The Brian Jonestown Massacre is roaming abroad on their 38-day North American tour in support of their latest project Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees. Be sure to catch them in Los Angeles this Friday, April 22, 2022.
US 2022 Artist Bio
When Brian Jonestown Massacre released their tellingly titled debut album Methodrone in 1995, rap metal was about to push grunge off the main stages at Lollapalooza, the Britpop party was still carrying on across the Pond, and the whole world was still off their heads on cheap rave drugs. At the time some lumped BJM in with the waning shoegaze movement - but there was something much more sonically sinister and substantive about tracks like ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Wasted’.
Their visceral, often confrontational psychedelic drone rock culminated in the quite cleverly named Their Satanic Majesties Request the following year, with songs like ‘No Come Down’ and “Anemone” exhibiting the range of frontman Anton Newcombe’s considerable songwriting talent. A year later they had signed to “major” independent label TVT, and 1998’s Strung Out in Heaven shot them straight to the forefront of the indie hierarchy.
By the time they were announcing their 25th-anniversary tour in 2015, they had released fourteen albums, members had come and gone, and Newcombe had moved from San Francisco to New York and ultimately to Berlin, where he has resided with his family for a decade now - and where they memorably hosted superfan Anthony Bourdain for his eerily prophetic 2018 episode on the city.
Along the way, Newcombe established himself as a once-in-a-lifetime talent who saw the direction in which mainstream indie-rock was heading and opted to take the long way round. He’s now recognized as a revolutionary force in modern music, an underground hero who belongs in the lineage of great songwriters and music-makers such as Ray Davies, George Harrison, Howlin’ Wolf, and Ennio Morricone, artists who refined their craft and were able to hit new levels late into their careers. There was no other way, this was how it had to be. “My only option with everything in life has always been that you just jump into the fire,” he declares. “It doesn’t matter what it is.”
Now they’re coming out the other side of this long Covid crisis with an exciting new album and world tour, though Newcombe insists he doesn’t want to go on about it, “because everyone went through this, everyone stopped touring, had time on their hands, needed money, felt an existential threat…I am fortunate to have worked very hard non-stop.”
Actually, anyone who cares a whit about Brian Jonestown Massacre (and surely a few who don’t yet know they should) will be the beneficiary of that hard work, as long-player #19, Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees, is up to their with their best and most wide-ranging work. And as the title suggests, it’s informed by the need to feed “the fire inside you, which doesn’t grow on trees.” Kicking against all the fads, short attention spans, and planned obsolescence, Newcombe is continuing to, “create my own culture, which doesn’t exist unless I participate.”
That culture is in full view on the new album, the writing for which did actually commence after his recovery from the virus, enlisting drummer Uri Rennert and guitarist Hákon Aðalsteinsson as his creative accomplices. And snapping out of a month-long writer’s block, they were suddenly finishing a song a day, with a total of 70 ultimately whittled down to 10 for the final product.
“The Real” was the first of these, and it opens the album in a fittingly anthemic way, as might reflect the feeling of having survived a lethal virus, and wanting to announce to the world that survival was the only option. There are two lines that sum up its fearless spirit. “Fight the beast until it dies, raise your sword up to the sky!”, intones Newcombe as an explosion of fuzzy guitars, thrumming organs, and rolling drums collide around him.
“I’m singing to empower other people, I’m trying to give comfort and support to the listener in a very matter of fact kind of way. It’s a call to arms, the beast can be this overwhelming darkness, the dragon, dickheads. it's absolute madness... we are in for a tough ride, have no illusions.”
The album from start to finish is fueled with the heady feeling of capturing a moment – from the hot-footed country sway of “It’s About Being Free Really” to the hazy grooves of “What’s In A Name,” from the garage stomp of “Silenced” to the widescreen 60s-pop of “Wait A Minute” (2:30 To Be Exact), everything was conjured up by where an instrument took Newcombe when he picked it up.
“I could sit at the piano, the organ, any instrument, and get an idea all of a sudden. I would play for one second with the band to get a grasp of the idea, and then we would unplug the amps and put on the headphones, plug in and track it. Then I would go, 'guys leave the room', sing the words in my head, and then record them. Everything's off the top of my head, just like one-take Jake. I surprised myself.”
But if you’re BJM, the songs almost don’t properly exist until they’re presented to an audience. And so the current lineup of Hallberg Daði Hallbergsson on bass, Adalsteinsson and Enrique Maymi on guitar, Rennert on drums, Joel Gion on tambourine, and Ryan Carlson on keyboards will take the stage at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer for the first show of a 38-date North American tour that takes them to Boston, Montreal, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Austin, Nashville and everywhere in between, before they wrap up at DC’s Black Cat on May 11.
“For me, live is where it lives or dies,” Newcombe insists. “So, for me to get the chance at my age to go off on another world tour for two years and play bigger places, grand theaters, and be at the top of my game, it's an honor as well as a challenge. We are very excited.”
So what does he hope people will take away from engaging with Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees?
“I want them to enjoy it. I hope some people are inspired. I hope I hold up a torch so others might see in the future, and know you can stay real and relevant.”
Stay Tuned and be prepared for the remainder of their tour, "The Real" is the real deal.