California punks Neighborhood Brats have a solid track record of knocking out scorching hook-filled punk rock. Their forthcoming record “Claw Marks” is only their second full-length, but they’ve released a number of blistering EPs including the 3-song barrage of
“Night Shift” earlier this year.
However, it’s been a few years since “Recovery“, the epic 23-minute fight club of an album that was released in 2014. “Claw Marks” is due November 16th from Dirt Cult and we’ve got the first salvo in the form of the ferocious “Nina’s Ghost”
On “Nina’s Ghost” the band plays with wild abandon opening with the screaming guitar of George Rager into a savage Discharge d-beat. It’s 2 minutes and fifteen seconds of fast and loose punk thrash and the production is nothing less than cacophonous. Vocalist Jenny Angelillo snarls and spits about a rebound relationship and it all sounds so fresh. It’s like punk is brand new again.
Pre-order “Claw Marks” HERE!
Jenny and George were kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
Nina’s Ghost has the recklessness of early Damned and the production sounds more sonically amped up than this years “Night Shift” ep. It sounds as though you are swinging for the fence – (sorry for the baseball analogy, go Dodgers?!?). Did you re-record the “Night Shift” tracks and what was the mindset heading into the studio to record “Claw Marks”?
George: First off, bummer World Series, but it was all pretty much expected based on the powerhouse that Boston was this year. They simply out-hit and out-pitched the Dodgers. I think LA was lucky to win that one game that went 18 innings or whatever.
Anyway, the LP version of Nina’s Ghost was recorded with the same guitars, drums and bass and at the same studio as Night Shift. Most of the session Night Shift came from is on Claw Marks, btw, slightly re-mixed. The song “Night Shift” itself has a different piano track (not just me banging on keys) than the single. The production difference you hear on Claw Marks is the 6 months in between recording sessions. I think I mixed up the guitar amps slightly. Production-wise, on Nina’s Ghost, I was going for Black Cross-era .45 Grave meets Plastic Surgery Disasters-era Dead Kennedys. I even used a vintage Echoplex. I’ll totally take the Damned, though. Overall, I wanted the LP to be more of a reflection of where Jenny and I are at with life. Like, I definitely feel like during and after we made Recovery, the band was being stress tested in several ways. It revealed a lot of underlying problems in and out of the band, and I hear that when I listen to that album. Everything seemed to be spinning and 1,000 miles a second. On Claw Marks, we’ve kinda channeled the energy in a different way… I always use the term “flip the script” when we write nowadays. Like, we are in control of our lives, this is what is happening and why, this is how we feel, and this is how we’re handling it. It’s not a more posi-outlook necessarily, but I think we went into this album with a different world view.
Jenny: In my opinion Nina’s Ghost also has some Rikk Agnew-era Christian Death guitar work, especially in the breakdown…recording Claw Marks was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had in a recording studio. We worked with Mark Rains at Station House studio in Echo Park. Mark is amazing and he also has a dog, Darkness, which is like having a living stress-ball in the studio. Seriously – anytime I felt anxious or nervous about recording my part all I had to do was snuggle that dog. Mark, George and I (and Darkness) work really well together and were able to riff off each other and come up with some stellar ideas for songs. Overall is was really creative and relaxing which are not two elements that often go together in the studio. Mark is the MAN! It’s one of the only times I’ve ever come out of the studio feeling completely confident in our work. The only thing that really dragged us down during the recording process was I got that awful death flu that was going around last winter and we had to hit the pause button till I was well enough to work. At the worst of my flu I had a fever of 104 and watched Casino for the first time and thought I was going to die to the sound of Joe Pesci’s voice.
This song is a true story and it hurt like hell, but I got some killer material out of it. Instead of looking at it as a revenge song it goes straight to my very own jugular.
Tell us the story behind Nina’s Ghost….
Jenny: Full disclosure – Nina’s Ghost is some of my favorite lyrics I’ve ever written. I wrote about what happens when you get into a relationship with someone too soon after they’ve gotten out of another relationship and haven’t had time to heal and recover from their breakup. In my experience you then start to bear the burden of that person’s anger and/or damage caused by their ex…Many of times I’ve gotten into a relationship with someone who literally told me “I’m not ready yet” or “I just got out of something really long and intense” and I’ve tried to convince myself and them that my love and attention can “heal them” when in reality what they really need is time and space to be alone and work through their shit. What ends up happening inevitably is that I start to feel that I’m indeed in a relationship with two people – my partner and their ex. That ex becomes “the Ghost” and I’m literally “paying for mistakes I’ve never made.” This song is a true story and it hurt like hell, but I got some killer material out of it. Instead of looking at it as a revenge song it goes straight to my very own jugular. Writing Nina’s Ghost was a tool in flushing out some very inherent patterns of my past. Writing is cathartic like that sometimes. I was very raw and emotionally vomiting when I wrote this song and George definitely helped me craft it into something cohesive and intelligent.
George: Musically, I just wanted it to be fast. The song just kinda came together, which is typical for how I write our more hardcore songs. We originally demoed Nina’s Ghost with Mike Shelbourn on drums, and it kinda just came together while him and I were rehearsing for the Night Shift session. There’s a demo floating around Europe on a comp tape I put together. It will probably come out here at some point, I’ve just been hella busy.
After “Recovery” in 2014 you decided to split, but soon got back together. There was supposed to be a release in 2016 but “Night Shift” didn’t come out until March of this year. What was happening during that time?
George: We wanted to do an LP in 2016, and we definitely started writing. I don’t really remember large chunks of 2016 aside from the band going to Europe and doing some west coast US dates. A house I was renting in San Pedro started leaking water during the rainy season and I had to move suddenly around the end of the year. We later figured out that Jenny, my Mom, brother and kitty cat all got sick from mold in the house. That has nothing to do with Neighborhood Brats. Sorry. I think it just took a hot second to get the band rolling.
Jenny: It’s still funny to me that we continue to get questions about us taking a break – as if something was terribly wrong during that time, haha. Lots of bands take breaks, go on hiatus, do other projects, etc etc. I mean, for instance, if I had gotten pregnant and had a baby nobody would have made as much of a stink of it as it’s become! Anyway…George and I started writing new material in February of 2016. George was living in Venice, I had bleached my hair, and life had changed for the better for both of us personally. When things were starting to come together we realized that we never toured on Recovery so touring became a priority for 2016. I’m glad we did that – we did some US and Canada dates and went back to Europe. It was exactly the right thing at the right time and I think when Night Shift, and then Claw Marks came out it set us up for the best situations in both the recording studio and touring. I think if we had rushed a release it would have been lacking the balls that Night Shift and Claw Marks ended up growing, so to speak.
Also that mold was awful.
George: I wish I would have gone about it differently… we were only broken up for about 7 months, maybe, and I still have to answer this question all the time.
How have the lyrics/subject matter changed over the years since the first release?
Jenny: George and I have always written from the heart, sorry for the cliché. Our writing definitely reflects what’s going on in our personal lives as well as the social and political climate. George and I will always be a team. Without him I feel like my writing and creative body is missing a limb.
George: I think subject matter has gotten a lot more personal. We write about a lot of real, deep stuff sometimes, and most of it has a personal connection. It’s always been Jenny and me, so there’s a natural evolution because we’ve been working together for quite a while now.
We started laying the groundwork for a covers record. I won’t say what could be on it, but it will be mind-blowing.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2018 heading into 2019?
George: We’re doing two shows with out pals Night Birds in December. Next year, we’re gonna hit the road in the US a bit, and we’re touring in Europe again. Winter is kind of a hard time to hit the road, so nothing is planned too far out. We started laying the groundwork for a covers record. I won’t say what could be on it, but it will be mind-blowing.
Jenny: I definitely want to hit the road as much as possible in 2019. We have a brand new Sprinter Van, so we really need to capitalize on it! We want to get out there as much as we can and tour on Claw Marks because we really stand behind the music and we are really performing like a well oiled machine right now.