For Philly’s Bleeding Rainbow, it must finally feel like the past year and a half of hard work is paying off. The four-piece band’s third full-length, Yeah Right, dropped last month to their largest audience yet, thanks in part to new record label Kanine. And thanks in part to the sort of quirky, hooky back story that bloggers and music geeks can’t resist: that the name change (to Bleeding Rainbow from Reading Rainbow) was inspired by a disparaging remark from Carrie Brownstein.
The Carrie Brownstein story, it turns out, is mostly embellishment. “It’s barely true,” says one half of founding duo, Sarah Everton (more on that later), who also adds that it’s “total coincidence” that the change coincided with line-up changes (the band grew from a three-piece to a four-piece.) “I actually didn’t like making so many changes at once,” she explains. “Because I didn’t want people to dissociate everything we did before with what we’re doing now. … I didn’t want people to think we were a new band. We would have continued to evolve anyway, even if it was just me and Rob, or me and Rob and Al.”
Rob and Al are, of course, Rob Garcia, Everton’s husband and guitarist/vocalist, and Al Creedon, guitarist. Together with drummer Greg Frantz, they craft the sort of wicked, mind-bending jams that rile live audiences and reel in headphoners—the final and key ingredient to Bleeding Rainbow’s growing fan base.
The band’s decision to add a fourth member grew from the Yeah Right recording process—a year-long journey of nurturing and development that began in late 2011 when they started writing songs as a three-piece—and ended nearly a year later, after a whirlwind of re-recording and refining.
“We spent almost a month in January 2012 recording 12 songs, back when we were still a three-piece,” says Garcia, delving into the details. “Sarah, Al and I played all the drums on the record. And we had just three more songs we were gonna record with [Philly producer] Kyle “Slick” Johnson…and we realized while we were recording that we needed a drummer.”
After trying out a few drummers, they clicked with Frantz, and recorded three new songs. “We were really excited about everything,” recalls Garcia. But when they went label-hunting at last year’s South by Southwest festival, Kanine dug what they heard, but wanted it remixed. So it was back to the drawing board, and another month in the studio with Johnson.
Luckily, everyone agrees, the delay was worth it. “We knew we wanted a certain aesthetic, and certain vibes for the songs, and Kyle was right there to help us,” says Garcia.
The finished product was certainly worth the wait—Yeah Right is the band’s most nuanced record yet, full of high-energy, harmony-laden ragers, and hazy, shoegaze burners. The expanded line-up means songwriting is more complex and evolved—though Creedon notes that “the heart of a song is almost always [still] Rob or Sarah coming up with a riff or a melody, which we then take and start poking at.”
Being a four-piece is more fun too, especially when it comes to live performances.
“I used to get super nervous before every show, because being the drummer, there’s so much pressure,” says Everton, who played drums live before Frantz came aboard. “Now I just get really excited.”
To help ward off stage fright, she briefly dabbled with alternative methods previously: “A long time ago Rob and I would do this thing where we would carry around quartz crystals,” she says, explaining that the crystals were supposed to bring them luck. “And then there was that one time where we both forgot our quartz crystals. And we played the show…and then afterwards I was like, ‘It wasn’t the crystals! It was us all along!’”
Quartz crystals might not factor into the band’s success anymore, but the city of Philadelphia still plays a huge part in their mindset and process. Creedon jokes that folks from Philly “got the struggle,” and Garcia points out that most local bands are working class, and have to work extremely hard to find success.
“Sarah and I moved here 6 years ago,” says Garcia, who previously resided in Virginia. “And I just feel like: Philadelphia is not New York City. Philly has a lot of struggle and we all have the biggest chips on our shoulders because nothing is ever handed to us. With our band, we never had any contacts, and spent years playing house shows before we even got paid. You can hear it in the music.”
Everton agrees. “I get annoyed when people think we’re from Brooklyn,” she adds, noting the flood of buzz bands hailing from said borough. “I’m always like, ‘No! We’re from Philly.’” She continues. “Brooklyn has all these bands, and all these record labels—including our record label—and as a result, the labels are able to scoop up whatever bands are playing up there all the time, and develop these trendy rosters.” She pauses. “I’m bitter. It’s a Philly thing.”
Creedon grins, and clarifies that they actually have nothing against Brooklyn or Brooklyn labels. “We talk a lot of trash,” he says. “We’ll just sit around and talk trash sometimes. But we also give credit where credit is due.
When Bleeding Rainbow aren’t playing shows (or talking trash), they all have small part-time jobs. “But,” says Garcia, “our band is our life.”
Everton nods. “Rob and I were talking the other day about how having a band is like owning a small business. It’s funny…because you meet people who own small businesses and you’re always like Woah, that’s so crazy. That’s all they do! And you wonder: aren’t they gonna get burnt out? But then…Rob and I probably talk about our band 85% of the time. And when you put it like that, it makes it sound really unhealthy and weird. But it’s not.” She smiles.
Up next, the band is heading out on tour and to SXSW again, with plans to record an EP when they return. “Other than that,” says Garcia, “it’s just looking ahead and trying to figure out how we can do music as much as possible.”
So now back to the Carrie Brownstein rumor.
“The entire story kinda cracks me up,” says Everton, who admits the band allowed the media—including label Kanine—to run with the tale.
For the four of them, however, the whole thing is really one big joke. “Back in the beginning of 2010, she [Brownstein] was blogging for NPR, and had contributed to an All Songs Considered podcast,” explains Everton. “And she chose one of our songs to feature in an episode about…I think it was about new releases that year that she was excited about.” She continues. “And when she introduced it—well first of all, she called us Reading Rainbows, which is already funny—she said something like, ‘This next song is by a band called Reading Rainbows, which is not your first choice of band name in the band name grab bag.’ Or something. And I was like, ‘Oh man, Carrie Brownstein doesn’t like our band name.’”
She goes on. “So anyway, that was a few years ago. And then when we did change our name, I just thought it was funny to include that incident on our list of reasons. It actually had nothing to do with the change.”
Garcia concurs. “Really, we were mainly afraid of the threat of a law suit. And we were really sick of reviews that talked about LeVar Burton, and Reading Rainbow, and Star Trek. It’s just something people got hung up on.”
Now that the band’s laid these rumors to rest once and for all, they sincerely hope that people will move beyond them. The Carrie Brownstein story might have attracted attention initially—but it’s what really matters—the music—that make Bleeding Rainbow a lasting force.
Bleeding Rainbow plays Johnny Brenda’s tonight, February 14. The 21+ show begins at 9:00 and tickets are $10; more information can be found via the venue’s website.
Yeah Right is the featured album in this edition of Unlocked. Stream spotlighted single “Waking Dream” in Monday’s post, read Tuesday’s album review; see a killer live vid in yesterday’s post, and check back tomorrow for a special musical surprise from the band.