By Alex Molten
VANCOUVER — The way guitarist George Rager tells it, Neighborhood Brats got its start with a conversation he had with lead singer Jenny Angelillo at a DJ night sometime in 2009 in the Mission District of San Francisco. That conversation sounded something like this:
Rager: “Hey! You’re the girl from [the band] The Orphans!”
Rager: “We should start a band!”
Angelillo: “I’m retired….”
Rager: “No you’re not… come on.”
It was that interaction that got the two working together. But while they were a good fit for a creative relationship, finding a band name can be challenging. The two played their first show under the name Just Head, which was a reference to a Nervous Eaters song.
“We only played as that for one show because I was like ‘I am not going to be in a band called Just Head. Just no,’” laughs Angelillo about why the name got canned, “Then [we were] Roofie and the Night Stalker. When we started we were writing songs about like living in San Francisco and the sketchy shit that was going on there. Unfortunately I had gotten roofied, and we wrote a song about me getting roofied…I still can’t believe that we got away with calling the band Roofie and the Night Stalker for a couple years.”
“Neighborhood Brats is a song from British band The Boys, there is a song called ‘Neighborhood Brats’,” says Angelillo about the final name, “I was listening to The Boys at work one day and this song came on and I was like oh that’s a good band name and George was like ‘I like it’.”
The band, whose current line up is rounded out with Mike Shelbourn on drums and Dan Graziano on bass, is high energy with just the right amount of snot nose attitude. Fast and fun, it is everything punk rock should be. Rager was right to push Angelillo back up to the front of a band, she is the ultimate front person. Energetic with powerful lungs, she brings an intensity to the band that makes you want to hear more. Paired with Rager’s ripping riffs you have a recipe for a great punk group. They are worth any of the hype they have ever received and deserve more.
The Brats have been through some challenging stuff together but always seem to find their way back to each other. Their album Recovery (2014) was written and recorded despite difficult life circumstances.
“Recovery was written just by George and I. George would come over or I would go to George’s, basically it was written in my apartment in Long Beach. George would just come over and drink coffee and lay on the living room floor and [we would] bounce ideas off each other. We wrote the album not in the studio, not in the practice space, just him and I playing songs together,” recounts Angelillo. “There was a lot of really heavy shit going on for the both of us while we were doing the album. I was going through a gnarly breakup, super crazy breakup. George was going through a breakup of his own. I had just gotten clean and sober so I wasn’t partying anymore. We only practiced three times before we went into the studio. I was living in Long Beach and everybody was in Southern California and we recorded up north in Oakland and we would have to go back and forth between LA and Oakland to work on recording stuff.”
They have not only persevered through relationship break ups, moves, health problems, and the pursuit of sobriety; they actually have survived through the band breaking up. In 2015 they called it quits; everything had just gotten to be too much. Posting a farewell post on Facebook to their fans, Rager stated that while the decision was difficult the mayhem of being in a punk band had become too overwhelming.
“I had too much going on in my life to be managing a punk band that wasn’t making any money,” chuckled Rager about the reality of being in a band, “What we are dealing with is the immediate availability of anything and everything at anytime and it has repercussions on artist. You know artists by and large can’t necessarily survive in this type of environment.”
Despite the difficult environment that the music industry has become, our favourite Neighborhood Brats are back, this time with Angelillo talking Rager out of retirement. They are hitting the road again and have a lot to look forward to in the next year.
“I’m excited to write again and record a new album, definitely. And play shows, do everything that makes being in a band awesome,” says Angellilo, “It’s what I do best. It’s just, being a performing…Being a performer is what I do.”
Neighborhood Brats perform at the Astoria on March 19.BC, British Columbia, Neighborhood Brats, The Astoria