BRONCHO | Words to the Wise

There are three bands currently listed on Wikipedia’s category page for “Indie Bands from Oklahoma”: Aqueduct, a synth-tinged indie pop foursome currently operating out of Seattle, Other Lives, a folk three-piece that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and Hanson, a little known pop group that had a hit or two back in the nineties.

Notably absent from this list is BRONCHO, a band whose all-caps name belies a softer sound. BRONCHO’s new album, Just Enough Hip To Be Woman, is infectious, and wears its influences on its sleeve. It plays like a love letter to late seventies and early eighties bands that blended punk, new wave, and surf-rock sensibilities. From the first time the guitar rings out in the album’s lead track “What”, you’ll be half expecting Chrissie Hynde’s vocals to show up somewhere on the album. They don’t, unfortunately. But the relaxed and reverb-laden harmonies definitely get the job done. Currently, BRONCHO is in the middle of a tour, and Ryan Lindsey from the band was kind enough to answer burning questions we had about dads, dead historical figures, and this year’s NCAA football tournament.

What was the record that your dad would play in the car during road trips? Did you hate it?
My parents played a lot of James Taylor, Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Carly Simon, The Beatles. I loved it. I think those songs and songwriters definitely influence me still today. They taught me how to write a song. They taught me harmony too. Listening to these artists was a great starting place for me. The basic formula for a pop song is found in these hits.

You say that “Class Historian”, with its infectious melody, is best enjoyed with the windows down, blasting down a highway. Where would you recommend fans listen to the rest of the album for the best possible experience?
I think this record can translate into multiple environments. It’s part moldy basement, part d-top/windows down in your older brothers car, part mom’s station wagon. There’s enough of a mix going on song-to-song that it changes the context of the record as it goes along. I like thinking that this record is a little confusing at times. I like to think that this band can be a little confusing. Maybe just confusing enough to keep people coming back and trying to figure us out a little more. The mystery can be very provocative. I like to think that this record provokes people to find a secret place that only they feel comfortable in, and can listen with no distractions. I love the individual songs on this record, but I think it makes more sense as a whole. And being only 30 minutes long, it is an easy sell for us. We are the eight-minute abs of new releases this year. Maybe working out is the best place to listen to this record. I’m so indecisive so it's hard for me to say.

What is the writing process like for you? It seems like, on the new record, you cross styles and subgenres pretty frequently. Is that intentional?
I like to start with a melody, and I will start building a structure from that initial melody. As I’m working through the structure, words will start coming out in a way that fits with the rhythm of the song. I think that’s an important part of our process, because it creates a natural flow that wouldn't otherwise be there if I started with lyrics first. We’re influenced by so many different types of artists and music, and I think that influence is key to any type of uniqueness that we may have. It’s hard to be unique these days, so we have to celebrate anything that might make us different from similar bands. I think there's a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis on our first record and Buddy Holly, and Chuck Berry too, but those don't get talked about much because it sounds like a period inspired punk record. But Chuck, Buddy, and Jerry are all over that, Roy Orbison too. Making a simple pop song interesting is our M.O.

If you could get one dead historical figure to do backup vocals on your next album, who would it be?
Jesus Christ, after he lost his virginity. Wait, he's still alive isn't he? […] It would be cool to see if he still looks like his paintings, and then we could settle that once and for all. But I guess right now I would have to go with Roy Orbison. I love his voice. It’s that simple. I love trying to sing like him. He's solid gold in my book. Listening to him on "Leah" and "Cryin" makes me emotional. His ability to sound smooth, effortless, and heartbroken is what I want on our next record. I want Roy.

What is your favorite music venue? Have you played there?
Eagles Ballroom. It's this really haunted old place in Milwaukee. I've only played the tiny room. There's a shrine to Buddy Holly upstairs near the ballroom. He played there right before he died. There's a lot of mystery in that place. There's so many great old theatres that I want to explore at some point.

Do you visit the Midwest often? It's pretty much full of haunted or abandoned places. Have you ever considered going on a cross-country tour and just playing at these spots? Like, "Haunted Venues Across America Tour" or something?
There are so many haunted places in the Midwest, and the East Coast, too, for that matter. All the old northern industrial towns have some great haunted old buildings. I would love to do a “Haunted Halls of the Americas” tour. If we say "the Americas" then we could expand that to South America too, and I would love to play South America. There’s got to be a lot of black magic down there. I would like to think we have a doctor’s recommended amount of black magic on our records. At least that’s what we strive to exude. Magic in general is one of our favourite things. Growing up in the nineties meant we had a lot of David Copperfield specials on network television. That’s another big influence on us. The wonder that those shows put into me still lingers today. It helped shape our imaginations at an early age.

On a related note, what's the craziest or best show you guys have played? 
We played a show in this tiny little town in Pennsylvania. There were probably 25 people there. It was supposed to be in this basement, but the kid didn't get permission from his parents so the show got cancelled.

Did you end up going to the town anyway and just partying with the kid, or was it a total wash? Was it the kind of thing where the parents came down to the basement midway through the song and were like "JEREMY, YOU'RE GROUNDED. TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO LEAVE"?
The parents were curious why there were so many people in their shag basement. I was curious why there weren't more people in their shag basement. The set up was too good down there. Everything got cancelled before anything could happen. The greatest show that never was. We ended up finding a place to chill, and no show happened. Sometimes a show getting cancelled can be the greatest gift. The greatest show we ever played didn't even happen. I think that is fitting for us. We like having excuses, I guess. There was nothing we could do about it—the show had to be cancelled. It’s comforting when you decide to give up on something. Another M.O. of ours, I guess. We like to give up when we have no choice. There’s wisdom in giving up. There’s also wisdom in not giving up. The wisdom lies in choosing what to give up on.

Tell me an embarrassing story about one of the other band members.
Ben was hanging out with someone, who we can't name legally. But you know who he is. He had Ben hold something for him, which I'm not at liberty to say. But you'd know what it is. When they passed through security Ben placed "it" back into our friend’s pocket. Our friend got busted, and now he won't talk to us anymore. Pretty embarrassing. 

You guys think the Sooners will make the NCAA football playoffs this year? 
We have to; I have all the money on it. Defense wins championships, and we have Mike Stoops. But ever since that incident with Ben, Mike won't talk to us anymore. We're looking pretty tough this year. I like our chances. I have learned over the past few years not to invest so much emotionally in a sports team. It has saved me from a lot of anxiety. That being said, after the Alabama game last year, I’m back in the business of being anxious on Saturdays. I love it. The Thunder have taught me not to invest too much in them either. I’m probably having more fun watching games now that I’ve let go of having to get that title. I can appreciate the teams a lot more now, rather than picking them apart so much, although that’s pretty fun too. It translates to art too. Not having such high expectations can make me appreciate and get so much more out of it than if I’m too emotionally invested in whatever I think it is supposed to be. Being open is the key to enjoying. 



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