The one time I saw Same Brain was when they opened for Son of Stan and Steve Gnash at the latter’s tape release party at the Boiled Owl. They were loud and aggressive, with shouted, incomprehensible lyrics shrouding a skeleton of musical alacrity borne on proggy arrangements and intricate, Dick Dale-ian leads – the kind of band precision that makes you think, “Whoa, where did this band come from?”
The short answer is that Same Brain originated in Azle, or at least two of its members reside there. Perhaps by design, perhaps by accident, their answers to most of my questions were often vague, and I couldn’t help but wonder if all that obfuscation was just them trying to fuck with me. Props to them for keeping me guessing, I suppose. Maybe keeping people guessing is the point of their band.
Yet for all that obtuse mystery, some facts are undeniable: They are a four-piece, and they mostly go only by first names: Dan is on bass; Josh does “yelling,” but he’s also a relentless monster on drums; and Rik is on guitar. FOGG frontman Brandon Hoffman also plays guitar – he’s a recent addition, joining Same Brain in January – but I get the feeling he would go for the first-name-only policy if nobody knew who he was already. My recollection is kind of iffy because when I saw them play I was already kinda drunk, blazed to hell, bathing in the wash of cymbals and reverb. Yes, I’m an unreliable narrator, but the impression I got from their set was that Same Brain was a psych-rock band that ventured into perception-fucking time signatures and the abstract sonic splatter that happens when you try to make guitars sound like something other than guitars. I asked them if they thought they were a psych-rock band. “What’s psych rock?” Dan replied.
Caught off-guard from having to explain lazy-writer shorthand, I struggled to find specific signifiers –– most bands are eager to claim this genre or that, but as a collective, Same Brain rejects pretty much any relevant descriptor. Josh ventured a guess with “mind-expanding,” which is accurate per what I remembered feeling while I watched them. But also, Same Brain really doesn’t sound like too many other bands in town, though Josh copped to aspirations involving “that West Coast Sound.” I made a joke about Sublime that fell on blank expressions then backpedaled by suggesting they meant a band like Thee Oh Sees. Their faces lit up, so I suppose you can say the long-running Bay Area psych-rock band has had an influence on Same Brain’s sound. Dan said they were into krautrock, and ticked off a list of German prog bands, which also jibed with what I remembered about their live set.
To me, Same Brain is a punk band, largely because they manage to defy other descriptors. Josh bristles at this, though. He thinks they get slapped with that label because they play “fast and loud,” but I don’t think their speed and volume have much to do with what makes them punk. Rather, it’s their willingness to embrace busy arrangements and long songs that warrants the description. They also cite skateboarding as an influence on their music, which is a quintessentially punk thing to say.
Because the Rangers were playing on the TVs above the back bar, I asked if they were into sports. Josh hates the culture that surrounds sports and thinks its fandom is an inauthentic way of finding connection with other people, which gave me an insight into what their band is about.
At its core, Same Brain is interested in real connections, which explains their widespread rejection of social media – though Dan, Rik, and Josh all have personal Instagram accounts, Brandon is the only one with a Facebook page. They all agree that the dissonance between how people behave in real life versus their curated online existences is frustrating and weird. Josh’s disconnect with online interaction has to do with what he says is his fear of transhumanism – the idea that humans are connecting with machinery more than they are with each other. The band seem to be perplexed by the future of the human race, or at least the future of human interaction, preferring person-to-person exchanges over the less-real engagement that occurs on one another’s phones. Maybe that’s why they seem difficult to access, even when you’re sitting at a table with them.
If you’re genuinely interested in making sense of Same Brain, the best you can do is to see them perform live. The confusion they create is what makes their music so compelling.
Sat, May 20, at 8pm w/ Gypsy Sun Revival and Maestro Maya at Spinster Records, 829 W Davis St, Dallas. Free. 972-598-0814.