The Brains are on fire right now. Their new album, Out in the Dark, was released Friday, October 30th via Stomp Records, the same night they kick off a month-long, cross-Canada tour in Montreal. Their frontman, Rene “D La Muerte” Garcias, is not a man who likes to keep himself idol. Not only does he write all the music and handle all the production duties for his own band, he also finds time to produce records for countless other artists, all while finding time to be a boyfriend and father of two. I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview this extremely passionate individual.
So what can fans expect from Out in the Dark?
Well, it’s thirteen years of The Brains in a little CD package! I’ve been doing the production for the band since the beginning, and it’s always been a growing thing, more elaborated. So that’s what this album is. It’s super tight; I’m really proud of the quality and everything that comes with it. The cover of it was done by my girlfriend Roxy Peroxide, who does paintings. Lyrics were done by Colin on the bass. I recorded the band, I wrote all the music. The video [which just came out] was done by Phil, our drummer; that’s his other job. Colin takes care of merch too. So that’s what you should expect. This whole thing has finally come together and it’s awesome.
You guys seem to try to handle as much as possible on your own.
Exactly. We have the nucleus, which is us in the center. And then on the outside we have Stomp Records, who take care of helping any way they can, so that’s awesome. Actually it’s their anniversary, they’ve been doing this for like 20 years I think, so it’s super cool. They’re a family to us, we’ve always worked together. They send me bands so I can produce them, so we always try to help each other.
Did you go to school for production?
No. I started playing guitar when I was nine, and I started doing shows around fifteen or sixteen. I was working with those little four track tracks, and I was like, “I wanna do this thing for real.” Back then, studios still had tape and it was super expensive to go record there, so I thought maybe I could go start cleaning them. So I showed up at a studio like “Hey, you need someone to clean?” “Yeah, the other person we had is leaving!” So I started cleaning and I met Daniel Rey who did the Ramones album; he was working there on a couple of occasions. I met a lot of top producers and they showed me some tricks. So that’s how it started. For me, it’s an art; I refine it, and after many years doing it I think it’s pretty good.
How many albums have you produced?
Oh my god, I don’t know! The other day I typed my name in Google to see my production credits and there’s like 2 pages. There’s a lot of bands, I don’t even remember anymore. Just this last month I did like 40 songs.
So you guys have been together for 13 years now, and you’ve toured all over the world. Where’s your favorite place to tour?
Everywhere is fun. There’s no limit, there’s no favourite. Everything is different. It’s like going to restaurants; you want a poutine one time and then the next time souvlaki, or whatever. So that’s what it is. You go somewhere, you meet people, and most of the time we have a good fan base who knows what to expect. They know it’s going to be a high energy show, and most of them call in sick the next day. We went to Russia for the first time recently, like six months ago, and it was awesome. I didn’t understand much of what they said though, their language is very difficult to grasp. In Germany I was able to understand more, but in Russia and Czech Republic I don’t understand at all. I speak three languages. I speak English, French, and Spanish very well, so I’m able to understand, say, Italian. Or when I go to England where they have all these different versions of the English language, the first time I went there I was like, “Woah, what’s going on?” One time, in Germany, when we first started touring Europe I got drunk and made friends and I was like, “Man, I totally understand you now!” And they’re very proud of their drinking, and in Montreal we’re very proud of our drinking, so we kind of had a face off. In the end it was pretty much “I love you man!”, “I love you too!”
How do you decide when a song is going to be in another language?
I don’t try to arrange things in advance when I record, I always try to be spontaneous as much as possible. I believe that when you’re in the studio, what makes a good recording is to record the moment, the emotion. If you start thinking too much, you’re not recording the emotion, you’re pretending. I don’t want that. So if it happens, it happens. There’s no limit, basically.
Is a lot of your recorded material improvised?
It’s pretty much all improvised, but directed. So let’s say I have a demo in my head, but a demo is just four notes, so that’s what I bring to the studio. And the drums would just be basic in my head, but then the drummer comes in, and he’s playing and then he goes into a rolling thing, and then he wants to do a breakdown with some floors instead of the ride and high-hat, bring it down a bit but keep it heavy. That’s all improvised. Like when you hear solos, off the floor, if I really like the direction that I’m going but I think I can make it better or clearer, I’ll listen to that moment and I’ll try to recapture it but tighter.
So can audiences expect different versions of your songs live?
When a song is recorded, that’s the moment, so then we hear that again and that’s pretty much what we’re going to play. But then what happens is that we’ll adapt songs. Like the song “Sweeter Than Wine” from Zombie Nation has brass on the recording, but live, since we’re only three guys, we tone it down to more of a guitar and voice oriented song. So that’s an approach we’ll take live.
The real story behind that video is that evil is always there, and it passes through years and it passes through time, and it changes; it doesn’t have to be a guy, it can be a girl. It’s all about actually understanding what’s happening, to understand that a video is a video and to understand what reality is. There’s so much real violence outside. In that video we don’t even do anything worse than what Alfred Hitchcock did. I’ll show you real violence. What about all the women half naked in all these videos, where guys are just throwing money at them? What about people being smashed over the head because they’re just trying to cross over a border, because in their country they’re just being killed. Their reality is so fucked up, and we’re here. That’s worse than everything. So we need people to react, that’s what I think the brain is for. This is what we give you, react. Tell me what you see. And when you react, your brain works and you have an opinion. We anticipate these kinds of reactions from people, and I never see it as something negative.
If you’d like to ask The Brains a question directly, you can check out Facebook.com/thebrainsMTL where the band will always answer questions themselves, and they answer them quickly. As Rene himself puts it, “it’s important to be like that in a band. That’s the way bands should be.”
Written and Complied by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson