Back in 2003, Albany “swingcore” band The Bruise Brothers was poised for national success.
The previous year, the band had signed on with a major record label and management company and released its third recording, the seven-song “Last Word Said.” They were now opening up for national metal and hard rock acts like Mushroomhead, Staind, Static X and Sevendust, among others, and gaining new fans along the way.
But the label (which the group wouldn’t name due to the contentious circumstances surrounding the eventual split) ended up being the band’s undoing. In particular, the band’s trademark blend of rockabilly rhythms and hardcore heaviness was lost on “Last Word Said,” according to guitarist Mike Valente.
“After the second CD we had some label interest from some heavy hitters in the industry. [We went with] the one management company that handled David Lee Roth,” said Valente, who now plays with hardcore group Brick By Brick, and runs Upstate Black ’N’ Blue Productions and Bogie’s nightclub.
The Bruise Brothers reunion show
With: Dead-Lift, The Power, Shyste, Sev Statik, JB, Dez
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Bogie’s, 297 Ontario St., Albany
How Much: $10
More Info: 482-4393, www.bogiesny.com
“They kind of started giving us, not so much little restrictions, but little suggestions. They sent this producer to do this new CD, and the producer came in and basically changed the songs around. They ended up being radio rock songs — we lost the swing, the rockabilly thing that we were doing; that was totally gone by the third CD. Personally, my opinion is I hate that third CD. It was a gradual change that went into overdrive real fast. It was more about the image; they were just trying to mold us into something.”
Valente and the rest of the band — vocalist Vegas Macy, bassist Patrick McNulty and drummer Matt Bielinski — decided they’d had enough, and pulled the plug in 2003. Since then, the four have gone on to other things, with Macy fronting Selfish Needy Creatures, McNulty playing with the John Morse Band and Bielinski raising a family.
But the four never stopped being friends, and about five years after the split, the four reunited as The Bruise Brothers for a one-off show. It’s taken almost another five years, but the band will once again reunite Friday night for another one-off show at Bogie’s.
This time, the band is focusing solely on its first two albums, and Valente is hoping they will follow up with more reunions every year or two.
“We did the first reunion, and it was fun, but I remember doing this — we did dabble in some of the newer, or rather the later stuff,” Valente said. “This time around, it’s just been a lot more fun than the first time. Now we’re back to the first two CDs, and that’s it. We’re not even dabbling in the last CD. It’s a good time; everybody’s joking around, and we’re excited to play Friday.”
The Bruise Brothers first formed in the late ’90s, with Macy leading the way in developing the band’s “swingcore” hybrid sound. Valente and McNulty were original members, with Bielinski joining after the first CD was recorded.
“It was [Macy’s] idea to do a little bit of swing music, but we wanted to incorporate it with some of the heavier elements,” Valente said. “Our first couple of CDs we released were of that nature, and we gradually started getting the popularity, the label interest, et cetera, et cetera.”
The style was a bit foreign to Valente, who comes from a mostly hard rock and metal background — and in Brick By Brick, he’s back to playing mostly straight heavy music. Re-learning Bruise Brothers songs has been somewhat of a challenge for him.
“Originally, I had to teach myself how to write like that and think outside the box,” he said. “Once we ended I got back into the hard-core scene, so with this it was like, ‘Wow, I’ve gotta re-learn how to do this stuff,’ so it was a change of pace. Our bassist and drummer, they’re so diverse, so it’s like second nature for those guys. Me, I have to sit down and pay attention to what the heck it is I’m doing.”
A lot has changed in the Albany music scene, and indeed the national music scene, in the time the band has been away. This was a concern when putting together the show.
“The scene changes because we all get older. All our friends that we grew up with either have families or actual responsibilities,” Valente said. “There are definitely new faces — being that we did our first reunion at the four, five year mark, and now we’re at another four, five year mark, those new faces have probably never even heard of us.”
Old and new friends
To combat this, the band has teamed up with both old friends and new faces on the bill: Albany rap-rockers Dead-Lift, who were contemporaries of The Bruise Brothers, will be playing, along with newer band The Power. Local hip-hop artists Dez, Shyste, Sev Statik and JB, originally part of a late ’90s collective, Albully, that played with The Bruise Brothers early on, will also be performing.
“Again, it’s going back to the old-school feel, the way we used to like to do things, with variety,” Valente said. “Who wants to just see a show where it’s all the same acts? We want to keep it loose and fun, like having a party atmosphere.”