If you want to see the punk resurgence in action, “Brain Ape: Live at the Unicorn,” is the perfect place to start. The London-based scratch rock band Brain Ape puts it all out there when they are on stage.
The half-hour long live performance was recorded by Galina Rin, Nuri Moseinco, and the venue itself during July of 2018 in Camden, England. The trio of Minky Très-vain (guitar), Sol Albret (bass) and Jamie Steenbergen (drums) puts on a fast-paced, energetic, electric and raw performance.
Brain Ape was only aware the filming would take place the day of the show. The audio/video mix is seamless, and the sound blends perfectly. It is a joy to watch and will make you want to be in the audience for their next show.
The band is very excited to release “Brain Ape: Live at the Unicorn,” on Dec. 13, and will be having a special show that night at The Dublin Castle in Camden. As well as being a standalone DVD release, the video will be available as part of merchandise bundles on Schlimbum Records’ website, and will be for sale at various merchandise booths during the Brain Ape’s upcoming tours.
Some observations about the video:
“Brain Ape: Live at the Unicorn” (30 minutes)
“Blood Blister” — A sonic fireball, crunchy, meaty bass lines, equal parts punk and grungy rock.
“The Quick Brown Dog Jumps Over the Lazy Brown Dog” — Thrashy and a bit trippy.
“Give Me My P45” — Very melodic and bouncy.
“Stop Sulking” — Appropriately moody and punky.
“Das Krokodil Will Barfuß Sein” — Very bouncy and punky with a great drumline and crazy energy.
In anticipation of the release, Minky and I sat down and had a chat about the performance that includes many Brain Ape standards from “Auslander.” At the time we talked, Brain Ape had made a quick trip to New York City and was knee-deep in promotional interviews.
Here is our conversation:
Tell me about this really awesome live video … when/why did you decide to record and release a live show video?
Minky: The Live DVD happened somewhat by accident. We were asked to open for this great band called Ethyrfield, who as far as I understand it are being mentored by Tony Iommi, and we jumped at the opportunity. Not only did we like their band, but the show was being held at The Unicorn in Camden, which is a venue that I have been going to as a fan since my late teens. I’ve seen countless bands there, some of my all-time favourites, so to play on that same stage years later was a little surreal.
The thing is, we didn’t go into the show knowing that it would become a DVD. We treated this show like we do all others, and it was only after the set that we were approached by those who had recorded it asking us whether we would be interested in getting the recordings from them. After that, it all just came together by itself really.
Initially we thought we would just be using the footage for internal uses and maybe wack a few of the tunes up on YouTube or something, but when we got the first edit back and sat down as a band to watch it we felt that it would be a waste not to release the whole thing. So six months later here we are releasing our first Live DVD, which isn’t something I ever thought I would say.
Sol summed it up perfectly in an interview we did a few days ago. I’m paraphrasing terribly here, but he spoke of the DVD as a “snapshot into the history of the band.” Our sets are quite chaotic, and really quite spontaneous, so no two shows are ever the same. So the show at The Unicorn was a once in a lifetime thing for us, and now we’ve got that documented.
What’s also really important for us is that we have quite a few fans abroad now, in places like Scandinavia, Australia, the Americas, and we’re not at the level where we can travel to those places to play shows for those people. So this DVD lets those people be one step closer to seeing us live. Watching the live footage in your living room isn’t quite the same as being in a sweaty club with us shouting directly into your faces, but it’s a start and we’re really hoping that the DVD serves that purpose too.
That is amazing how it happened. The quality is fantastic too. It looks as if you planned it that way. You change your set list up each time according to what you feel in the mood to play?
Minky: We tend to tailor a set list depending on the show. With two albums out, we’ve got plenty of material to choose from. So, if we’re playing a show with other punk bands, we can throw in our punk tunes. If we’re playing a show with other bands who are a little more chilled out, we’ve got the repertoire to fit in with that too.
On the night of the Unicorn show, we were particularly excited to play a lot of our more popular tracks, as it was a hometown show and we knew there would be certain people in the crowd who dig “Auslander” a lot, but we ended up straying from our initial set list slightly by chucking in “Respect Your Icons” half way through the show. We’ve played together so much as a three piece that when I launched into the opening riff of “Icons,” Jamie and Sol were able to jump into the tune alongside me with no issues. They gave me a bit of flack for doing that again after the show, but all’s well that ends well.
It is great that you are so attuned to each other that you can change on a dime. Do you spend much time practicing these days?
Minky: We’re forever practicing. I drive the others nuts with it. When I was a kid, I read somewhere that if you want your band to be of any worth then you need to practice three or four times a week and I kind of took that to heart. I’m never 100 percent satisfied. I always think the band can be better.
You probably dream about being on stage while sleeping …
Minky: It’s funny, because I do actually. Usually the dream is really long and is all about traveling to the show, sound check, the meal before the show, and then watching the warm up acts. And then just as I feel like our time slot is taking forever to arrive, it’s our turn and I walk on stage, only to wake up just before I hit the first note. It’s very frustrating.
The closer we get to any given tour date, the more frequent the dream becomes.
So you never actually get to play … how funny! Do you dream of big stages or ones you know?
Minky: The ones I know. I guess I’m just rehearsing in my head as well as in the rehearsal space with Jamie and Sol. Rehearsing 24/7.
That would drive me mad at some point, just like a song that gets stuck in your head on an endless loop …
Minky: It does drive me mad. It’s what makes going on tour that much more fulfilling. I finally get to hit that first note.
Do you take much down time between tours?
Minky: I don’t, personally. If I’m not on the road, I’m either working on someone else’s record, working on our own stuff, writing new material. I keep myself so busy that I’ve stopped acting, which a couple of years ago I really enjoyed doing. But Brain Ape seems to have taken over my life for now.
If anything, being on tour is my holiday. There’s less to worry about whilst on the road.
Wow, it’s a good thing you are young! I love to hear about everything you are doing — that is just amazing. I’m guessing you are a Type A person …
Minky: I wouldn’t go that far. I’m very far from being outgoing and organised. I’m just very aware of the ticking clock. I also happen to enjoy what I do. It makes it easier to get up in the morning and crack on with work. If I no longer enjoy something, I drop it. There aren’t enough minutes in my life for me to be concerned with things I don’t want to do. Which explains why my sink is always full of dirty dishes.
Well, you do have to eat and fuel your body and mind. Maybe use paper plates more often? I do applaud your ambition. You are fully focused on what you want and are working hard to make it happen.
Minky: I don’t really know how to do much else, if I’m honest. I’d say it’s less that I’m ambitious, and more that I’ve stumbled upon something that I keep coming back to. I often wonder what I’m going to do when I retire, if I make it that far.
I would think a logical step would be management or production …
Minky: I produce a fair amount of albums for other people, which I really enjoy. It lets me recharge my Brain Ape batteries and usually spurs the next set of ideas for what Brain Ape is going to do next. I also think it’s really important to learn from other people’s adventures, not just your own. So I’ve done a fair amount of that too, this year. As much as I can whilst not busy with Brain Ape.
So that’s your retirement plan sorted! It is great that it also re-stokes your fire too.
Minky: I need something to write about, and living a life outside of your own band really helps with that. Otherwise all of our albums would deal with the same subject matter, and I can’t think anything more boring.
Do you write when you travel? Does traveling inspire you?
Minky: I don’t particularly write when I travel, but traveling certainly does lend itself to new material. I tent to reflect more when I get home, and after two albums with Brain Ape of writing about myself I’ve got bored of doing that.
So, this year, anything I write tends to be influenced by greater ideas than just my own self-esteem.
Which has been really refreshing for me, and I’m sure when it eventually makes its way into new releases for the band it’ll also be really refreshing for listeners. The one thing that’s always baffled me about people who like our band is why they want to listen to me complain about my own life. But I suppose it’s relatable to a certain extent.
What is the DVD distribution? How do we get it? Will it only work in UK machines?
Minky: The DVD will be available from our record company’s website and international shipping will be available, and as far as I’m aware isn’t region locked, so as long as you have a DVD player or optical drive that’s capable of reading DVDs, then you’ll be able to watch the show.
The whole package will be available for pre-ordering on Nov. 22, so keep an eye on our social media pages for information about that closer to the date.
You can find Brain Ape on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BrainApeMusic/ , on Twitter at @BrainApeMusic and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrhOJF4adUGVnqgL04gdDLg .