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Nick Goode’s Brain F≠ and Joint Damage lead pack of QC punks

by Bryan Reed

Nick Goode’s Brain F≠ and Joint Damage lead pack of QC punks

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Picture by Brain F≠

August 27, 2011

“I lived in Raleigh every weekend for, like, two years,” Nick Goode said. “There wasn’t a lot going on three or four years ago here, in the way of raw punk.”

He and his then-roommate Seth Beard traveled to the capital to see hardcore bands Government Warning and Cross Laws. These shows turned out to be something of a revelation. In 2007, Guitarist Goode and drummer Beard formed their own hardcore band, Logic Problem, with Cross Laws bassist Daniel Lupton and vocalist Cameron Craig. But sometime during Goode’s commutes to and from Raleigh, Charlotte started growing its own punk scene. Bands like Obstruction and Lowbrow, Grids and Meth Mountain formed, played out, recorded and broke up. Logic Problem did likewise.

After Logic Problem had been dormant for about a month, “I needed something to do,” Goode said. He started writing songs with his housemates, Bobby Michaud (also of Grids) and Elise Anderson, and bassist Eddie Schneider (also of Yardwork) in the fall of 2009. The quartet christened itself Brain Flannel, and set to work filling the void in Charlotte between frantic hardcore and hooky, jittery garage rock.

Six months later, Goode linked with Yardwork frontman Thomas Berkau and started writing “super-catchy garage stuff,” he said, under the name Joint Damage. That band evolved quickly into agitated, noisy hardcore with the addition of drummer Michael Houseman (also of Great Architect).

And Logic Problem started playing shows again, too. “It’s not as time-intensive as you’d think it would be,” Goode said. “It’s what I enjoy doing. It’s not really a conscious decision; it’s just what I’d rather be doing.”

Goode’s hobbies have turned into notable entities of their own. Brain F≠ dropped the “lannel” sometime after the early 2010 release of their Statuestory Tapes-released demo cassette, and before releasing two 7” singles (via England’s Static Shock Records and Virginia’s Grave Mistake Records) of foaming-at-the-mouth rumble. This was a band with a clear vision on its earliest output. The vision was recognized, for one, by Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival, which booked the band for the September festival that also included legendary acts like Swans, Rhys Chatham, and The Flaming Lips.

But the singles aren’t an adequate preparation for Sleep Rough, Brain F≠’s full length debut, which will see a July release via Sorry State and Grave Mistake. There, the band’s four members have honed their strengths. Michaud is a powerhouse drummer who doesn’t sacrifice agility for brute force. Schneider runs tumbling bass lines that tug the band off its axis, keeping it from falling into straight-line punk. Anderson’s vocals - often compared, reductively, to Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon - have progressed beyond the dry deadpan of early songs and revealed a knack for counter-intuitive melody that the band can call its own.

“She killed it from the first second,” Goode said. “She has such a unique way of singing, especially for stuff like this.”

Reviews of Brain F≠’s singles zeroed in on Anderson’s and Goode’s vocal counterpoint, citing the Dangerhouse Records label and its roster of early (often female-fronted) West Coast punk bands like X, The Bags, and The Avengers. But, even if understandable - Goode and Anderson do have a bit of the John Doe-and-Exene dynamic - Goode says the references aren’t totally on-point.

“It’s not like we’re trying to play Dangerhouse-y kind of stuff,” he said. “We like that, but it’s a little bit more ominous, a little bit more threatening.”

Indeed, the muscular rhythm section backing Sleep Rough puts to shame the comparatively thin sound of most late-1970s punk. Goode doesn’t shy from clanging dissonance or fits of feedback. This wouldn’t exist without the influence of hardcore, which injects the sound with urgency and volume.

“You could probably swap out songs between Joint Damage and Brain Flannel and it would work,” Goode said. “I think Elise singing over any song I write would be cool and make it sound like Brain Flannel.”

The singers’ close collaboration on their intertwining vocal parts is also one extra step in making a Brain F≠ song stand apart from those of Goode’s other bands.

Usually, though, keeping things separate isn’t a hassle.

“Things I don’t think I’m very conscious of - certain rhythms or certain styles - are just more easy in one sort of band,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever written a song for one band and used it a different way. It’s not something you have to focus on to keep separate, it just works out.”

Joint Damage offers a more direct approach and a heavier, faster attack than Brain F≠. Even as it leans toward the anxious energy of garage, the trio finds its groove in the relentless drumming of Michael Houseman (which summarily demolishes any jazz-drummer typecasts).

“Houseman propels things like John Bonham does, but it’s still punk too. It’s just so powerful and driving,” Goode said. 

And without a second vocalist to take some of the pressure off, Goode’s arrangements - driven by his own multi-tasking limitations -  keep Joint Damage songs rolling forward like a mudslide, even as Berkau carves plenty of space with his bass lines.

The band’s debut, a five-song demo cassette called Nunca Mas - a blown-out spree of infectious invective - sold out its initial pressing of 100 tapes, but Joint Damage is preparing a full-length of its own for an imminent self-release on cassette and hopefully on vinyl this fall. (They’ve since posted Nunca Mas as a free download.)

The timing works, too, as Brain F≠ enters a period of hiatus after September’s Hopscotch appearance.

“Elise is moving to New York City, and I think Eddie might be moving right after that,” Goode said. “We probably won’t play Charlotte much at all in the future, but we’ll still be playing out of town and stuff.”

“Both bands will tour a fair bit next year. It’s something we all really want to do. Especially with Brain Flannel being on hiatus, we’ll be itching for some quality time playing together,” Goode said.

No matter how far his bands might roam though, Goode has left an impact on Charlotte, much the way Raleigh did for him. Today, Brain F≠ and Joint Damage both sit near the head of a pack of punk and garage bands in Charlotte, garnering choice gigs and contributing to a growing scene of raw and ragged sounds emanating from the Queen City. Indeed, it wasn’t altogether surprising to find the mp3 version of Sleep Rough Goode sent me for this story had been tagged “Charlotte,” as its genre.

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Tags: Brain F≠, Joint Damage, punk, garage, band, music

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