Four people live on the 5th floor at 470 Flushing Ave in Brooklyn. They either walk the stairs or use the freight elevator, and I suspect that based on the amount of freight in their home the elevator gets quite a bit of use. Two of the residents are production designers and brothers, and they’ve strewn the apartment with power tools, bikes, furniture, mannequins, electronics, and general crap. They’ve also built (along with all of the rooms in the space) a stage, and it too is crowded, covered in cables and pedals and drums and keys, and that’s where (the third occupant) Bryan Scary and his band rehearse, adjacent to a fifteen foot long painting of a bleeding Christ. Scary seems unfazed by the mess, though his bedroom is terribly neat. When I asked him this morning what he does with his days, when his band is at work, he said he gets ready for Halloween. “The Shredding Tears,” his first record, will be released then. It includes the single “The Blood Club .”
BRYAN SCARY: I listen to all kinds of stuff. A lot of it is older, so I couldn’t have seen some important parts of the band, the performance aspect. I listen to music with the mindset of wanting to know about what was going on around it, historically. With pop music, it’s just as much about the packaging and the world surrounding the music as it is about the music.
JANE RENAUD: Who got you into music, got you exploring?
BS: My dad and mom. They would play me music all the time. My mom forced me to take piano lessons. She forced me to practice. She knew I wasn’t very good at tee ball. There had to be something else.
JR: Were you good at piano?
BS: When I was younger I was good. But then I lost the track of being professional, and now it’s my own style. I’m not that versatile of a player.
JR: The Shredding Tears is very versatile though, in terms of genre. It really reminds me a little bit of that Jeff Lynne album –
BS: Out of the Blue?
JR: No –
BS: Armchair Theater?
JR: Yeah, Armchair Theater. Every song is firmly placed in a distinct context. But with The Shredding Tears there’s more of a melancholy throughline and some consistent jokes, too.
BS: That’s true, but the genre hopping isn’t that intentional. It’s just what happens. I listen to so much that I can’t write the same stuff over and over again. It incorporates a lot of my favorite sounds and ideas in pop music. Glam rock to prog rock to psychedelic rock to musical theater. There’s some punkier stuff on there, and there’s some straight rock and roll.
JR: You did musical theater?
BS: I never really had any really big roles. I was always playing a father or some secondary character. There was the baritone in The Music Man quartet, which we made a quintet that year because there was not enough vocal power. Agwe, the god of water in Once On This Island. These were all in high school. And that was a ridiculous show because we were in a white Jewish suburb.
JR: Did you ever seriously consider doing musical theater, as a profession?
BS: No, never. But playing a character on stage, of course.
JR: What’s your ideal performance setting?
BS: I would want to play in nice theaters. I don’t really like concert venues. It’s like you’re crammed in, you’re standing up, you’re just supposed to be drinking, people are talking. They can be good for certain purposes if there’s really like an electric energy, but it’s not the greatest way for me to appropriate music. I’m often distracted.
JR: You mean appreciate?
BS: What’s appropriate mean?
JR: It means take and use for yourself.
BS: Yeah, appreciate.
JR: Maybe you did mean appropriate.
BS: It sounded good at that moment.
JR: You know, I went to the recent Flaming Lips show here in New York and it was crazy. It was the only show I’ve ever been to where I felt like I didn’t have to be watching the band to be getting the full experience of the show. Everyone was in a great mood and there was shit going on all around.
BS: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. You go to a show like that and you’re not just going to watch music. Rock music isn’t just about the music. It’s a show. The music’s not really complex enough for you to sit and just watch what the instrumentalists are doing. Usually it’s not, for me. But if there’s other stimulus, it’s nice.
JR: I’m always wanting to dance and am annoyed that it’s not really happening at a lot of shows.
BS: Around here it’s not, yeah, it’s not what happens. It’s a New York thing.
JR: I have a hard time dancing to your record.
BS: Yeah, it’s not really dancey. We have a dance song in our set though.
JR: You do?
BS: We have some surprises, yeah. You better dance at the show.
JR: I will definitely dance at the show. [Bryan Scary and his new band, The Shredding Tears, are playing a show along side The Dozens and The Self Righteous Brothers this Halloween at 7pm at 470 Flushing.] What’s that going to be like, by the way?
BS: I have no idea. It’s an experiment. This band has never played before in front of people. So I don’t know what’s going to happen. But our set is awesome. There’s lots of surprises. And we’re playing with two other great bands.
JR: What’s it like to make a whole record in your basement and then suddenly there are all of these other people involved? A band, a record label…
BS: It was really nerve wracking. I’d already finished it. Having to put it in other people’s hands is nerve wracking. I originally did the whole thing myself, played all the instruments. I used keyboard drums, fake drums. Then I sort of spread that demo around, and I didn’t really want to go back and redo it. It was more than a demo, because they were full tracks. But then the label [Black & Greene Records] expressed interest in it and I knew that I shouldn’t release it with the drums like that. So we decided to have Jeremy Black, the drummer from Apollo Sunshine, to go back and redo all the drums. It was really hard. It’s like taking the spine out of a person and trying to replace it. It’s like taking the whole heart out of the song. We had to do that in like four days and it was really hard. Non stop. And it’s still not exactly what I want, but it’s pretty close, and Jeremy did a great job. But anyway, we remixed it with Brian McTear at Miner Street Studios and mastered it with Paul Hammond and Paul Sinclair at Fat City Studios.
JR: So this record has been in the works for awhile.
BS: Probably three years ago, I wrote the first songs that I really wrote, and they were intended for this concept album. Other distractions happened and I never finished it the way I wanted to. And then I wrote a bunch of new songs. The latter half of the album is all the new stuff, or the newer stuff.
JR: Are you already thinking about your next record?
BS: Yes, the second record is totally written. It’s different. I’m going to record it soon with this new band.
JR: How do you see The Shredding Tears fitting into the music scene right now?
BS: There’s some acts out there, like The Fiery Furnaces, that are musically similar. But I think we’re pretty unique. And we’re lucky in that it’s sort of the Wild West right now in the indie rock scene. In the sense that there is no real style right now. There are certain sounds that people are into but I feel like anything is fair game. There’s often a 2-3 year period where there’s a dominating style, like the garage rock revival. But right now I think nobody’s really banding around a particular genre or style or innovation, so there’s a lot of room. The rock press, the major labels, the fans…they aren’t just doing one thing, one scene. New York City particularly. Obviously it’s a different story on the broader scale. In the country at large, rock music doesn’t do much.
At this point Jon, resident #4 of 470 Flushing, enters, zips his fly sheepishly, lights a cigarette with a blow torch and switches on some Creedence Clearwater Revival.
JON: The Shredding Tears is the soundtrack for a twisted backwoods theater.
BS: Why’s everybody listening to Creedence right now? You’re like the third person this week I’ve found listening to Creedence.
JON: It’s that time of year. It sounds good.
Album artwork by Hunter Nelson and Albert Thrower.