There’s a treacherous drive—alternating clay and gravel, and passing over a shallow creek—that turns off of a certain Chapel Hill road and leads into the trees. After several hundred yards, the red clay driveway opens, revealing a little house that’s more of a hermitage.
It’s the warmest it’s been in several weeks today, and I’m sitting in the sun with Adam Brinson and Joe Taylor—together, Blag’ard. They’ve recently finished their second album, Mach II. It’s a solid unit, a catchy if menacing rock record that squeals off the lot like a muscle car and handles like Luke Skywalker’s X-wing.
Being at Joe’s house is like looking through a window into his mind: There’s a kind of sacred disarray here that contrasts the piercing clarity of his thought process. It’s organized, sure, but it’s organized the same way a forest floor is organized. His black Gibson, the guitar from his Capsize 7 days, leans against a wall like a fallen branch. Fliers on the walls tell tales of shows and bands long gone. Looking out the windows of the little room where this loud, loud band practices, I again see the trees and a gentle slope that falls toward the creek. This could be anywhere. Joe’s pretty intense, and Adam’s one of those gleeful dudes who makes himself laugh on a regular basis.
They have agreed to take a verbal Rorschach test, of sorts.
ADAM BRINSON: It makes me think about water because I’ve always been fascinated with how water distorts light. It just makes me think about water for some reason.
JOE TAYLOR: That’s cool, because water slows light down, gives it a different look. It’s pretty fucked up that the denser something it is, it actually slows light down. Light is so fucking fast, you'd think it would just go right through water and be like... [Laughs.] That’s the wild card to pull out in the paper-rock-scissors game. Paper, rock, scissors, water.
Distortion, to me, is... I definitely prefer clarity. I think distortion is just a loss of information. I think that, as far as music goes, music is an attempt to communicate things that aren't easily communicated. So distortion is just backsliding.
AB: [Laughs.] All my answers are just going to be like, “Distortion makes me think about swimming, and harmony makes me thing about singing.” [Laughs.] I think harmony is a lot like family too and doing something together and collaboration and accord.
JT: “Harmony” is one of our best songs. To give you a background for that song, I had a really tiring day one time last summer. I had gone swimming and worked out and I was really burnt—just like dumb tired. I went to a coffee shop, and the girl who was working there, her name was Harmony. She was, like, really beautiful, like, “Oh my fucking god. I’m a retard now. You just crushed my monkey brain.” So I tried to talk to her, and it just sounded stupid. I don’t think I’ve felt that dumb in a decade. So I wrote the song when I got home to make myself feel better.
AB: We are getting on it a lot these days.
JT: I’m just glad there's not another thing a band has to do besides the Internet, radio and press. Can you come up with one more useless thing for musicians to do, please? Why don’t we all have to go and, like, I can't even come up with a good metaphor. Competitive gardens? How else can we spend our time without playing music? I think it’s energy put towards competing to see who can do the best nothing and that doesn’t necessarily translate into making yourself successful. I don’t think that there is a way to become successful. I think there are great bands that are never going to get big, just because. I think that there are shitty bands, obviously, that get big just because. There is no “how.” There is no way to do it. You either do or you don't.
AB: And you’ve gotta be at the right place at the right time.
JT: I went a whole year when I wasn’t awake in the morning, when I was in Capsize 7. We had a record contract, and I didn't have to work. I went a year without waking up in the AM hour.
AB: It's unnatural, not coming up with the sun.
JT: Probably because we stayed up until 4:00 every morning.
JT: “RCO” brings in the idea of the enigma and mystery in music—an element which has been cheaply whored out with the Internet, where everyone is racing to expose themselves as quickly as possible to anyone who might possibly become a fan. I think “RCO” should remain a mystery. It’s a secret, and if you don’t know, I’m not gonna tell you.
AB: I never really thought about what it meant, at all. I never really listened to the lyrics that much.
JT: It was a fun song to put together. In practice, it came together really quickly. I think Adam said something like, “It was like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Done.”
Blag'ard releases Mach II this Friday, Feb. 26, at The Reservoir and Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Dive Bar. Both free shows start at 10p.m. The album is available for download from pigzenspace.com