Inside An Underground Band: Brain Ape – An Organic Chit-Chat.

Brain Ape – London, England, United Kingdom.

Cover Photo: Nuri Moseinco Photography.

A little while back, I stood outside a venue to talked to an underground band and that band was London’s Brain Ape.

We initially recorded the whole interview with the intention of posting the audio in it’s entirety but in the spirit of DIY – that didn’t go so well!

We’re outside the St. James Vine Vaults in Bath, with Brain Ape. What have you just seen, and what did you think of it?

Sol: We just saw Tristan Gorman playing an acoustic show. It was badass: he got the entire crowd jumping around.

And with that lack of headroom, that was impressive.

Sol: I’m pretty sure a guy hit his head, yeah. He got knocked out.

Minky: It’s rare to see someone do Sum 41 acoustically and pull it off. But everyone was singing along. It was really good.

I’ve seen him do it with a full band, and that was just as good. But tonight was impressive.

Minky: Yeah, it was. To be fair, ‘Fat Lip’ is quite a “riffy” song. So to do that on an acoustic guitar.

He’s got some talent, that boy. I’ll give him that.

Minky: Yeah, definitely.

Right: introduce yourselves in relation to the band, then individually describe the first thing that comes to mind about you. So you are?

Minky: I am Minky, I sing in Brain Ape and pretend to play guitar, and I am allergic to bell-peppers.

Jamie: To what?

Minky: To bell-peppers. You know? Green peppers, yellow peppers, red peppers.

You can buy them in three-packs at Sainsbury’s for a quid.

Minky: Yeah, and I’m allergic to them. But I can have paprika, and I can have chilli-peppers. Only bell-peppers I’m allergic to.

Jamie: That’s made my day.

Sol: I’m Sol, I play bass, and I once cooked a meal for Minky and accidentally put bell-peppers in it. It was hilarious.

Minky: Yeah, I was like “Man, Sol that was a great meal!” and then about five minutes later I was like “aaaarrrghh”. I got stuck at your house because I couldn’t drive home.

Sol: It was pretty funny.

Jamie: I’m Jamie. I’m the drummer.

Credit: Nuri Moseinco Photography.

You’re not quite as weird as these two?

Jamie: I just make it all sound good.

Minky: Woah, you can’t take all the credit.

You’ve been a lot more active this year than in the last year. How you feeling about that?

Minky: We’ve been a lot more active on the live circuit. Last year we released our second album ‘Auslander’, so the end of 2016 and the first half of 2017 was taken up with just focusing on finishing it and getting it to sound as good as possible. And because we’ve got our own record label (Schlimbum Records), dealing with […] all of the administration behind releasing a record “DIY”, it sort of takes its toll, and takes it’s time as well. And then around about the time we released the album, we met Jamie, and we were looking for a drummer.

So when 2018 rolled around we knew we wanted to keep the ball rolling, but in a way that was still exciting for us because we’d got sick of the whole “studio thing” and thinking about press-packs, and singles, and all that shit. So when we were offered the opportunity to play in Paris with False Heads, we jumped to it. After that we got offered quite a few shows.

Jamie: It’s kind of snowballed from there, really.

Minky: Yeah, it’s snowballed, and we’re being offered shows left and right and we’re taking as many as we can, really. It’s been so long since we’ve been a part of the live circuit that it almost feels like we never did it. It almost feels like the band has had a second coming. A sort of rebirth.

Jamie: It’s been cool, because after Paris… For me that was my first gig with you guys, but obviously we’d been rehearsing for three months prior so we were pretty tight. I was quite excited.

Minky: It was interesting because we’ve got two albums out now, and so for Jamie to come in –

It’s quite late on in the game really, isn’t it? Did you feel any pressure?

Jamie: You always do when you’re not the original drummer, because you have to learn someone else’s parts and you’ve got to learn two albums’ worth of material. I was like “What do you want to play for live sets?” and then Minky was like “There’re a few songs on the first album that I really want to do.”. Went back, listened to them, and then we just brushed them up in rehearsals. A lot of the ones off the first album I’ve actually grown to love.

You like ‘Rig It’, don’t you? I remember you telling me.

Jamie: Yeah, I really like ‘Rig It’.

Sol: He hated it at first.

Jamie: Yeah, I wasn’t a fan.

You’re not a Punk fan, are you?

Minky: We are the world’s worst Punk band, because only one third of us actually likes Punk. I’m a fan of Black Flag, Bad Brains, and all that sort of stuff. Well… Sol, I suppose you like Bad Brains a little bit. And a bit of Black Flag.

Sol: I’m just not a massive “Punk-head”. I’ve always been more of a Stoner/Grunge type of person.

Jamie: Same.

Queens Of The Stone Age?

Sol: Definitely.

Jamie: The Melvins. Are they Punk? I like the Melvins.

The Melvins were that kind of hybrid punky-grungy-sludgy-doomy thing that happened in the 80’s.

Sol: Proto-grunge.

Minky: I love the Melvins.

Sol: The Melvins are cool.

I came to see you at a gig in London at The Water Rats, and I found it really interesting because Minky and Sol you’ve been in the band since the very beginning, but you had Dydy Haynes who played guitar on your first album come all the way from Norway just to watch the show and he was watching very keenly, I could see it in his face that he was happy, and then you had Jacob Powell –

Minky: Jacob, yeah, who drummed on ‘Auslander’.

And he was watching you and smiling. I was watching three generations of a band… and yet everyone got on.

Jamie: Jacob was really encouraging, actually. That show, I was a little bit –

Sol: Intimidated?

Jamie: Yeah, a little bit.

You were quite quiet before the show, from what I remember.

Jamie: A little bit, and then afterwards Jacob was like “Dude, you’ve done the parts justice. It sounded so good live!”, and for me that’s great. Obviously, he’s the guy who played on the album, and I said to him “I’m learning your parts. The parts are sick! I really like the drumming, and it’s been fun learning them.”. Me and him kinda got on, it wasn’t awkward at all.

Minky: Like meeting the ex-girlfriend when you’re dating someone else.

Good analogy.

Sol: ‘Hi.’

Minky: “Does he still snore?”

Sol: “Oh no! Don’t get along! Don’t get along! Come on!”

Jamie: I thought he was going to be looking at me, but it wasn’t that kind of looking with jealousy. It was more like “he’s actually appreciating the music”.

He was stood next to me. I remember I had Dydy on one side, and Jacob on the other, and I do remember them looking very pleased.

Jamie: And for me that’s the best feeling, really. Because I don’t want it to be the other way. Resentful… It’s good that he was supportive and really encouraging, because that really helped me. It kinda made me comfortable that he’s not harbouring any grudges or anything.

Minky: It was weird having Dydy there as well because obviously he was on the first album, and the first album was written with two guitars. And so when we were with Jamie in the rehearsal space, and we were like “okay, we’re going to bring back some songs from the first record”, I had to rewrite a fair amount of parts to make them work as one guitar player. And so it was interesting for Dydy to come along and watch a hybrid of his parts and my parts, sort of put together. I mean there are certain songs that we haven’t yet worked out, but Jamie will tell you that we’re always in the rehearsal space.

Jamie: Always…

Minky: Always…

Credit: Julian Newton Photography.

So tonight’s bill. You’ve got Tristan on first, doing acoustic Punk and Pop-Punk covers, and then I believe Xadium are the second band that are on who are a heavy, kind of a Progressive Hardcore/Post-Hardcore dynamic, and then yourselves, and then you’ve got another (very loud) Punk band (Deadnettle) on afterwards. How do you feel in relation to this bill?

Minky: What’s great about this sort of music is that you don’t necessarily have to be playing the same sort of stuff between bands to have a bill that works. You can have Skate Punk, with Hardcore Punk, with Stoner on the same bill. All of it comes from the same sort of place even if it doesn’t sound exactly the same. I think bands appreciate that sort of thing. You get along and appreciate what someone else is doing, even if it’s not exactly how you’re doing it.

Jamie: Personally, I’m not a massive fan of punk but I appreciate the musicality of it and I like watching other punk bands. I wouldn’t sit and listen to Punk ever –

The live setting, you appreciate the energy perhaps?

Jamie: Yeah, it’s energetic and there’s stuff going on. I think the reason we work so well as a band is that we all have bands in common. I’m a big Queens Of The Stone Age fan, a big Foo Fighters fan. I’m into odd time signatures as well, like a lot of Soundgarden’s stuff. Minky and Sol a little less so, but obviously the Queens stuff we really bond over. There are a few bands that we really resonate with together. Like Truckfighters as well.

Do you feel you’ve all got your own tastes but you meet in the middle and make it work?

Jamie: Yeah, I’d agree with that.

Minky: This is the tenth year that Sol and I have known each other, a realisation I came to earlier while we were getting pizza before the show, but we’ve also been in a band together for six years and it’s a long time to be in a band with someone without discovering music together. Like Truckfighters, Sol turned me on to them. I didn’t know them before hand.

Sol: I made us do a cover.

Minky: Yeah, we did. On our first album we covered Truckfighters. And Sol has also turned me on to Sundrifter who are fucking sick. We’ve got enough of a crossover that we can show each other bands and really appreciate each other’s musical tastes, but we are aware that there are some huge differences, too. I grew up listening to bands like Fang and Flipper, bands which Jamie and Sol would never fucking listen to.

Sol: For me growing up, it was System of Down and Queens. And Placebo, actually.

Minky: I never got behind Placebo, but System of a Down was a huge one that Sol and I bonded over. And when you look at System of a Down’s early live shows, there’s definitely an element of Punk ethos and delivery.

The sloppy energy of Punk is something that has infected every other genre of music.

Minky: We are incredibly good at sloppy energy.

I remember your soundcheck in London, Sol made the room shake when he was sound-checking his bass. The room genuinley shook.

Jamie: Minky was trying to eat fish and chips at the time.

Minky: He made my fish dance across the table.

Sol: I like to play sub-bass. It’s what I do.

Jamie: Better than Minky who’s just like “SMASH! SMASH SMASH!”.

Credit: Julian Newton Photography.

Think of the most abstract, ridiculous way you could describe Brain Ape’s sound.

Minky: When we first started the band we were making these little flyers with our biography on it, and when you’ve just started a band and you’ve not yet done anything it’s difficult to write about yourself so we ended up coming up with this weird analogy where the Melvins were uncles to Mudhoney, and Mudhoney were being babysat by the Butthole Surfers and that’s why our first album sounded the way it did.

Do the same for ‘Auslander’ now.

Minky: Well we’ve always said that ‘Auslander’ was Brain Ape trying to be Queens Of The Stone Age if Bowie were fronting them. And then literally two days after we released the album, Queens Of The Stone Age bring out an album where it sounds like David Bowie had a lot of influence over it. We were like “Fuck, man. They’ve just outdone us.”. ‘Domesticated Animals’ [from QOTSA’s latest album] has Bowie all over it. We weren’t happy.

On the subject of releases, what’s next for Brain Ape? A single and a b-side? An EP? An album?

Minky: We’ve got some stuff cooking, but we tend to simmer away all the time. We get close to doing stuff, but we want to make sure that everything we do is done properly. A lot of the time we decide we’re not yet ready to make anything worthwhile, and we want to make sure that everything we do has purpose.

Sol: Redacted.

Minky: Sorry, Sol. Let me rephrase that. “We’ve got some stuff simmering, but we’ve still got the top on the pot”?

Sol: What?…

Minky: You know? When you boil water.

Sol: To simmer.

Minky: I’ve already said the simmering bit, you nut. When you’re boiling water and you’ve got the top of the saucepan on the pot before you let all the steam out.

Sol: I think that’s called “having the top on the pot”.

Minky: That’s what I’ve just said!

Who’s driving you back to London after the show?

Minky: I’m driving. I do all the driving.

Sol: So Jamie and I are going to have Jägerbombs after the show.

Does this mean you’ll be going home with really bad 90’s club music blasting from the speakers while Minky hates his life?

Sol: I’m not allowed to touch the car stereo anymore.

Minky: Sol almost made us crash on the way here today.

Why? What happened?

Jamie: We had some Alice in Chains at a reasonably good volume while we were driving to Bath, and Minky and I were just having a chat –

Minky: And I was watching this lorry coming up in my rearview mirror, trying to overtake us, so I was trying to make sure everything was as safe as it could be because I’ve got three lives in this car and I want to get to the show tonight in one piece. All of a sudden, I get Layne Staley scream down my fucking ear.

Sol: “WOULD?!”

Jamie: I literally just grabbed my ears, but Minky grabbed the steering wheel so hard –

Minky: And then we almost died. Because of Sol.

Sol: Thus, I’m no longer allowed to touch the car stereo.

Minky: He’s been officially banned.

Sol: Redacted.

Credit: Nuri Moseinco Photography.

Have you ever worked in government, Sol? You’re redacting a lot of stuff during this interview.

Minky: He can’t tell you.

Sol: Redacted.

So you’ve never played Bath before. This venue is a bit of a funny one: I’ve seen all sorts here. Punk, Hardcore, Post-Hardcore, Post-rock, Prog-Rock. And it’s tiny down there, but the sound is good.

Sol: It’s nice to have cozy venues. We played a show recently at The Unicorn in Camden, and it was nice to be able to see the bands performing.

Minky: I find that I prefer the smaller venues. When we played Paris, I was really happy to see the size of the venue because I had imagined that it was quite a big stage. But it’s a fairly small venue, which is perfect for us because if you get fifty people in a small room compared to fifty people in a large room the small room is definitely going to be the better show.

Jamie: Luxembourg was a small venue too, but people were going nuts. Moshes all around.

You recently played with Empty Friend for a second time. How was that?

Minky: That was sick. They approached us after The Water Rats actually, because they’d been cooking this EP of theirs for a while and they knew they wanted to do a release show for it. They said they wanted us on that bill, so we said yes. They held the party at the Roadtrip and the Workshop near Old Street in London.

It was a great bill because it was the right sort of people, with the right sort of bands playing, and it was a small enough venue that the crowd were slammed together anyway. Crowds in that position tend to enjoy it a lot more, which makes sense because if you’re stood there and the next person is twenty feet away it’s not a very enjoyable evening.

Having witnessed that at gigs I’ve been to in the past, it doesn’t matter how good the bands are: if the next crowd member is miles away from you, there’s no atmosphere.

Jamie: It helps that Empty Friend are really cool guys, but more importantly they like our music and we like theirs. There’s a mutual respect. There’s a friendship between bands, and I think they were looking for that for their release show.

Sol: Everyone in London at the moment is trying to build up a scene, and having a band like Empty Friend in that scene is cool. Although they’re a lot more stoner than we are, we’re a little bit cross-genre and we’ve now got a wealth of material to play with having released two albums so we can tailor a show to fit the bill. If we were to play with Empty Friend again, we’d play a lot of our heavier material. If we’re building up towards a Punk show, we have the Punk tracks to throw into our set.

Well you’re on stage in a few minutes. Have you tailored tonight’s set? Or are you going to surprise us?

Minky: We’ll probably surprise you because there’s some stuff that you’ve not seen us do before. But we’re kind of like that as a band. We keep things to ourselves until we actually do it. We prefer having people just find out whilst they’re there. Having said that, when playing small venues people usually have a look at the setlist on the floor before we start playing.

I promise to stand further away tonight.

Minky: We do feel comfortable switching songs around in the set just before the show though, and we tend to do that quite a bit to keep things feeling fresh, spontaneous, and to keep the crowd on their toes. Maybe we’ll start taking fan requests whilst on stage.

Sol: Redacted.


Founder of Ear Nutrition, Matt is sadly over 30 and first cut his words writing for the now defunct site, Musically Fresh. He enjoys a variety of guitar-driven music but can usually be found navigating a web of Skate Punk, Hardcore and everything in between.