As the end of the year looms, 2015 has yet to conjure a song more infections than the one I wrote about in August 2014 by BRONCHO, “Class Historian” (Broncho’s new single: the catchiest indie rock song I’ve heard in years). Jump through the title of the article to hear it for yourself. It’s a brilliant, post-punk-inspired bauble. If anyone can find a catchier song, I invite you to share a link to it in the comment section.
Since then, the Norman, Oklahoma band has been on a long on and off tour supporting its second album, Just Enough Hip to Be Woman. It’s an energetic, smartly constructed record of 11 songs rooted in the hooks and swagger of early-‘80s post-punk that’s only 32 minutes long. You can hear the entire album for yourself on the band’s soundcloud here:
BRONCHO features guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lindsey, guitarist Ben King, bassist Penny Hill, and drummer Nathan Price. I spoke to the band’s frontman via phone ahead of BRONCHO’s first South Florida appearance opening up for The Growlers at the Culture Room. Naturally, I had to ask him about the magic behind “Class Historian,” and how he writes his music, specifically where did that long stuttering hook in “Class Historian” come from?
“When I first started playing that song, probably the very first time I played it, I came up with the idea,” he reveals. “I was thinking that that would be an instrument playing that part, but when I play by myself, I vocalize a lot of parts, and it just kind of stuck. It made more sense, so I just kept singing it rather than finding something else to play it. A lot of times stuff will happen that way, whether it be vocally or if I’m thinking about putting a part somewhere, I’d just be singing it and that, lots of times, will just turn into a verse or something.”
So words and lyrics, therefore, are a bit secondary to melody and music for Lindsey. Lindsey says they come to him from spontaneous moments of melodies popping into his head. He also finds words and their structure by following the music. “Lyrically, I’ll come up with ideas through singing through songs,” he says. “There’ll be a word that makes sense with the rhythm of the song, and then I’ll try to build the rest of it off of that, and then we kind of fill the blanks during the recording, try to figure out the rest and make sense of it.”
With “Class Historian,” I made a big deal in last year’s post of Lindsey’s phrasing and how he chooses to reinvent the accents of parts of words. Particularly the way he extends the first syllable of the word “historian” and rushes the rest of it, sort of nonchalantly tossing the word off. “I think you can get away with simple stuff,” he muses. “If you mess around with the really simple things and chop ’em up, I think, for one, it feels good rhythmically, and it adds a little rhythm to an otherwise really simple part. I think mixing that in as much as possible feels better to me. It’s more something I would want to sing and more something I would want to hear.”
When it comes to finding the words, he credits guitarist Ben King for helping out. “I’ll basically bring a chunk of ideas that I have, and on the last record Ben really helped me fill in the gaps … he wrote a bunch of lines, too, so most of the time it’s Ben and I working on the lyrics. As far as the band goes, it’s kind of a mix, but Ben’s a great person to work with on lyrics. He’s the only guy in the band with a degree,” Lindsey adds with a laugh.
Lindsey was at a recording studio in the band’s hometown, while taking a break from touring, when we spoke. Asked if he is writing while on tour, he replies, “Kind of. It happens sometimes on tour or when I’m home. If an idea comes to me, I’ll start singing. I’ll sing it in my head for a while and sometimes play it randomly. I’ll just think about it and come up with a lot of ideas prior to playing through it, and then I’ll start playing through stuff and see what makes sense. It’s pretty casual, really. Sitting down and like really saying, ‘I need to write a song,’ it sounds really stressful to do that.”
During the band’s tour for its first album, Can’t Get Past the Lips (2011), the group mixed in several new songs that wound up on its 2014 album. Lindsey sounds a bit surprised at himself when he admits that none of BRONCHO’s new material has appeared on its current set lists. “For the last record we played a pretty good chunk of the songs live for a while,” he says. “We played ‘Kurt’ and ‘It’s On’ for a long time and then ‘Class Historian’ we played for a while before we recorded it.”
He says the band’s current tour has felt so breakneck, it has even disoriented Lindsey’s sense of time. The last album is over a year old at this point, and the touring has been unrelenting for band members. Dates recently included festival appearances at SXSW and the Firefly Music Festival in Denver, among others. “It’s been a real blur,” admits Lindsey. “Like I just ran into a friend last night, and I hadn’t seen him since January, but I thought I saw him like a month ago,” he says with a laugh, “so it’s all a blur. It’s like a dream state.”
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For PureHoney Magazine, I wrote about the band’s evolution in its sound between this record and its 2011 debut, which had a rawer, garage rock sound. Lindsey and I also spoke about the song “Deena,” another wry cut that speaks to the band’s post-punk influence. He was real happy to talk about that song, which you will hear and be able to download as an mp3 for a limited time when you jump through the image below. He told me, “It’s nice hearing people talk about ‘Deena’ because I don’t hear very many people bringing that song up, but that was one of my favorite songs on the record.” You can check that out by jumping through the PureHoney logo below:
BRONCHO and The Growlers are touring Florida right now. They will be in our South Florida area this Tuesday, Nov. 3. BRONCHO will play an in-store performance at Radio-Active Records in Fort Lauderdale for free (plus free pizza) at 5 p.m. that day (details). Then they warm up the stage for The Growlers at The Culture Room, whose doors open at 7 p.m. (tickets here). The tour continues northbound, the following day, in Orlando (visit the band’s website for all dates, which continue through Nov. 21 in California). Photo of BRONCHO by Rozette Rago, provided by the band.
(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)