By J.J. Powell
BRONCHO is perhaps best known as the band behind “Class Historian,” a diabolically catchy rock song with a haunted melodic stutter as its vocal refrain. It showed up in a few television shows, commercials and films, and demonstrated the band’s ability to write an indie hit. But what’s most interesting about this group is their willingness to dodge formulas and roll the dice with every release.
“Yeah the one plan usually, is that we don’t have a plan,” explains Ryan Lindsey. He’s BRONCHO’s affable front-guy, currently in a car bound for Tulsa, Oklahoma, where most of the band reside. “See what happens, that’s the way it’s always been. Who knows though, we could get really organized, start really doing it right, start making plans.”
Can’t Get Past the Lips, BRONCHO’s 2011 debut, was a bratty assault of art-scuffed punk, with an array of influences from Wire to Stiff Little Fingers to the Beach Boys. Those schizophrenic tendencies were slightly less pronounced on 2014’s Just Enough Hip to Be Woman, with nods to the Pixies and Joy Division unified by steadier, more hypnotic rhythms and trench-reverbed vocals.
Sounding like a broken Beach Boys cassette played in the gleaming darkness of a huge crystal cavern, 2016’s Double Vanity was all distortion and reverb, with no cute, catchy parallels to “Class Historian”. Further investigations revealed a melodic loveliness and structural cunning more mesmerizing with every play. Fuzzed-up guitars make thick austere shapes under watery leads, while slow-motion drums trudge noisily alongside slacker vocal hooks and sweet-heart harmonies. The band achieved a cohesion and a signature sound on this album that set it apart from their previous efforts, although Lindsey says it came together naturally. “It’s really moment to moment with our stuff, like anything could happen in any particular song, so being open to where the environment takes the song, and being open to the situation. Whoever’s in the room, be open to what they can bring to it and see which way things go.” Laughing he adds, “But it’s also being open to maybe changing that up, so, you never know.”
In 2017 BRONCHO changed things up again with an exclusive digital single called “Get in My Car.” Sounding like a bedroom demo next to the thunderous bombast of Double Vanity, it’s a gentle, muted affair, with no distortion and severely reigned-in reverb. Nevertheless, the disarming happy-sad melody and seductive refrain of
“Wanna, wanna make you feel good!” turned it into a weirdo summer anthem and prepared fans for a strange new sound.
“‘Get in My Car’ just kinda happened,” Lindsey explains. “It felt like it was a song that should come out during the summer, so we put it out real quick thinking we were going to finish our record, but we never did till maybe a year later,” he laughs. Akin to its early lead-off single, Bad Behavior seemed wildly stark upon release last summer. It’s an album built on minimalist drumbeats and guitars that rejoice in twangy rawness, absent of fuzz. “Sometimes you just make a move that makes no sense. And I like doing that.”
There’s a scene in their recent video for “Sandman/Boys Got to Go” where Lindsey hand-feeds a single cherry into the mouth of the hesitant, haunted protagonist. Asked if this gesture is symbolic of an approach or feeling within the band, Lyndsey responds in his typically kindly, cryptic manner. “Cherries just seemed to make a lot of sense. We didn’t really have to even talk about it,” he muses. “It’s probably a little portrait of our world, trying to keep as sharp a sense of humour through the dark as you can, because the dark can get pretty funny sometimes, if you know how to laugh.”
BRONCHO performs at the Fox Cabaret on February 7.