A few months back, my father’s old band from the 1970s was mentioned in Rolling Stone. A song from The Brazda Brothers (1973) -- a kind of Beach Boys meets the German psychedelic garage band Can, but made in Canada by Eastern Europeans -- was listed by the psychedelic hipster band MGMT as one of their top ten. They ranked it just above the Rolling Stones’ The Lantern and just after the Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray. Not too shabby, old man.
I grabbed a copy of the record (now re-issued) and studied the black-and-white photograph on the back. It shows my father (much younger than I am today), his brother and his other bandmates, hanging out in some dark, Canadian basement, instruments at the ready: a kind of gang. I think about my own relationship with music and art. I’ve been recording music and pressing 7-inch records as a kind of parallel pursuit to my gallery-based work for years now -- I recently recorded and pressed a single with artist Aïda Ruilova that featured a cover photograph of us by Raymond Pettibon, no slouch in the artist-as-musician department himself. And although computer and studio recording has its merits, it’s devoid of the visceral, messy riskiness of playing live music with friends (an experience that I relished as a teen). Not much compares to those first few times that a band gets together to practice, when songs, both brilliant and terrible, evolve as if out of thin air. It all feels (at the risk of sounding overly romantic) very pure.
The pressures of an art career have a way of sucking the spontaneity (and life) out of art making. At least they do for me -- which means that I’m always on the lookout for new ways to derail my career. (This has been remarkably easy.) So I have decided to get back into the proverbial garage, as it were. I’ve recruited a couple of friends with an affinity for both art and music to join me in a time-honored New York tradition: the starting of an art band. And even though a New York City summer is hot, and sticky, and dirty, it still may be the best time to crowd into a sealed-off midtown rehearsal studio, drink cold beer and make earsplitting, visceral, sweaty art with some like-minded friends.
How "far" the band "goes" is mostly irrelevant. We are not interested in a recording contract (although we might reconsider, Ecstatic Peace are you reading this?), or for that matter, of even in playing in front of an audience (we have already played four secret, no-audience shows at a windowless midtown space, which we rent by the hour).
Our singer Ruby Aldridge has recorded 12 hours of our live audio so far (mostly on her iPhone), and won’t tell even her father (the illustrator Alan Aldridge of Chelsea Girls poster fame and onetime “Royal Master of Images” to John Lennon) the name of our band. I can divulge only this much; there are three x’s in its spelling.
Our drummer, artist Shawn Kuruneru, is actually a guitar player, but you’d never know it by the way he destroys the snare and high hat. He is a kind of young Walter de Maria (who managed to keep time for bands like the Primitives, precursors to the Velvet Underground, long before making his neo-primitive artwork The New York Earth Room). And my reverb-laden, pick-style bass playing is sufficient to lock it all together. I can hardly think of a better way for an artist to waste a long, hot summer in the city.
BOZIDAR BRAZDA is an artist, writer and musician.