We are starting a new branch of the B-Side Guys’ empire, and because it’s us, it’s undoubtedly going to start on a weird note. The way this will usually go: we will review some album that is recent that we liked, that is probably more of an “A-Side” level artist. The way this is going to go today: uhh..I’m not really sure yet. You see, I was going to do my first post about an album and a band that has had an immeasurable impact on me: Science Fiction by Brand New. Over the weekend, that task became very different with the recent news of Jesse Lacey’s transgressions of sexual harassment/assault/abuse (I can’t say I know the correct terminology) of what was at the time a teenage girl. He released a statement that didn’t really address the teenage girl aspect, but did admit that his past is littered with a broken man breaking other people through his use of sexuality, power dynamics, and influence that we’ve been hearing about in all of these cases of sexual misconduct. If you think I’m having a hard time defining things, I am. This is a touchy subject, as I mentioned on the most recent podcast when Louis C.K. got brought up. Little did I know that before that podcast even aired, my idol, hero, one of my biggest influences, would be mixed up in this as well. And here’s the thing I do know, and that needs to be stated very clearly. Sexual harassment is bad. It is unacceptable. I am not a victim because I idolized a flawed human. The victims are the only victims here. It would be erroneous to make this about me above any of them. As I said on the show about Louis C.K., If it’s true, (and it seems to be) then he deserves whatever consequences come to him and I hope that every girl who was a victim gets a chance to speak her truth.
Now, you can stop there if you want, but I am going to go into what it’s like being a fan of them from this point forward, and I really hope that that isn’t offensive to anyone, because I am just trying to speak a truth that I feel that I am not alone in feeling. One last time, I am not a victim; my feelings don’t really come close to amounting to the pain felt by the victims in this scenario. I really hope I can get that across. Alright, keep reading with the disclosure that I’m switching gears a bit, and that the most important part of this piece has already been said in bold letters.
As I’m writing this, I have my entire song library on shuffle. Within 5 minutes, I’ve already had to skip a Brand New song. There’s an astronomical amount of my musical listening life that has been spent listening to every Brand New song over, and over, and over. Analyzing it, trying to let it fill in gaps of myself. Like many others, the band got me through some really hard times. I got The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me in the heart of my high school depression, and it was one of the first times I felt like I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling. Almost every album has come out at just the right time for where I was in life, and said things in a way that I’ve found hard to replicate in my other listening experiences. I haven’t seen another band as many times. I even met my girlfriend and one of my best friends at a Brand New show a couple years back. They are intertwined in my being. Now none of that in essence is wrong, but where I made a huge mistake was in acting like because they spoke to me on some deep level, that I KNEW them, especially Jesse. If there is anything that all of this has taught me, it’s that hero worship is so stupid. We are all flawed humans, and no other human deserves your worship. I’ve seen some other people, notably on the Brand New subreddit, attempt to justify Jesse’s wrongdoing. I’m not mad at those people. I don’t even judge those people. My immediate reaction was disbelief, and a searching for ways to do enough mental gymnastics to make this okay, to make this not real. But this is not okay. This is real, and the whole time I was listening to each new release, that I was dancing at shows, that I was introspective about some genius lyric, there were victims that were in pain at any reminder that this person was thriving and potentially causing pain to even more people.
So where does this leave us?
1. From a wide angle perspective, it leaves us with a shift in the ethos behind sexual assault/harassment/abuse. A positive one. No one is above being exposed for their wrong doing, and despite how it may make me feel when someone that I never should have worshipped in the first place is exposed, it is miniscule in comparison to the pain of the victims.
2.From a personal perspective, I’m still not sure. In some ways I have a lot of examples of separating the art from the artists. I still listen to the Beatles even though John Lennon beat women and was a piece of shit to his son. I still listen to Chuck Berry even though he slept with a teenager. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite. I do know that I am not able to listen to Brand New right now. When a song comes on, I can’t help but feel a little queasy. Perhaps that will pass, and then if it does, you can judge me for listening to music that by all means is intrinsically a part of the past 15 years of my life. Perhaps it won’t pass, but I won’t judge any of you that it does pass for.
3. From a band perspective, I can’t help but feel regret for the other members. Did they know about this? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that by all means this band was going to break up next year at the top of their game. I said as much after seeing them in concert in Boston just a few weeks ago. Their stage performance had reached a new level. Their most recent album has some lines that struck me to my soul. They were going to go out on top of their game and not overstay their welcome. Well that’s gone. No matter whether myself and others can find a way to listen again, their grand plan is over. It will never be the same. The bottom line is, if this happened in 2003, then they overstayed their welcome by 15 years, and because they overstayed their welcome for 15 years, I am a better person, writer, thinker. I met my soul mate. At the expense of at least one woman, and from Jesse’s statement it seems like more than that. The dichotomy of those two statements is brutal.
Please reach out to this if you feel like I’ve gone about this incorrectly. I tried to be unbiased, but that is difficult.
2 thoughts on “Some thoughts about Jesse and Brand New”
It’s tough to stomach. We’ve always heard Jesse Lacey was a jerk, and there’s certain behaviors you would expect and be willing to look past in rock music… But using your status to control and manipulate young girls for years just to feed your addiction crosses a few lines you can’t ignore. Maybe more info will come out and make it seem not as bad as it does, but I’m afraid it might get worse.
I love brand new and have certainly listened to them more than any other band in my life. Deja came out a month after I graduated high school. I learned to play guitar by playing every song on that album. I proposed to my wife while playing one of their songs. I think Science fiction is the best album to come out since the Devil and God. And now it all feels like a joke. I doubt I’ll ever be able to listen to them without thinking of this. The whole thing sucks. It reminds me of Tiger Woods. Their personality is part of what made them great, but ultimately ruined them both.
Thanks for commenting! Yeah. I never thought he was a pleasant person or whatever, but I had no guess that anything like this was going on. I do think there were many toxic practices in the scene at the time, and I think he has tried to correct some of these behaviors through therapy before all of this came out, but I cannot willingly make myself feel better about listening and supporting, when I know what was happening behind the scenes now.