Philly’s music scene has been an unparalleled force in recent times. Responsible for churning out the likes of Kurt Vile, Hop Along, and Modern Baseball, the DIY ethic amongst its independent music scene is now more vibrant than ever. Brandon Can’t Dance, yet another of Philly’s successful exports, is no exception to this phenomenon.
The moniker of Brandon Ayres, Brandon makes lo-fi, slacker rock straight from his bedroom that sounds as if it’s jumped right out of ‘90s Seattle. After a number of self-produced and released projects, Brandon’s first record on record label Lucky Number, ‘Graveyard of Good Times’, is slated for release in January. Today, he’s sitting in a van on the last leg of a US tour supporting garage heroes LVL UP and his pal Alex G. The gang are on their way to Wisconsin.
“It’s great,” Brandon says of the thriving music scene Philly has to offer. It’s a sphere that’s as much a creative environment as it is a familiar, interconnected hub. “The sports never do well, so at least the music is doing something right now,” he quips. “I feel like we all know each other. We all support each other. Everyone comes out to the shows.”
In the case of current van-mate Alex G, the two go way back. “I’ve known all the Alex G guys for a while now. I’ve known their current drummer since he was six,” remarks Brandon.
But even though he’s been making waves in the Philly scene for a while, watching his friends LVP UP and Alex G play every night is still a broadening experience. “It’s amazing,” he says. “They make me wanna do my bit. They kill it every night, and I try to bring my best as well, even though it’s hard.”
“When I started the project sophomore year of high school, there was no way that I could bust out a move."
— Brandon Ayres
Brandon already has a deep catalogue of Bandcamp releases; smatterings of garage and noise rock perfect for scoring an all-American high school teen film. His debut EP ‘LXVE’, released last September, is just a brief foray into the inner-workings of his psyche. Highlight ‘17’ is layered with gritty instrumentation, managing to sound both delicate and penetrating at the same time. It’s a window into Brandon’s teenage years, but the subject matter of his lyrics is not something so easily definable.
“It’s half and half,” Brandon says about songwriting approach. “I like to make up stories and random stuff. But there’s some descriptions and feelings that I’m putting in that are maybe something that’s going on with me at the time, and I’m putting it into another character or someone I’m talking about," he says. "Some of it is pretty personal, and straightforward, and some’s kind of subtle - it'll maybe have you think on it a little bit.”
‘Graveyard of Good Times’ - Brandon’s Lucky Number record debut - nestles itself in classic lo-fi instrumentation, but it also includes an array of wide-ranging genres. 80s synths are cushioned into distorted guitars, and Brandon’s vocals – subtle and almost delicate – ride against the tide of noise rock.
“I keep it interesting for myself where I’ll try not to stick with the same sound,” Brandon says. “I won’t try and record three of the same songs. If I do a rock song one day, I’ll start playing around with my synthesiser more and try and get something out of that.”
“I keep it interesting for myself where I’ll try not to stick with the same sound.”
— Brandon Ayres
The LP, recorded across a period of roughly six months, is entirely self-produced by Brandon. In DIY-embracing spirit, it's recorded straight from the bedroom acoustics of his grandmother’s house, on a device that is literally called a Portastudio.
“If I’m on a roll as far as recording goes, I’ll record as much as possible,” says Brandon. “I record at home. I use a little digital recorder. They call it a Portastudio. And I do it all in my room.”
Even with his first release on a large label, Brandon still oversees pretty much every aspect of his musical production. He’d been sending the label his half-written record from winter of last year, and the process of selection for the new album continued until this summer. Being taken under the wing of a bigger label is something that Brandon finds a sense of “confirmation” in.
“I guess… my family loves me,” he ponders, when asked about how being signed onto Lucky Number has affected his work as a musician. “They’re all like, ‘Once you’re done with your hobby, you can focus on real things’. And I guess it felt like I had achieved something [by signing with Lucky Number]. I’ll just do my best to keep it going. There’s a little more confirmation for me and my family because they worry about me a lot, they want me to be successful in whatever I do. They’re definitely supportive of the music stuff, but at the same time hesitant.”
And finally, can Brandon Can't Dance, in fact, dance?
“When I started the project like sophomore year of high school, there was no way that I could bust out a move. I’ve picked up lots of some crappy dance moves along the way, and I try to bring them out during my set,” says Brandon.
Brandon Can't Dance's debut album is out on 13th January via Lucky Number.