Philadelphia’s Brick Nova Dig Deeper On Their New Self-Titled Record
By Tyler Asay
I always find it interesting when a band or artist decides to self-title a new record AFTER their first one. It’s not uncommon that a band’s debut will be named after the band itself (The Doors, Vampire Weekend, Ramones), but it’s always more of a conscious decision when a group decides that title should be used a couple albums in. It usually signifies a pivot or change in the way the band decides to carry their career going forward (The Beatles (White Album), Blur, St. Vincent), almost like a rebranding or telling the audience that this is a core work that redefines their signature sound (the exception to this rule is Weezer, who did it like five times and just changed the color of the cover and added mustaches).
For Philadelphia’s Brick Nova, it was initially a simple decision. “To be honest, there wasn’t an intentional reason why it came to be called Brick Nova. None of us could think of any names that we thought were solid contenders,” said drummer Eric Lesinski. This self-titled effort, which came out this week, is the Philly-based band’s third LP in 5 years, following 2015’s On The Move and 2018’s Play Dead. “In retrospect, I see it as a perfect title for this record. All four of us individually and collectively contributed on this record to a greater degree than before in our first two records.”
The band’s origins date to their school days, and they’ve been playing together as a quartet ever since. You can hear their years playing together in the precision of their music and also from how much fun they are having playing music together. Vocalist/guitarist Tom Drakeford said, “It was nice to know immediately that this was a solid group of musicians and people who were fun to be around. Writing songs is always an enjoyable process.” You only get that with childhood friends, or say, the Monkees (which the band definitely lends some of their group hi-jinks to).
Similarly with the Monkees, there’s another 60’s/70’s cult band that Brick Nova takes immediate inspiration from. Early album single “In The Morning” contains the line, “Driving in my car crying to Big Star.” As someone who has also done this before, the connection was instant (the older I get, the more I realize that #1 Record is my favorite album of all time). Now, there’s a certain “unspoken cult creed of delight amongst Big Star fans,” so it was one of the first questions I asked the Brick Nova guys.
“I have a shirt with the #1 Record album cover on the front. Every time I’ve worn it at a show, I’ve always gotten compliments from strangers I’ve never met before for knowing who Big Star is. It’s been a secret weapon that’s gotten some people to give us a chance,” said bassist Jared Filer. Listening to Brick Nova (the album), that influence is present on tracks such as “Dreaming” and the riff-heavy rock of single “City Girl.” But it’s not just Alex Chilton and Chris Bell that Brick Nova are referencing, it’s an entire history of power-pop. Filer goes on to name REM, Blondie, and Mudhoney as influences for the band, along with newer acts such as Twin Peaks and Rozwell Kid. It’s an amusing and inviting brew of music.
Like mentioned earlier, this is the band’s third LP in five years. What I didn’t mention is that they’re barely out of college and each album so far has contained 14+ songs. When I asked the band how they could be constantly churning out gems such as “Genevieve” and “Hey My Friend,” the band brought up their home studio, Watchdog Paradise, where all of this new album was recorded. “Because our entire creative process occurs solely in-house, we are not limited by extrinsic factors like finances for recording and bulk scheduling times with outside producers and engineers at different studios, said Filer. “We practically have carte blanche to record however much Brick Nova material whenever we want.” It can’t hurt that each member of the band is contributing to the songwriting process.
Over the course of Brick Nova, you can only hear this band’s chops evolving (especially on the frantic coda of “The Greatest Feeling”). Well oiled machines work best after years of getting beer thrown on them in North Philly basements. “After high school, we started to become more immersed in the Philly scene since Eric and I went to Temple and Jared went to St. Joe’s. That helped us get into the legendary world of Philly house basements and bar venues,” said lead guitarist Paul Dallas. “We’ve come to really love the hospitality and warmth that the city of Philly has been able to provide, and we try our best to reciprocate and pass it forward to strangers and friends alike.” When the chorus erupts on “Terrified,” the band’s appreciation of this city rings true.
Brick Nova (the band) are a band unafraid to let it all loose and dig deeper. Brick Nova (the album) does just that, taking what they’ve learned so far and practically applying it, treating rock and roll not like homework, but like religion. Take the last song, “ST 20/49,” the title of which is another specific reference to our shared favorite band, or “(Perpetually) Tired,” a rollicking sing-a-long jam. It shows four friends working through music they love to create something new, pivoting towards their futures.
Listen to Brick Nova by Brick Nova, out now, below: