Brandon Can't Dance is the moniker of Philadelphia's Brandon Ayres. As far as musical aliases go it manages to be both self-effacing and sardonic (also true, turns out), which makes it the perfect reflection for the project as a whole.
Philadelphia is a veritable hot bed of sonic genius to the point where it's almost taking the piss. In the last few years alone the city has spat out Modern Baseball, Radiator Hospital, Hop Along and Alex G, the latter of whom turned his former record label Lucky Number onto Brandon's music. Now, they're releasing his forthcoming album, Graveyard of Good Times, (on January 13) which he self-produced and recorded between shifts working nights as a security guard in a retirement and rehab community.
We're premiering the first single from it called "Smoke and Drive Around", an electronic-leaning slice of indie pop that perfectly summarises the feeling you have when you're freewheeling into a night out with a bottle of something and an unspecified purpose – but it's also tempered by an undercurrent of loneliness. It essentially pulls up every single Friday night you spent thrill seeking as a teenager.
Listen to the track below and read our chat with Brandon about parties, lizards, and the best dance-based motion pictures. I would suggest you do them as separate activities for an optimum sensory experience.
Hi Brandon. What's the first thing you did when you got up today?
Brandon: First thing I did was call my grandmother – she thought I got murdered because I wasn't answering my phone. I keep in touch with her when I'm out and about and she knew I wasn't going to be home that night. She watches the local news too much. Normally I start the day off right with a bowl of cereal and coffee to get the juices going and then record or work on something music wise.
You've been playing music since you were eleven. What's the first artist or moment that made you want to pick up an instrument?
As a kid, Nirvana was like caffeine for my ears. That stood out over everything else to me. My uncle would turn me loose in the basement after dinner and blast Nevermind and I would lose my brain jumping on the bed. That definitely planted the seed and then, when I was about eight, I would go to my first stepdad's apartment and screw around with his guitars out of curiosity. Took some lessons and hated it, and decided I wanted to be a drummer [laughs], but still played guitar on the side.
"Smoke and Drive Around" reminds me of those nights where the pursuit of having a good time obstructs any negative feeling, but some feelings of loneliness manage to creep in there too. It makes me go straight to remembering nights I had as a teenager. What does the song mean to you?
I'm glad you got that vibe from the song because that's pretty much dead on. I would say a lot of Friday nights as a teenager were spent partying in the woods we called the "Shire" that were behind this church which also hosted the first shows I ever played. That area was a huge part of me growing as a performer and a person. A lot of memories right in there.
Your new album Graveyard of Good Times comes out in January. It's a pretty diverse collection of sounds. How would you describe it?
I would say it's a more tuned up version of all the styles and sounds I've delved into over the years. You got the "Alternative Rock", you got the post punk aspect in there, the 80s pop, the sad acoustic songs, along with subtle humour. I'm definitely excited for people to listen to it.
Can you talk me through the truly beautiful album art (above)?
I picked up this little zine somewhere in Ohio while on tour early this summer and forgot about it until after I got home and checked it out one morning. Really great art in there but there were amazing pictures of lizards. One in a beach chair with sunglasses and a little can of beer and this beautiful close up of one sleeping in a dollhouse bed. It really stood out. Evangeline Barrón is the photographer. I hit her up on the World Wide Web and she was really stoked on the idea.
I read you recorded the album between shifts working nights as a security guard and looking after your grandmother, who you live with now. Would you say those things informed the record in any way?
I would say working nights has always had an effect on the music just because of all the alone time you have in your head and then you sleep all day and then do it again and again with little interaction with family and friends during the week at least. That's kind of my style though but I definitely made the best of my weekends usually! Living with grandma is great too, but isn't reflected in the music so much [laughs].
Can you really not dance?
I can dance a little now but when I initially started the project... definitely not.
Who in your opinion is the greatest dancer of all time?
Napoleon Dynamite, hands down
Which is the better movie: Save The Last Dance, Dirty Dancing, or Magic Mike?
Save The Last Dance because Dirty Dancing gets all the glory, Magic Mike makes me feel weird, and Julia Stiles is my girl.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I'm humbled by this new journey with my music and thankful that Lucky Number music wanted to work with me and I'm going to go paint the side of the house for grandma now.
Well that's nice. Thanks Brandon!
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Catch Brandon Can't Dance on tour with Alex G and LVL UP next month:
Nov 1 - Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
Nov 2 - Birmingham @ The Syndicate Lounge
Nov 3 - New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
Nov 6 -Dallas, TX @ Three Links
Nov 9 - Omaha, NE @ Milk Run
Nov 10 - Madison, WI @ The Frequency
Nov 11 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
Nov 12 - Lansing, MI @ The Blind Pig