The duo formed in 2019 recently released a self-titled album and plays a Grand Rapids show on Sunday night. The Artist Spotlight feature at Local Spins.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEOS
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
When I first met the Bronson Arm duo in 2021, we were headed out to my family’s farm in Gobles.
We had parked our vehicles in the mud around 10 p.m., trudging through the late spring underbrush to the place where we’d film the music video for Bronson Arm’s then-upcoming single, “His Ilk,” an unfiltered and emotional noise rock elegy.
Band guitarist and vocalist Blake Bickel had reached out a few weeks prior and asked if I wanted to dance for the video – an idea supported by drummer Garrett Yates, even though it meant having a three-quarters-naked dancer in the woods being honked at by neighbors demanding that the music be turned down.
Bickel and Yates first began jamming within a month of moving to Kalamazoo in 2019, each arriving in Southwest Michigan from opposite coasts – Bickel from Washington, where he’d played bass in The Great Goddamn garage punk/noise rock band, and Yates from New York, after he’d previously played in California-based emo/pop and grindcore bands.
Bronson Arm then played its first show just weeks before the COVID pandemic shutdown.
The two continued writing songs, which usually start with either a guitar riff from Bickel or a beat from Yates, with the lyrics typically trailing at the rear.
Their brand new self-titled album on Learning Curve Records was born out of patience and taking things in stride, evident in the way the 10 tracks were written.
The sludge rock/noise rock collection rolls out as an avant-garde journey that crafts a symphonic-style narrative by introducing new movements and instruments as it progresses. What starts off as a discordant and dissident entry point into the world of Bronson Arm becomes a thundering swing by the fifth track, reflecting the inevitable chase or action scene that occurs around the halfway point of many films.
“At the halfway point, we start becoming more conscious about variety to shake things up a little bit,” Bickel said.
VIDEO: Bronson Arm, “The Devil You Know” (from “Bronson Arm”)
The duo also shakes things up on stage. After playing The Lexington Bar in Detroit on Friday night, Bronson Arm will join Boob Sweat and Tonguecutter at Pux Cider Taphouse in Grand Rapids at 7 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 28). Admission is $7; get details online here.
When it comes to making a cohesive-sounding album, the duo believes it should happen naturally, so they chose songs written in the same time frame for “Bronson Arm.”
“Wrote one song at a time and when we have enough…,“ Yates explained.
On the album, melodies lift away from sludge-rock roots in the second to last track, and completely take off with a horn section moments from the end. Elements introduced earlier in the album well up underneath it all, stirring that steady soup of noise.
Both Kalamazoo residents are married with children, with Bickel acknowledging that life as a musician, husband and father “is worth it all, because we (Bronson Arm) are having fun.”
Bickel and Yates say they focus on the enjoyment of writing and performing their own music as an indicator of the band’s success, not their financial gain – advice they share with aspiring musicians.
The band (described on Facebook as creating “noisy, sludgy punk stuff from the Midwest”) connects with its fan base by staying active on Instagram and Facebook, and maintaining a regular schedule of shows – from playing large venues to sweaty or frigid basements.
It’s all about “getting out of the house,” Yates quipped. Added Bickel: “It’s fun.”
VIDEO: Bronson Arm, “One With the Floor” (Performance)
Copyright 2024, Spins on Music LLC