Vrrroom at the top:Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ignores the hype

By Gus Bode

After the Strokes channeled the Velvet Underground to “Next Big Thing” status, it’s only natural that some might predict a similar explosion for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s upcoming “Take Them On, On Your Own.”

One reviewer went so far as to suggest that the Bay Area indie-rock trio “aims for a commercial breakthrough” with its sophomore release due out Sept. 2.

That’s an unpleasant and shocking prediction for guitarist Peter Hayes.


“That’s a pretty vicious thing to say,” Hayes says by phone from London, where the BRMC is previewing “Take Them On, On Your Own” in a series of club dates. “That’s a very mean thing to say.”

Though Hayes, singer-bassist Robert Turner and drummer Nick Jago specialize in the trendy post-punk sound reminiscent of seminal British bands such as the Jesus & Mary Chain and stateside icons such as the Stooges, the band doesn’t covet Strokes-level hype.

“Those are the things that need to change” in the music business, Hayes says. “It’s just so obvious that it’s the cycle they go through at record companies because they only know how to do business in one way. The nice thing is that the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Hives and us don’t sound too much alike at all.”

For Hayes, the negative aspect is that the business side of the record industry has irrevocably changed the way he looks at music.

“When you’re just listening to it there’s a lot more mystery to it. You don’t know the nonsense of it, and that’s a great thing.

“That’s something that I always fight being in the business now. I’m trying to hold on to the notion that it’s about the music instead of business people trying to make money off it.

“They go running around looking for the next Strokes, the next White Stripes or the next Linkin Park, but really, if you like a band, that’s all it’s about.”


Yet that doesn’t mean he has empathy for devotees of Kazaa and other free file-sharing services that find ways to avoid paying musicians for what they create.

“I don’t know why it’s a big deal that people don’t want to pay a dollar for music. If you have enough money to buy a computer, you have enough money to pay for art.

“Why is it a big deal that music should be free? Of course it should be free, but we don’t live in that world right now. If we did, your computer should be free, your clothes should be free. Why just pick on art? That’s ridiculous.”

The band does offer a limited-time free download of “Stop” on its Web site as a promotional strategy for “Take Them On, On Your Own.”

Like much of the album, “Stop” was created on the road, where the band would lift musical phrases from extended live jams and cobble them into songs.

The throbbing, guitar-driven “Stop” evolved from a favorite set-closer “Fail Safe.” Another track, “Six Barrel Shotgun,” traces its origin back to “Red Eyes and Tears,” off the band’s self-titled 2001 debut.

“A lot of the stuff is written on the road,” Hayes says. “You go off and start jamming on a song and it would turn into something that gets put on the album. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens.”

Though the band has never been overtly political, “Take Them On” veers into that territory with “US Government.” Hayes says the song looks at shaping world events at a grass-roots level rather than by taking a swipe at President Bush.

“I think it’s pretty obvious what is wrong, but at the same time it is hidden under a lot of things. I don’t mind slamming Bush, but I don’t got nothing to say about him.

“It’s more of a personal thing:What are we going to do as people to personally affect things differently? Those are good questions to ask.”

Once BRMC had developed enough material on the road, the band convened in London to record basic tracks in November. The location was selected because drummer Jago, a British citizen, was in the midst of visa problems that prevented his traveling to the States.

Early this year, the songs were mixed in Los Angeles before the trio revisited them on the road again on a tour that took them into Boston and other major U.S. markets.

The band will be back in the States this fall, though there’s no plans yet to visit Orlando, a city that Hayes says BRMC has never played.

“We should get down this next American tour. I don’t know what the deal is, but we’ve asked about going to Orlando two or three times.”

By then, BRMC might be basking in more media hype, but that’s not how Hayes ultimately measures the band’s accomplishments.

“Success is being able to do another album, if people want it. We’ll do one anyway, but it would be nice if there were people who wanted it. Other than that, it’s not falling into the business of this, not letting any of it get in the way of the music.

“In this business, you’re talking about yourself so much, it’s easy to think you’re important.”