Married to the music
Ask any musician what it is like to share a cramped van, a tiny stage or a sweaty practice room with the rest of his band mates for weeks at a time, and he will inevitably blurt out one word: marriage. So when drummer Chris Diez and singer Daphne Vandervalk first began their collaboration, it was only appropriate that they did so by reciting vows and slipping rings on each other’s fingers. The only irony is that it took several years of marriage before the couple decided to conceive their bouncing baby brainchild — an energetic, hyperactive, four-piece, rock and roll bundle of joy they named Brainspoon. Now, nearly 14 years since its inception, Brainspoon has worked its way through the necessary growing pains of sexist stigmas, a dramatically changing musical landscape and a fluctuating cast of characters, to find itself older and wiser, but otherwise unscathed — a truth which Diez attributes to the band’s simple yet unwavering philosophy: “We just want to write and play good rock and roll.” Their latest effort, the 12-song No Damage, serves as proof that Brainspoon does just that.
Hear me roar
To the uninitiated, Brainspoon may appear as just another post-punk, four-chord excuse to throw pretty girls on stage and pad some promoter’s pocket with the inevitable ticket sales. Those preconceptions are soon silenced, however, by the fret-fondling fingers of guitarist Michelle Balderrama. “The fact that she is a female shouldn’t even enter into the conversation,” says Diez. “She’s an amazing guitar player, period.” Toss in Vandervalk’s well-honed voice, and there’s nothing left to do but raise your fist in the air, bang your head, and watch the skeptics scatter. Known for their high-energy, hair-flying, scissor-kicking live shows, Brainspoon prides itself on being a full-fledged, no-holds-barred, rock and roll experience — an experience which has been known to find Vandervalk lying on the stage floor strumming Balderrama’s guitar. “We like to put on an energetic show. We are going full-throttle all the time,” says Diez. Adding yet another layer to the band’s overall appeal is the back-and-forth vocal element that seems one part ballet and another part cage fight, as Vandervalk and Balderrama trade and share mic time. Yet while the ladies unquestionably front the band, it is the unsung and non-singing half of Brainspoon, the aforementioned Diez and former Earwigs bassist Tom Underhill, who skillfully lay the rhythmic foundation upon which everything else is built.
Peeling the layers
To say that Brainspoon is a band of layers is not to imply that they are in any way complicated. Grab a copy of No Damage and you will be treated to a lyrical depth that you will likely not catch if you see the band live; skip them live and you will miss the intensity and musicality behind those songs. With bouncier favorites like “Bleeding Black and White” sharing space with the slightly more cerebral, “Got To Give,” Brainspoon walks the fine line between commercial catchiness and gritty emotion with a skilled hand. Now armed with a set list comprised almost entirely of new material, Brainspoon has its sights set on the recording studio, with a video for a yet-to-be-named tune and a potential tour to follow soon after the release of that effort.