Brief Candles' Kevin Dixon on the five-year gap between records
By Dave Hoenack
Five years passed between They Live We Sleep, the second album by Milwaukee quartet Brief Candles, and last year's Fractured Days. Five years! That's fairly five lifetimes in the Minneapolis scene. In 2006, the winner of the City Pages "Picked to Click" poll was the Alarmists. And in 2006 we were pissed when we found out we were going to have to pay for a Twins stadium.
Who knows what was going on in Milwaukee in 2006? But They Live We Sleep was well-received here in the Twin Cities as the gritty indie rock that it is, as much Superchunk as shoegazer. After its release, Brief Candles never stopped -- they toured and recorded. What they didn't do was rush their response to an album unfairly labeled "lo-fi."
Fractured Days (stream here) was work-shopped at shows, and was worn down until its corners were smooth long before it was actually on wax. The finished album was recorded and mixed with the sort of time granted to big money acts. A day to mix a song? One engineer said that was his limit. Another said he could do nine. Brief Candles took the time to work with both. They finished with an album that left several songs behind, but had the pacing and depth of a something bigger.
"It was a very frustrating process," Dixon says. "I know all of us really wanted to have this record out. We spent a lot of time with the order of the songs. All the songs were mixed by different people and I had a particular order that I liked and Jen had a different order, and so on."
Jen is bandmate and fellow guitarist Jenifer Boniger, now Jenifer Boniger-Dixon. Five years, once again, is a long time. They even bought a house, and in it built a studio and started recording tracks for the next Brief Candles record, which Dixon promises won't take another five years.
Also during those years Milwaukee's Atomic Records, where Dixon worked, closed. The music scene in Milwaukee was changing.
"If you played once a month in Milwaukee you're overdoing it," says Dixon about promoting their second album back then "That's too much and your draw here as a local is limited by that ... So we did a lot of tours."
On the road Brief Candles felt pushed to become a better band.
"We did two tours with this Japanese band and they were phenomenal. And at the second show the four of us were on edge." Brief Candles performed better than before, and kept growing. "Nothing motivates you like a little friendly competition," says Dixon. "Fast forward to the future and we played with Gospel Gossip for the first time. We were like 'Wow, we need to be a better band.'"
There will be plenty of friendly competition Saturday at the Kitty Kat Klub, where Brief Candles will play with the Chambermaids and Is/Is. All three have played together often, and in fact the Chambermaids' Neil Weir mixed four songs on Fractured Days.
Is/Is is a band that captures the potential of a competitive music scene, and the single from their forthcoming debut album captures only a sliver of their what they have accomplished with their first album, III. You might as well check it out because it's going to become a favorite fast.
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