Brains, Mission Impossible. I’ve always found the conversation between our two countries to be incredibly fascinating. It’s a constant back and forth, and I love it.
When you are songwriting, do things come easily then? Do all these influences help?
Minky: Song writing goes in waves for me. I know a lot of people who are constantly writing, but I can’t do that. I’ll have periods where I’m highly productive and I’ll write almost too much material and then work on that repertoire for about a year before showing anyone. Then I tend to take it to people I trust, and about a year later, we end up putting the finished product out. But I tend to burn myself out musically after I’ve just finished an album. It takes a while to get back into it. In the meantime, I do other things, like produce or guest on other people’s albums, and I do some acting too which really helps keep things interesting while I’m not writing music.
What I write draws heavily on what I’m going through at the time, but when you’re busy making an album with people, that process takes over your life completely. Nothing else really happens for you, so I end up with nothing to write about, which is ironic I suppose. The cycle is healthy, I think. I’d rather give myself time to do things right and have stuff to write about, and not rush everything and end up dissatisfied with what I’ve released.
Interesting! I think your way of going about it, while slower than most, sounds like it will end more productively. You really know what you want!
Minky: Most people don’t realise how long an album takes to make. I’ve only just got over having recorded “Auslander.” That process started two years ago for me, and we were actually done recording in January this year. But that means that I’ve had almost a year already to be moody about not being able to write good songs. I’m starting to write again, and who knows what record that will end up on.
It was by far the best experience I’ve ever had recording an album. Nothing felt out-of-place, and it finally felt like we were making something worthwhile. That’s not to say that any album I’ve worked on before hasn’t been worthwhile, but there was definitely something magical about recording “Auslander.”
Was it your first recording experience?
Minky: No, I’ve been recording music for over ten years now.
Wow, how young did you start?
Minky: I received my first instrument at the age of 13. I got it for my birthday, I believe. Originally, I wanted to be a drummer, but my parents weren’t so keen on having a drum kit in the house because, “You can’t turn off a drum kit”. So, I settled for a bass guitar. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to receive something before. I remember sitting at the computer and watching “beginner bass lessons” online and just miming along to it trying to learn as much as I could before I got my hands on it.
Did you have a teacher, or just teach yourself?
Minky: I taught myself for quite a few years. I made the switch the to the guitar a year after having received that first bass guitar from my parents and I was completely obsessed with it. I couldn’t put it down. I learned how to play a power chord on day one and just kept going from there. I ended up having a teacher for a very short amount of time, but we didn’t get along very well. I wanted to learn punk and metal songs, and he was amendment on me learning my scales. Also, very cliché of me, but I ended up just learning everything by ear and figuring it out myself. Probably explains why the guitar work in Brain Ape is rather limited at times.
Punk only needs three chords …
Minky: Very true, and we’ve taken that to heart in Brain Ape.
Tell me about the name … I see a theme here …
Minky: I’d be interested where you think it comes from, actually.
Well, earlier you were primates … Man is thought to have evolved from apes … Smart apes?
Minky: You’re almost bang on.
I really like the name because everyone seems to have their own ideas where it comes from and what it means. For me, there are about three contradicting ideas bouncing against each other, all within two words. I like how abrasive it sounds, yet to me sounds rather beautiful too. But the core idea for me, when we were coming up with a name for the band, was that what we do is very instinctual: neither Sol nor I are classically trained musicians. We’re not even particularly good at what we do. It just so happens that when you put the two of us in a room together with instruments we seem to think along the same wave lengths. Genetically we’re all apes, and when you remove any conscious thought you end up just creating from instinct. That’s why our logo is a chromosome. I guess we feel like the music we make comes from our very own genetic makeup. There’s nothing we can really do about it, really.
You have this very well thought out!
Minky: Well that’s another face to the name. We may be instinctual apes, but we never do anything without putting a lot of careful thought into it too.
You and Sol are the primary band members then?
Minky: We are indeed. We’ve had a hell of a lot of drummers over the years, and for a few years we were a four-piece with Dydy Haynes joining me on guitar duties. We were a four-piece when we made our first album.
Who is your drummer now?
Minky: At the moment, we’re actually drummerless. Jacob Powell played drums on “Auslander” and he set the bar so damn high, it’s been difficult to find a suitable replacement. It’s a real shame that he wasn’t able to stay in the band, but unfortunately, he has some prior commitments that he can’t drop.
We’re currently still auditioning people to fill that slot in our family. So, if you know of anyone, do please send them our way. We’re very open to trying anyone out who feels they’d be a good fit.
So what is on tap for this coming year?
Minky: Very, very soon, quite a few of our tunes will be coming out on a compilation album put together to celebrate Schlimbum Records’ five-year anniversary. I’m not sure whether that’s coming out right at the end of 2017, or whether it’ll come out early 2018.
As far as Brain Ape is concerned, we’re putting together plans for our next single and music video. We were going to release something in October, but out of the blue “Give Me My P45” started getting a lot of airplay so we decided to let that tune do its thing before we released the next one.
Great stuff! What song for the single? Can you say? Glad I was able to help with airplay too.
Minky: Can’t thank you enough for the airplay you got us. We’re hugely appreciative of it.
In Brain Ape, we like to do things as democratically as possible. I chose the first single, so it’s Sol’s turn to choose and he’s had his eye on one particularly track since the day we wrote it. That’s all I’ll say for now.
That’s fine, a tease is nice! Are you applying to any summer festivals?
Minky: If we find the right person to hold the sticks behind us on stage, we’d absolutely love to smash next year’s festival circuit. I think there are a fair few tunes on “Auslander” that would go down well in a festival setting.
What goals do you have for the new year? A drummer and what else …
Minky: We’d really like to tour “Auslander.” Maybe even in Europe. We have quite a few contacts over there so it’s within our reach. The response to the album has been greater than anything we could have imagined, so it would be great to show more people what we’re about.
I think one of the healthy things about Brain Ape is that we’ve never really set ourselves any particularly goals other than to make music that we’re very proud of. That’s not to say we’re not ambitious at all. We were recently able to strike “US airtime” off our bucket list, and that was a very surreal feeling. We want to take our music as far as it can possibly go, but we’re not disillusioned enough to believe that we have a right to that. There are a million great bands out there doing exactly what we’re doing, and we’re just grateful that we get to share in that experience.
All it takes is getting in the right ear just one time, don’t forget!
Minky: It’s crazy how unpredictable this industry is. I know a lot of bands who really should be the biggest thing in the world, but they just aren’t. And then of course there’s a lot of tripe playing on mainstream radio in this country, and getting millions, sometimes billions, of views on YouTube.
Mainstream radio is a joke, it has been for years. And anyone can put things in YouTube …
Minky: Having said that, if anyone at the BBC happens to have got this far in the interview we’d love some airtime on Radio 2. Maybe even a live session in your studios?
Anything else you can think of?
Minky: If anyone wants to take us on tour, then we’re game. Fuck it, let’s all just tour the globe for years, sell a million records, all drink expensive drink and eat foods we can’t pronounce the names of. It says something along the lines of “Brain Ape are ready to sell out” in our press kit. Bring it on. We’re ready!
“Auslander” can be found at the following links: Bandcamp: https://brainape.bandcamp.com/releases,
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/schlimbumrecords/sets/auslander-brain-ape and YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOmkLO57ZAk .