HomeInterviewsHappy Mondays Interview Series: Afraid Brigade

Happy Mondays Interview Series: Afraid Brigade

Afraid Brigaid
Photo Courtesy of Afraid Brigade

So how I do pick bands to talk to every week? Sometimes the choice is super easy — I find a band I enjoy or haven’t talked to in years, or have never talked to and hit them up. Other times, well others times, it’s a leap of faith and a hope for the best.

This week I took a leap and the decision paid off massively.

The Afraid Brigade, a four-piece out of Central Jersey, is absolutely killer. Their sound, at times, reminds me of that oft-forgotten, but pretty amazing mid-00s alt rock sound that fueled stations like G-Rock Radio and 101.9 RXP. Go listen to their song ‘You Are A Ghost’ and you could have easily heard that song sandwiched between The Fratellis and The Kaiser Chiefs. Then, at other times, as you dig through their Feel the Sunshine record, I feel transported to the early 00s of introspective indie rock you’d find on the college radio dials.

Simply put, no matter the song they produce, The Afraid Brigade is a really good band, and I recommend you check them out tonight as they played the Britney on Fire-produced Happy Monday at Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ tonight. I caught up with Joe Ruff (vocals, rhythm guitar) to talk about the band’s record, its future, and their place in the Jersey scene.

The Afraid Brigade Is (Band Members & Instruments They play In): Joe Ruff (Vocals Rhythm Guitar), Tyler Boland (Lead Guitar, Keys), Zach Lander (Drums), Ben Lander (Bass).

Year We Formed In: 2014

We’re Located Out Of: Woodbridge/Colonia/Matawan/South Plainfield

Story Behind Our Name: There’s a church play called, “The Don’t Be Afraid Brigade” that I had a starring role in as a child and the name always stuck with me. It was a little too long though.

Our Sound Has Been Likened To: Oh, all kinds of things. At the end of every other show someone tells me we sound like a different band, and I go home and listen to it and I never see it. Just the other day, someone told me I sound exactly like Jeff Buckley and I MUST have been inspired by him and I had never heard a single Jeff Buckley song.

Famous/Awesome Bands We’ve Shared the Stage With: Nobody famous, but plenty of awesome. To namedrop a few: Jeff Linden, Karma Gambit, The Company Kept, A Boy Named John, Lowlight, The Burns, The Hell Yeah Babies, Foxanne, The Vaughns, We’re Ghosts Now, Joe Galluppo, ManDancing.

The band dropped its new EP earlier this year — can you talk about the theme/themes of the record?

There’s no real overall theme to the record but the title definitely has some meaning. “Feel the Sunshine” is a line in the first track, “Heaven Feels so Far.” It’s a song about how difficult it is to be happy. There’s so much garbage you have to keep out of your life in order to do so and sometimes it can feel impossible. It’s about looking into a friend or lover’s eyes and seeing an unattainable future. Seeing another world where you’ve overcome all your shortcomings and longing for that place.

How do you feel this record stands out from the rest of your original catalog?

I think it’s the most broad piece of work we’ve put out for sure. And certainly the best produced, because we didn’t do it ourselves this time. It was engineered and mixed by Connor Hanson at Lake House Studios. But the goal with the record was to push our boundaries and really grab people’s attention. So there are softer songs than we’ve ever done and then there’s moments that are louder than anything we’ve ever done. ‘You are a Ghost’ is such a killer song, and you dropped a video for it. Can you talk about the concept behind the video? Thanks we were very pleased with our buddy Kris Khunachak’s work on that. He did a tremendous job. The video is about people running from their own ghosts. Being the cause of my own problems is certainly a theme I come back to a lot.

Since you guys first started performing can you talk about how the New Jersey music scene has changed (for good and bad)?

Asbury has certainly become a hub of amazing music. When we started, it seemed like everything cool was happening in New Brunswick, but now there’s an awesome show every weekend in Asbury, between the Brewery, The Lanes, the Wonder Bar, the Hotel, the Saint and House of Independents, it’s crazy how many cool venues are in such a small town.

On a recent Facebook post, you mentioned you might be taking a break from the band — can you tell us what the future holds for the band?

The future holds rest. We’ve been doing this pretty non-stop for five years now and after this last record, I really thought it was finally time for us to take a break. It can be very stressful promoting all these shows, keeping up the gram, organizing rehearsals and and I’m also a comic artist. I’ve been really neglecting the art side of my life for a while and I’ve got a lot of stories I’ve been meaning to get around to drawing. So that’s what I’ll be up to. I just bought an iPad. But also, we’re getting these two Christmas songs we recorded a couple years ago re-Mastered, so be on the lookout for that!

With 2020 upon us, what are you guys most excited for for this band?

There’s always the possibility of new music. That’s a faucet in my brain that never gets fully turned off, but it’s definitely gonna be a while. BUT the good news is we have a whole album and two EP’s that people can continue to listen to whenever they want.

Afraid Brigade performs at Happy Mondays along with Viewers Like You, and Quinton Smith & Co.

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.

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