Deconstructing Brand New


To be a former or current Brand New fan is no longer an easy thing.

Thirteen years old. I’m at my best friend’s house. It’s a muted darkness in her living room as the curtains in the open windows shimmy back and forth and throw morphing shadows.

2:00 AM, the television low, sitting on her green sofa with the cushions that are just a little bit too stiff, The Quiet Things video appears on Fuse. It’s the first time I ever hear them. At first it’s barely audible. She’s asleep and I turn it up, but only a hair. A secret between us.

Seventeen years old. I notice that the shaggy-haired boy that walks me out of class has Limousine as his MySpace song and I feel a new jolt of similarity between us. I knew I liked this one. A mental note to bring it up on Monday morning. A little nod to the fact that there’s alignment in our personalities.

Twenty-three years old. A flurry of texts between a college friend and myself as we comb through band forums in the middle of the night. Did you see this? Did you see that? Tap, tap, tap on my iPhone. He loves the band like I love the band, and I love that we love them in the same way.

Twenty-seven years old. I’m sitting on my bed reading an article that details what it details and I’m hit with a tornado of anger and sadness all at once.

The tortured words of the songs would always emit a sadness when you pressed play, but now something strikingly different kicks its way in when “You don’t recover from a night like this” crawls through your headphones. Dammit this band meant something to people and dammit those girls were so young.

In Jesse Lacey’s apology he said he was sorry for “how often” he had not “afforded women the respect, support, or honesty that they deserved.” So I sit here wondering, yes, just how often?

I keep using the word different to contrast the Brand New of then and now. The words are now laced with darker undertones. The overall secrecy of the band in general feels more sinister, more uncomfortable. The album titles feel different. The songs feel different. The Quiet Things No One Ever Knows.

There isn’t a correct way to file these people, these bands, these songs. How do you listen without hearing a predator? How do you resist the eeriness? Or sadness? Can I separate the songs that I used to love, still have some attachment to in a complicated way, from the man who preyed on teenagers? Is it possible? Should it be?

It’s a hollow experience to know something that was so special to you was used as a tool of manipulation to coerce young girls into doing unwanted things. The words and images that people had tattooed on them for god’s sake were the same pieces of adoration that were knowingly twisted into obedience. Sadness reframes everything. Those girls said what happened to them will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Interpreting art in the time of #MeToo sometimes is a treacherous road. Even if separation comes is your enjoyment a disservice or a slap in the face to those who trusted a man in a band who had bad intentions? Is it possible to listen and not feel a ping of guilt that you’re getting pleasure from something that brought pain to other people? Can the Venn diagram ever overlap?

It’s been almost a year and quite honestly I still don’t know if I will ever be able to pierce through real life to the fictional undercurrent. I just want to believe. I just want to believe. I just want to believe in us.