\\ How Brand New and Jazz taught me the same lessons
When listening to Deja Entendu recently – the second album from Long Island rock band Brand New – I realised that that band’s work isn’t too dissimilar to that of many Jazz artists; perhaps it’s the extreme dynamics and long, mysterious titles (Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades)? No, audibly, there are plenty of differences. The similarities I realise, are in my relationship with them.
\\ 5PM, 5 February, 2006
Whilst on a boat from the Isle Of Wight to Southampton, UK, I wrote a card with a simple message. It was addressed to Jesse Lacey, the vocalist and principal songwriter of Brand New. I was on my way to see them play live at Southampton Guildhall. I had no idea how I was going to get it to him, but I would. He had to know how much Deja Entendu meant to me.
\\ Sometime in 2004
Walking up Park Road – the long, steep hill between my house and school – I would listen to Deja Entendu on my MP3 player. I wasn’t enjoying school. I’d moved from North West London to the Isle Of Wight four years previous. My strong London accent – with its missing consonants and “innit though”s at the end of almost every sentence – was mimicked. My uncompromising kookiness for eye-catching hairstyles and self-deprecating sense of humour went against me. Nobody got me. Deja Entendu is about isolation, anger, quiet self-belief, and finding an identity when you feel like everyone around you doesn’t want you to have one. Jesse Lacey got me. I remember distinctly thinking on one of these walks, “I will never give up on music”. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I just knew.
For as long as I can remember, Saturday mornings were as follows; walk into South Harrow’s town centre with Mum and Dad, swinging their hands, or sometimes on Dad’s shoulders. We’d buy fresh white rolls and a treat at the bakery (normally a belgian bun for my parents to share, an iced-ring doughnut for me), and then onto Woolworths. My parents would browse for anything they needed (or didn’t need, in reality), and I would, with purpose, walk towards the CD singles. I’d purchase a new one every week with my £2 pocket money. I remember walking away with The Spice Girls, Brandy & Monica and Janet Jackson. I’d play the CD on repeat for most of the day.
\\ 2002 onwards
I started to buy CDs because I was drawn to them, not because I’d heard them before. I was drawn to the covers, the Journalist quotes, the song titles. I would go to HMV with the earnings from my Saturday job and bring home a collection of music that I’d never heard before. I enjoyed the surprise, and for albums I didn’t like – of which there were only a couple – I found just as much value in thinking about why I didn’t like them. On one particular visit, in either late 2003 or early 2004, I bought three albums I’d never heard of until that moment; Black Rebel Motor Cycle’s BRMC, Brand New’s Deja Entendu, and Amy Winehouse’s Frank. These artists soundtracked my teenage years.
\\ 9.15PM, 5 February, 2006
I was watching Brand New play live with two of my best friends, Robin and Stef, as well as Robin’s girlfriend – we’ll call her L. It was a platonic friendship between Robin and I, but L didn’t trust that there wasn’t something more between us. She came with us despite not liking Brand New (another reason for me to begrudge her company). She spent most of the set wandering around the venue. I didn’t know how long she’d been gone for when she came back holding four wristbands. In her boredom, she’d been chatting to the guy on the merch stand. He gave her four passes to the after party. I should thank her properly.
\\ Summer, 2008
I went to Brighton for the weekend. As planned, I came back with a five inch tattoo on my back that reads ‘Deja Entendu’.
\\ Summer, 2011
My eyes were completely transfixed to the stage of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. It was 2.45AM, and I was watching the house band with my friend Robbie who suggested I might like it here. He and our friends were ready to go home. They were tired and they were bored. We’d been there for almost five hours. They suggested a taxi but I wasn’t ready to leave. I was teary behind the eyes. As clear as day I thought, “I’m home”. I felt a sense of community around me. I felt like I was in exactly the right place; I couldn’t possibly be anywhere else at this moment without disrupting some course of fate. I belonged. I felt like an individual, but I didn’t stick out either. I wanted to go back as soon as possible.
\\ Summer, 2011 – a week before Ronnie Scott’s
Whilst procrastinating my uni work, I started watching Series one of Homeland, a TV drama series that featured Miles Davis and John Coltrane in its soundtrack, and a haunting piece of music by Tomasz Stańko in the opening credits. I couldn’t get enough of watching (and listening to) it.
\\ Summer, 2011 – a week after Ronnie Scott’s
I wanted to return to Ronnie Scott’s but I was several books deep into my dissertation. I called them to ask, “am I able to bring my laptop to work there if I keep quiet?”. It was a very obvious “no”. I got back to work.
\\ 10.30PM, 5 February, 2006
I’d spent the evening asking Vincent Accardi (lead guitar) and Garrett Tierney (bass) about Brand New’s songwriting: Where does your inspiration come from? How do you start to write a song? What is Geurnica about? Jesse had chipped his tooth on stage when swinging his microphone. He wasn’t coming out. I sipped my Stella Artois can and accepted that I wouldn’t meet him this time. I gave my card to Garrett; “will you please give this to Jesse for me?”.
\\ Winter, 2011
I had just started my final year of studying Music Journalism BA. I’d spent three years writing about rock music. The late noughties and early teens weren’t exactly a peak time in its history. With a creative space longing to be filled with an understanding of what I experienced at Ronnie Scott’s, I raided Fopp in Covent Garden. I came away with a backpack of about twenty discounted CDs. In there was Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. With even less preconceptions, I had Quincy Jones’ Summer In The City (£3) and a compilation called Next Stop: Soweto (£5). Sat on the floor of my bare and beige living room, I would play these albums back to back. I changed my Final Major Project at Uni. I wasn’t inspired to produce a music TV show anymore, I wanted to curate an online platform to make this music more accessible to young people like me, who had no idea how fucking incredible jazz was. How it could make you feel.
\\ Approximately 10.50PM, 5 February, 2006
My friends were worried about us missing the hour long boat home, the last of the night. Simultaneously euphoric but somewhat defeated, I agreed as we said our goodbyes and made our way out. “Are you Tina?”, Jesse Lacey had just walked towards me. Before I stopped to think of something more interesting to say, I simply replied, “yes”. “You wrote that card?” he asked softly. “Yes”, I said. Jesse put his arms around me and gave me a tight hug, with his head in the burrow of my shoulders. It lasted several seconds. “Thank you, thank you so much”, he said. My friends and I spent several minutes talking with him. He asked me to promise that I wouldn’t get a Brand New tattoo until I’d thought about it for another three years. My friends and I ran like the wind to catch the boat. We missed it, but we were elated as we recounted the evening we’d shared together. We napped in the boat terminal until the early hours. I was so happy.
\\ 14th July, 2015
A good friend – who is a very successful live agent – recognised my enthusiasm for introducing jazz to young people. He invited me to put on a gig series at Pizza Express Jazz Club, and in some stroke of luck, I managed to book world-renowned trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire for a two night run. After I introduced him to the stage, I watched from the back, alone, but not lonely. I spent the duration of that performance feeling like my chest had been opened up; that my heart had been visible for everyone to see – should they have turned to look. They would have seen that it was blushing bright red, beating louder and faster than the kick drum. I had met Ambrose before the performance, and so my social awkwardness subsided somewhat when he walked in my direction after the show. I couldn’t let him walk past me without making sure he knew how I felt; “Your music teaches me to be vulnerable”, I said. It came out uncontrollably, not dissimilar to the feeling you have when you say “I love you” after playing it cool for several months. I think he thought I was trying to flatter him. His set was a bit like listening to Deja Entendu.
JS | Tina Edwards