Frequently, bands get back together with dodgy motivations or to underwhelming results. Sometimes, though, they come back stronger, more compelling and completely reinvigorated.
Following on from their 2011 break-up, UK quintet Brigade definitely fall into this latter category with their new EP, ‘This Is Not For You’.
The five-tracker is the most acerbic, riff-ridden work of their career – boasting a darker edge than previous material and a nuanced stylistic shift while retaining everything that made them great in the first place.
“I think we’ve taken what we did with Brigade and we’ve turned it up a notch,” says frontman Will Simpson. “We’ve gone bigger with the riffs, with the tuning we’ve stepped down the guitars further. There are more complex arrangements and we tried not to think about things we thought about in the past – like how songs work for radio. It’s just bigger, riskier, and more aggressive.”
To recap, Brigade were among the many British bands that broke out in the noughties but never quite hit the heights their quality deserved in a weird, transitional era. Their soaring, melodic rock songs nonetheless left an indelible impression on their fans and garnered rave reviews and award nominations from the likes of Rock Sound, Kerrang! and the NME.
Across three albums – 2006’s ‘Lights’, 08’s ‘Come Morning We Fight’ and 2011’s ‘Will Be Will Be’ – they built up a back catalogue to cherish, while touring with the likes of Biffy Clyro, and signing to Roadrunner Records in Japan.
Like all good things, it was a run that came to an end seven years ago – but in the background over the intervening time, the core of the band never stopped exercising their songwriting and recording chops.
Through the post-break-up project More Dangerous Animal, Will and guitarist James Plant – flanked by fellow guitarist Mark Fisher, bassist Alex Baker and original Brigade drummer Fim – indulged the opportunity to challenge themselves and explore slightly heavier avenues.
Taking a more low-key, hobbyist approach to making music – away from day jobs that range from farming to TV production and healthcare – brought a raft of new ideas to their writing.
But it wasn’t until they recorded the songs that comprise ‘This Is Not For You’ that it felt right to re-engage activities as Brigade – coinciding with a date at this year’s Camden Rocks on the back of a reunion show in which the band’s original line-up played the majority of ‘Come Morning We Fight’ on its 10th anniversary alongside fellow Brit-rockers Slaves To Gravity.
“The whole premise of More Dangerous Animal was to get the fun back into playing again and leave the business side behind,” Will explains. “We started writing this music that was different to Brigade, recorded an EP, and put it out. But when we recorded the next EP, we were so excited about the strength and direction of the tunes, and when the reunion show came about it felt right to release it as a new start for Brigade in 2018 with a new line-up.”
From the outset of opener ‘Coexisting’, it’s abundantly apparent that ‘This Is Not For You’ isn’t an exercise in limp nostalgia. A notable shift in dynamic comes through Simpson and Plant fully sharing vocal duties, helping to bring new textures to Brigade’s sound.
“James has always had his own projects going on in which he’s the lead singer, and in More Dangerous Animal he wrote a lot of the vocals,” says Will. “When we came to doing this EP, we knew people were used to having just one main vocal, but he’s always had a distinctive voice within Brigade, so we thought why not mix things up? We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”
Recorded at Treehouse Studio in Derbyshire with Jim Pinder producing and mixed by Carl Bown (who between them have worked with the likes of Shvpes, Machine Head, Fightstar and Bullet For My Valentine), ‘This Is Not For You’ brilliantly captures Brigade as a band that sound as relevant and powerful as ever.
Among its other tracks, ‘Hot Sick’’s stylistic cauldron melds together a maelstrom of ideas and dynamic shifts – wrapping up crunching riffs, eerie rock ‘n’ roll and irresistible hooks into a sub-four-minute whirlwind. The interchange between Plant and Simpson again plays a starring role in ‘Trunchbull’, which nods in parts as much to Queens of the Stone Age as it does to Brit-rock and post-hardcore contemporaries. Meanwhile, closer ‘One Day At A Time’ is equally multifarious, balancing a restrained pop sensibility throughout the verses with ceiling-shattering, reverb-drenched choruses.
And yet this isn’t a record with any underlying career ambitions; there’s been no significant promo, no radio plugging, no clamour to get reviews. Although based on a dedication note from Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel House of Leaves, the EP’s title can be taken pretty much on face value: if you like it, great; if not, no worries.
“We’re doing it for ourselves; a lot of people have expectations about what they think a band should sound like and how they should evolve, but we thought, ‘No, we’re not doing that’,” says Will. “We knew that not every Brigade fan was going to like this because it’s a bit different – it’s not going to please everybody, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But again, it doesn’t matter, so the EP title has a slight double meaning – one, in terms of having recorded it for us, and two, you’re probably gonna hate it, but fuck it, this time we don’t care!”
Minimal gigging and the aforementioned lack of proactive promotion mean these sentiments definitely ring true. But the quality of the songs captured in ‘This Is Not For You’ give a whole different meaning to the ‘fuck it’ approach to making a comeback – marking, as they do, a very welcome return from a band that don’t need the validation of our fanfare, but sure as hell deserve it.
‘This Is Not For You’ is available now across all digital channels, in addition to a new live album, ‘Live At The Leicester Charlotte’, recorded in 2006 and rescued from the vaults by Dave Simpson (no relation) of Brigade’s first label Mighty Atom.
Will Simpson – guitar, vocals
James Plant – guitar, vocals
Mark Fisher – guitar
Alex Baker – bass
Fim – drums