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by Keavin Wiggins

With this series we like to bring you a wide cross-section of promising unsigned bands from across the world. Let’s face it there isn’t much diversity in the current music mainstream and the record companies are feeling the pinch from playing “follow the leader” for so long.  There really is a lot of diverse and interesting music being made in the world; you just have to look a little harder to find it. That’s where this month’s featured band comes in. Braindoll is one of those bands that can’t be described; they really have to be heard.  We were happy to hook up with the band and ask them a little about their history, their new CD, their take on the music business and where they hope to go from here.  It’s a great interview, I’m sure you will enjoy.  After you get to know a little bit about Braindoll, be sure to check out their website to learn even more and more importantly, check out the music, which is something that is quite different than what you hear on mainstream radio these day!  So here you go, it’s time to meet Braindoll! 

RNW: The standard opening question, how did the band come together?  And where has the journey taken you so far? 

Erin:  Jason and I went to high school together and met when a mutual friend asked us to be the 2 guitarists in an awful metal band.  We kept loosely in touch after high school and then finally started writing together in about the summer of 98.  Our debut album, 3rd Box Ornament, was recorded as a duo—with help of additional musicians—about 6 months later.  We then spent about 2 years trying to get a full band together, and finally did so in around 2000, when Degal (bass, guitars) and Anthony Sturman (drums) were added.  We later met up with occasional and unofficial member, Alibaster Snetterton (echoes, noises).  We released our 2nd album, Apostasy—a 2-disc conceptual work—in July 2002.   

RNW: Where did the name Braindoll come from? 

Jason: This is a fictional character written about in a song named “Above My Head,” off of the 3rd box ornament album.   Sometimes fictional words appear in my mind out of nowhere. Sometimes they’re given nice little fictional stories to go along with them.  The chorus of the original “Above My Head” contains the word ‘Braindoll’ shouted out several times, but it was an awful chorus so it was taken out.  One day {while shaving} Erin decided that it was a good name to use for the band.  And that’s that.  

Alibaster:  This name reminds me that often a memory is shed or shuddered over at the precisely incorrect juncture in time.

RNW:  Where would you place your sound in the musical spectrum? In other words, how do you describe yourselves to those haven’t heard you?

Comparisons: Bjork, Radiohead, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Suede, Cure, Spiritualized, etc. 

Erin:  I would have to say cathartic, ethereal, experimental, languid, frustrated, hectic, desperate, spacey, emotional, depressed, textural, and disconcerted are accurate.  We also have pretty loose borders around our sound, in the sense that we’re really not afraid to test out different styles, sounds, instruments, etc.

Jason:  Melodic, interesting, captivating, thought provoking, amazing, genius, original, happy, sad, awful, brilliant, annoying, life changing...

Alibaster:  illifluous, seminally concurrent, forgiving.
RNW: If you only had one chance to win a fan over with one song. Which song would you use, that you think best represents what you are all about? 

Sturman:  I would choose our 3-part epic track called ‘Orn Deceptation.’ 

Jason:  ‘Orn Deceptation’ or ‘Forever for Me’--because if you can put up with 10+ minute songs then you must really like us.  

Degal:  Definitely ‘Speeches of a man.’  It encompasses most of what we can do as a band in one song--hard, soft, complexity, simplicity and emotion.

Erin:  ‘Orn Deceptation.’  It shows many sides of our band—dark, dissonant, pretty, noisy, chaotic, echoey, somber, colorful, textural, intense, peaceful.  It also highlights our taste for odd harmonies and instruments.  I also like ‘Speeches’ a lot.                                          

RNW: Who are some of your biggest influences? 

Erin:  Beatles, Pink Floyd, Chopin, Suede, Bjork, Rufus Wainwright, Lennon, Bob Marley, Radiohead, Bowie…etc.                 

Jason:  Neil Hannon, Morrissey. Anyone else I enjoy would be just an inspiration.                                                                                         

Alibaster:  There aren’t really many after all, but some time ago they were gathered in thicker numbers…like hyenas devouring my hunger for sound.  

Sturman:  Guns n’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Pink Floyd.  

Degal:  Early on--Sunny day real estate, Radiohead etc., recently more stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel, Flaming Lips, Sigur Ros, etc.  I really want string and horn sections!!  (So does Erin!!!)

RNW: What first inspired you to become a musician? 

Erin:  I think being a musician/artist is innate, like an automatic function that you can’t deny--everything else is inspired by being a musician.  To not create would be like permanently holding your breath.

Degal:  The urge to create, and having shaky hands with a brush or pencil.

Jason:  Sitting at home watching Woodstock on pay per view, being jealous that my brother was there and not me.  The guitarists and singers and performers were nice to see. 

Alibaster:  Birth.     

Sturman:  Guns n’ Roses.

RNW: What is your songwriting process like? Does one person come up with the songs and the rest of the band add their parts to it or is it a full 
group effort? 

Erin:  In the past Jason and/or I would bring songs to practice and the band would just add parts to our prewritten songs.  That still happens from time to time, but now a lot of times I will just start making up sounds or riffs at practice and the band--finally realizing that I’m not gonna shut up and stop making noises--will eventually join in, and we’ll just build on instinct from there.  Also, Degal has brought a couple of songs to the table recently, and even Sturman will sometimes have drum ideas that we all build a song around.  Our new material has a more group/ensemble feel, because we are all contributing ideas now.                                                                     

Jason:  That’s the ticket. Songs are brought into the band or rhythm guitar parts are brought in as a vocal line is added.  The rest is finished at rehearsal as the drums and bass come into play.  Lately we've been writing this way-- Erin comes up with a guitar riff, Jason or Degal make a bass and/or guitar line to it, the drums start up, then several weeks later the vocals sang on the first jam through are remembered. Lyrics are finished the day before recording.
RNW:  Can you tell us a little about your new album?  Who produced it? When was it released?  I gathered that it might be a concept album, if so what’s the story? 

Erin:  It was produced by us in our own studio, and released in the summer of 2002.  The concept of the album was created by artist/friend, Tim Boucher.  The story tells of the fall of the ‘space wizard,’ God, and the events leading to this fall at the hands of his own son, Jesus.  The art concept presents the album as a role-playing video game.  

RNW: How about doing a song by song. I’ll give you the song title and you fill us in a little about it--Story behind it, what inspired it or any funny story associated with it. 

CD 1: The crystal force slave manifesto 

1.. -La la la lalalaaaaaaa...  zz zz zzzz zzzzzzz zzzzz – 

Jason:  Rockin’ riffy, and it builds…so if you get bored with it, don’t turn it off just yet.  

Erin:  I think this song, maybe more than any other on the album, hints at the newer stuff we’ve written for the next album, in the sense that it started with a repetitive guitar riff and built from there.

3.even space wizards get old 

Jason:  I like the upbeat chorus.  I’d like the next album to have a lot of stuff that sounds like this chorus.  It’s a side we have yet to explore extensively.  

Erin:  I like the keys in this song, because rather than just going along with the melody and harmony they stand on their own as independent noises.  They’re kinda esoteric and not submissive to what the chords are doing.  They just float on their own with no one to answer to, making up their own dreamy backdrop for the song, but at the same time they don’t ruin or interfere with the song.

4.Dreams II  

Jason:  I get to rap; well, in a soul type way.  The melodica makes a cool appearance.  

Erin: Humble, folky, country-ish—perhaps a little bit of the sound we didn’t put forth enough on this album.

5.Hona ba hazima – 

Jason:  gibberish alienabilly at its best.  

Erin:  Fraggle rock meets Charlie Parker at Syd Barrett’s circus-themed Bar Mitzvah.

6.Brewed – 

Jason:  catchy, reminds me of Goldfrapp for some reason. 

Alibaster:  I have not known the reason to yet that out of this song the band mates removed my sousaphone harmony.

7.Extreme being- 

Erin:  If a guitar came to life, had a violently convulsive emotional breakdown, and then broke into calm blue tears before finally choosing to die back into being an inanimate object, this would be my choice of soundtrack.  Jason:  upbeat, nice distorted guitar and lush outro. 

8.Take all your money and run – 

Jason:  People who think the song’s over will never hear the outro...people, there’s an outro...and it sounds nothing like the song, check into it. 

Erin:  I originally wrote this guitar outro for ‘Inaugural,’ but eventually added a piano and put it here.  At the end of ‘Inaugural’ there is still an abridged version of the same guitar idea.

9.The Long Sought Existence – 

Jason:  the drum-march beat made this a totally different song.  I'd like to record an acoustic version one day.  Both versions are cool though.  The distorted chorus is a highlight and so is the really sad ending.  

Alibaster:  Lovely number.


Jason:  written long ago. Another really long song, so have patience and listen to the cool ending.  

Erin:  The outro to this song, with the way the guitars move over the multiple vocals, is one of my favorite parts of the album.

11.Forever For Me – 

Jason:  Our only chill out song. Lie down, set a proper lighting and fall asleep.  I’ve been literally put to sleep by this one--in a good way though. 

Erin:  A total free for all experiment.  I was actually just trying to figure out how to use a drum program on my computer, and this is what resulted.  Built around an old guitar riff.

12.No name – 

Jason:  one of the cleanest, perfect sounding hi-fi recordings we've done.  Recording wise, very professional.  

Erin:  I like the way the bridge came together…very watery.

13.The Unexplainable – 

Jason:  pop song about that awful wench we all know and love.  

Erin:  Some of the best textures on the album are here--very dreamy, wintry noises in the soundscape of this tune.

14.Portrait (Rogue's Lament) – 

Erin:  I love the result we produced on this track.  Has some sort of weird medieval chant feel to it at times.  I feel we really put across the heartbroken mood that the song carries (for me at least).  I really love the way the song is framed with a dark intro and a sort of church-like optimistic outro—perfect end to the lengthy disc 1.  Possibly my favorite vocal take ever recorded by Jason…so far.  

Jason:  a really good song, very emotive, dynamic and has a modulation, but not in some trendy Whitney Houston way.    

CD 2:Rival Conceptions of God 

1.Core – 

Jason:  perfect intro to a much more dark and obscure side of us.  Disk 2!!!  

Erin:  Just pressed record, did a few first take improvisations, and had this track about 30 minutes later.  I love soft atmospheres that allow you to sink into a moment and almost forget that there is even music playing and that a world that exists outside your head.  This song is one of those moments.    

2.A Warning

Jason:  another old track. Nice riff and oddball vocals.  Weird drums.  

Erin:  One of my favorite guitar songs on the album.  Nice layers too.  This song marks the birth of Jesus in the story.  Poor Jesus--don’t cry. 

3.Problematic K – 

Jason:  doesn’t sound a thing like us, written with our old keyboardist and bassist.  

Erin:  I love the way the bridges move.  This song feels very 80s to me, and has a very familiar color to it—reminds me of something from too long ago to remember.  

4.Lost for words – 

Jason:  a nice melodic song with a drum loop.

5.Inaugural – 

Jason: a very old song for us.  Hook-y--has a verse and a midsection and a cool guitar riff in the middle.


Jason:  I’ve never met the performer of this one. But it’s fun, classical and lo-fi all at the same time.  

Erin:  I wrote this song a couple of years ago when I first started playing piano, but then forgot how to play it over time.  I was too lazy to relearn it so I asked this classical pianist that I knew.  My handwriting was horrible when I wrote the score out for him so he could hardly even read or learn it.  The resulting performance is disastrous—the time is slowing and speeding all over the place, and some rhythms are wrong, so we just patched it up with reverse sounds and voices and such.  Next time I’ll learn parts myself…or have better handwriting.  

7.Orn Deceptation
... a. the onslaught 
... b. the avolation 
... c. the siege 

Jason:  over 10 minutes of every type of mood I can think of thrown into one song.  

Erin:  One of our best--ugly, pretty, dark, light, calm, chaotic, simple, complex…all within this one 12 minute emotional burst.  

8.Speeches Of A Man – 

Erin:  One of my very favorites.  One of our strongest guitar riffs yet accented with trickling harmonies, strong bass, and outlined by colorful squeals and vocals.  I see this song as a sort of sequel to ‘Wanted Free’ from the 1st album.  And coincidentally they’re both the 2nd to last song on the respective albums.  

Jason:  multitextural guitar lines, a theremin and odd timing changes; also an older track for us.  


Jason:  a nice melody, a perfect closer continuing in the tradition of 'From Scratch.'  

Erin:  When I first heard this, my first thought was that it was without a doubt the album closer.  I like the mix of organ cello and melodica to fill in the harmony, but vocals are the focus.  And what about that secret song at the end of this track?  Alibaster says some sort of secret message there at the very end of the album…he won’t tell us what he said though.   

Alibaster:  Is secret.     
RNW: What are you favorite tracks?

Jason:  zero, extreme being, no name, portrait, lost for words...its very hard. I tend to think of songs as being either good or bad, with no in betweens. 

Erin: Speeches, Orn Deceptation, Zero, Extreme Being, Portrait, Problematic K, Resolution, A Warning.  

Sturman:  zero, portrait, Orn Deceptation, extreme being, take all your money and run, and problematic k

RNW: You guys are from New York, What’s the music scene like there? 

Jason:  Long island? Ska, hardcore, cover bands, middle-aged insurance agents playing rock n roll, metalheads--same as everywhere.

Erin:  We’re from Long Island, where the scene seems pretty bleak.  It’s very hard to get good crowds unless you’re a cover band or DJ.  Of course, NYC is not far away, and it is supposed to be the best scene in the US.  The one drawback is that without a following you can’t get good gigs in the city, and without good gigs it is very hard to get a following.  We’re sort of in limbo in that sense.

RNW: What do you think of the current state of rock? Any bands that do it for you? 

Erin:  I hear people complain all the time that there is no good music nowadays.  They are just not digging deep enough past the garbage on the commercial surface.  There is some excellent stuff going on if you look deep enough.  To name some favorites: Rufus Wainwright, Bjork, Radiohead, Elliot Smith, Sigur Ros, Josh Ritter, Spiritualized, Mr. Bungle, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Beck…hmmmm…I know I’m leaving some great stuff out by accident.

Jason: As in most cases the best music is not in the mainstream, eg. Magnetic fields, Divine comedy. As for the mainstream acts, I’m glad to see rock is back in the mainstream in some form.  I'm not into any of these new “the” bands (vines, hives, strokes, fags, streets…etc) but I like their attitude and they’re not corporation rock projects. 

Alibaster:  Typically dismal pose for those who chose not to enclose the surface in indifference and lean down to the soil to dig to the underground and hear the sounds of revolution…that is where the true solutions are found/profound.

RNW: What would be your dream tour, the band you would most like to go out on the road with?

Jason:  N’sync or Boyzone.  To reach millions of dying people at once and to remind them what a band with raw emotion is. 

Erin:  We’d get better a response from an open-minded crowd.  I think we might go well with Radiohead, or perhaps Stone Temple Pilots, or acts like Beck, 
Flaming Lips, Sunny Day or Spiritualized.  In other words, bands that like us have a mix of experimental, mellow and chaotic.  (I also have a lot of solo material/songs…I’d love to be a solo opening act for Braindoll whenever we get our own tour…opening for my own band!)

Degal:  Hmm, I would love to go on tour with Puddle of Mudd.  They are where it is at in music today…damn they are good. Notice the second D… genius!! (Sar·casm n. A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.)

RNW: Are you currently gigging? I didn’t see any show dates on your website. 

Jason:  Yes. We schedule shows ourselves when we can.  We don't have a manager or anything. 

Erin:  We gig around LI fairly often, but are really trying to break into the NYC scene.  It’s hard to get good crowds on the island, but we have hooked up with a couple of other bands that we think are good.  So with them perhaps we can start a bit of a scene on our own on LI.  (Perhaps.)  

RNW: What do you think is the biggest obstacle for new bands these days to making it in this crazy business? 

Jason:  Not having any connections.

Erin:  One big obstacle is the industry’s desire for transient ‘flavor-of-the-month’ acts.  It’s hard to get attention if you’re doing something different than everyone else—and I’d like to think we are.  But there will always be a crowd of people who want something more sincere, and more emotionally and musically valid—eventually we’ll find them, and they’ll find us.  

Alibaster:  There is not much chance to have it be less than it has not been yet at all.  If the business side were weary, then it would be more than just a hope, but something of a predictable miracle.  

RNW: You’ve been together a few years now so far what has been your proudest moment as a band? 

Jason:  Tough one.  Well recently I re-read an interview we did with MUEN.  In it they asked where would you like to be a year from now and I said, finished with the challenge of recording album #2…and a year later, we completed it indeed.

Erin:  I think we all felt great when the 2nd album was finally finished and released—huge weight off my back at least.  I really feel that there is some great stuff on it, and the right ears will find it soon. 

RNW: On the other side of the coin, what has been worst experience? 

Erin:  The overall frustration of feeling like we haven’t connected with an audience yet.  Feeling like we’re going unheard, and growing old without reaching the world like I know we can.

Jason:  bad gigs, getting the plug pulled because the show was running late.  That happened last week actually, sort of. 

RNW:  Has the Internet helped you reach new fans?  Do you think like some that the net will eventually open up the music business or will the 
major labels still dominate things?  

Erin:  The Internet has so far been our only way of getting attention.  I think that this whole free music craze is beautiful.  It is a revolutionary thing that needed to happen, and I for one am glad.  It is bad only in the way that artists will have to make up for lost record sale money by touring much more and stuff of that sort.  But people are not afraid to check out unfamiliar music now that it’s free, and that is the best thing for artists.  If I could have ten paying fans or fifty who downloaded it for free I would choose the fifty without question.  Sure it gets me less $$$, but to spread your message to that many more people is worth every struggle an artist will face.  Music is love, and love is free.  Before the net you had to pay a huge phone bill if you wanted to speak to someone far away, cus you needed the phone company’s help connecting to that person.  Now with online messaging it’s free and instant—we no longer need the phone co. to connect us.  Well, in just that way we no longer need the record and distribution companies to bring our music worldwide, we can send it online instantly for free.  Artists have been industry puppets for too long…now we’re cutting the strings and moving on our own.  Sign on and get your art for free, as it should be.  FREE FREE FREE!!!

Jason: As long as you can reach a mass audience online, that’s pretty amazing.  Years ago how could anyone get their music out?  People these days don’t even need to rely on shows, they can just direct people to their website.  A typical show might have what, 30-40 people there?  Online you can enter a chatroom of 30 people, leave them your web link then go to another room and do the same. You have the possibility of reaching hundreds…possibly thousands a day.  Then there’s messageboards on your favorite bands’ sites.  The users on there all share the same tastes as you. Go to's similar artist option--type in, I don’t know, the Cure, and you’ll come to our site.  Online is amazing for music these days.  I don't care at all about the music business.  All they have time for is corporation acts.  People always complain about what’s on MTV.  I don’t see the point, If you don’t like MTV then mainstream music is just not for you.  And yes. Major labels will always exist for the sake of MTV, Virgin records and Shania Twain.
RNW: What’s next for Braindoll?

Jason:    Album # 3, shows, and hopefully touring.  I like to play shows so that would be fun.

Erin:  As always, we’re writing quite a bit.  We could easily do another album right now if we wanted to.  Rather than that though, I think we’ll focus on playing live a lot more than we have so far, and work on trying to get our music out to people.  We know there is a devoted following that just hasn’t heard us yet. 

Alibaster:  Musique…Avec l'amour par l'éternité.

RNW: Where do you hope to be five years from now?

Jason:   On a good label, still together, and touring.  Lets see if we can live up to this one now. 

Erin:  Well, I’ll just say that I like the music we are making as of now—I think we’ll know if we ever start rolling downhill or repeating ourselves artistically.  The future is always open.  

Alibaster:  Behind fewer windows and bars--out where colours of the sun and sky make more sense than the panicking feuds of hues I currently know.  

Sturman:  I hope to have a descent size following for Braindoll and hopefully be making some money being a musician.

Degal:  Signed to an indie but able to tour and record at our own discretion.   
RNW: Finally, what do you want people to take away from your music? 

Erin:  Whatever they want and lack.  If they need love, then love.  If they need catharsis, then that--or whatever else might move them to a better place.  Something that can let them know they aren’t the only ones going through this type of emotional chaos.  I guess just that they can find something positive for themselves, or at the very least that they see us pouring ourselves out very sincerely.  

Jason:  The fact that it is good music and has lots of emotion, passion and direction.

Sturman:  I want people to realize that we are talented musicians and to get the same feeling of excitement we get when we create this music.

Degal:  A sense of adventure, inspiration to turn off the radio and TV and think under a tree or in a locked room. Or go start a war with God or his bastard son Jesus.     

Alibaster:  We know that we ourselves are being taken away by the music we make, and so people should find that we are our music, and they can take our very selves away with them when they hear our songs.  Take us away with them in a warm palm or pocket, and nibble away on our fortitudes in some fiery hallway near the corner of their homes. 

Ok now that you know a little about Braindoll it is time to go to their website and learn more, listen to some of their songs, buy their CD, check for concert dates and just generally find out why they are cool!

Know of a great unsigned artist or band? Let us know. 

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