Fog crept across the stage and fell onto the audience as a ghostly audio clip from the track rang through the PA system blaring the first notes of “Lit Me Up.” Post-hardcore and emo-heavyweight band, Brand New headlined their first official show for their latest album during High & Low Festival in San Bernardino over the weekend.
Dimly lit and reverberating across the festival grounds, Brand New began strumming the first notes of their long-awaited album, “Science Fiction” to thousands of onlookers. Fans sang along wholeheartedly and with familiarity, despite the fact that the album was released only a few weeks prior.
The ground shook as both drummers began playing the rhythm to “Gasoline,” an upbeat song that seemed to give everyone in the audience one goal and one goal only: to get to the very front of the stage. Throughout the hour and 20 minutes that the band was on stage, the audience sang along to their favorite hits, sometimes even overpowering the band.
Brand New’s fifth studio album “Science Fiction,” released Aug. 17, earned the band a No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 charts for the first time in their 17-year career. It is the first independently distributed album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2017.
Brand New’s set in San Bernardino along with a show in San Francisco on Monday were the band’s only 2017 California dates. Following co-headliners Tegan and Sara and Death Cab for Cutie, they debuted seven songs from “Science Fiction,” accompanied by several songs from the rest of their discography.
Vocalist Jesse Lacey, 39, closed the show with a solo performance of “Soco Amaretto Lime,” an acoustic favorite, which the band released on their 2001 debut record, “Your Favorite Weapon.” During the outro of the song, which features a group chant of, “You’re just jealous ‘cause we’re young and in love,” Lacey switched the lyrics to, “I’m just jealous because you’re young and in love” before thanking the audience and walking off into the dark side of the stage.
An eight-year stretch of sparse touring, a handful of singles that barely quenched the thirst of their die-hard fan base and a postponement of their new record through a letter to fans in 2016 left the alt-rock world at the altar. However, that was not enough to push them away.
Preorders for “Science Fiction” sold out the first day they were made available but were soon opened for additional orders once arrangements were made.
The album release, which took place over the course of two days, was cryptic, sudden and created hysteria among the scene that surrounds the band.
On the morning of Aug. 15, the band made announcements on their Facebook page regarding preorders for the new album. Without any set release date or previews, the post generated a wave of questions from fans, critics and music publications. Due to the excessive gap between albums and the band’s not-so-subtle hints that they would be splitting up in 2018, rumors of a potential new album drove the internet to madness.
Two days later, reports of fans receiving unmarked CDs containing one 61-minute track in the mail began making their way around the internet. Only 500 copies were shipped from the band’s own label, Procrastinate Music Traitors. They were titled “44.5902N104.7146W,” which are the coordinates to Devils Tower. The tower is a scenic national monument in Crook County, Wyoming, but the band has yet to confirm the meaning behind it, pushing fans to create conspiracy theories regarding its meaning.
The album was uploaded to YouTube through fan accounts and has received over 1 million plays combined through separate unofficial channels.
An official release was made by the band following news of fans receiving the album from these unofficial channels.
“Science Fiction,” which clocks in a total running time of 61 minutes, is Brand New’s longest album to date. The band, who has developed a reputation for switching the direction of their sound with each album, stays true to that tradition with “Science Fiction.”
There are new sonic elements surrounding the songwriting style that the band has stuck to over the last 15 years, and Lacey approaches the songs with a much more relaxed, natural vocal style than the band’s previous efforts. The album, in its entirety, balances between the eeriness of Brand New’s 2006 release, “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” and the abrasive, often overlooked 2009 album, “Daisy.”
Album influence aside, “Science Fiction” offers a nostalgic taste of each Brand New album and blankets them in a new, profound style that the band has spent the last eight years perfecting.
There seems to be a stigma that most comeback albums aren’t as good as their predecessors, an unfortunate cliché for artists who shy away from the traditional two-year album release cycle. However, Brand New seems to have laid waste to any speculation that their career would succumb to a withered end.
Brand New starts their official tour on Oct. 15. “Science Fiction” is officially available on streaming services and can be purchased at the band’s site, procrastinatemusictraitors.com/shop.