Remember Cityview? They were one of those acts that mined the pop-punk/emo boy-band vein that was the proverbial flavor of the week of the mid-aughts Warped Tour lineups – think bands like New Found Glory and Simple Plan. The defunct local fourpiece paired tightly technical instrumentalism with a go-for-broke yen for hooky choruses, and they seemed poised to bring their brand of anthemic jump-in-tandem-on-the-off-beat punk to the Warped Tour and sweat it out on the Ernie Ball stage all summer long forever and ever. But then the dudes’ mid-and-late-20s hit, and the band folded nine years ago to make way for more grown-up pursuits: Most relevant to this story, singer Andrew Kelly became a father and took a break from playing music for nine years.
A similar thing happened to another popular local pop-punk band, the Adderalics. They also checked all the boxes to be a potentially huge mid-aughts pop-punk band: energetic stage show, engagingly snarky frontman, soaring singalong choruses, and brain-tingling guitarmonies. But they turned into a footnote after their singer up and departed for California, and, like their counterparts in Cityview, the other Adderalics dudes went their separate ways into adult responsibility. In particular, guitarist Ron Shafter married toward the end of the Adderalics’ run and started a family shortly thereafter.
Shafter told me he never stopped writing, and he became even more prolific in the wake of a somewhat recent divorce. He and Kelly connected at some point over the past decade, which engendered the inevitable “So when are we gonna make a band?” conversation. The pair started hanging out and writing together. Last year, they went to the Double Wide in Dallas to see Pears. While closing out their tabs at the end of the night, they ran into this dude at the bar named Andy Schreifels. In the words of both parties, they were all pretty hammered, and over the course of excited drunk-talk, Kelly mentioned he and Shafter were looking for a drummer, to which Schreifels replied, “I’m a drummer! And this is my friend Micah [Henderson], and he plays bass!”
From that chance encounter, the four dudes formed a new band, wrote some tunes, and argued over a name. They eventually agreed upon Big Useless Brain, paraphrasing a line in Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos. Since then, the band has been getting together twice a week to woodshed the 14 or 15 songs of a live set. This year, they headed into the studio to record those tunes. At present, three are out on the streaming services, having been released every month since May.
“We’d like to have a new one up every month,” Shafter said. “I think it will keep people interested.”
As bands go when their members are older, BUB’s music is more mature. Schreifels and Shafter are both divorced, and the realities of making mistakes and working on one’s problems are lyrical themes that permeate their songs like salt lines on a beloved Bad Religion shirt, sweated into permanence at some long-gone all-day punk festival. Sonically, the guys think their songs are punk “with structures like Weezer,” though to my ears, BUB’s sound is in the middle of the overlap of The Bouncing Souls and Jimmy Eat World. Not surprisingly, it’s also tight as hell, hand-crafted to dig into your brain. Like all bands profess, the members of Big Useless Brain would like to make the band their full-time gig. Whether they get lucky and/or have the logistics to make that happen remains to be seen, but their drive and their music will definitely push them in that direction, perhaps to the mid-afternoon summer festival slots they’ve always dreamed of.
Big Useless Brain
7pm Fri w/Capitalist Kids, Durango E, and Dog Company at the Ridglea Room, 6025 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. $10. 817-941-0086.