It seems that for every one band from Cleveland, there are about two or three side projects or solo acts that spawn from within it. It’s as if a band member doesn’t show up for practice, then they make use of the time by just starting yet another band. If no one from the band shows up for practice, then hey — there’s time to work on solo material.
This is certainly not the case with local heroes Total Babes, who are often marginalized as a side project of Cleveland’s rock ambassadors Cloud Nothings. Sure, there are some similarities in instrumentation and vibes, mostly due to the furious drumming style of its shared member, Jayson Gerycz. However, Total Babes is not a side project, and this is a distinction that can be heard clearly on their newest record, Heydays, which was released by Wichita Recordings this past May. From top to bottom, the band seizes every minute of their new record as an opportunity to reintroduce themselves as one of the Midwest’s most interesting rock bands. The rejuvenated band creates a unique type of rock music, melding pop, punk, and noise music into a powerful singular vision.
Starting in 2010, Total Babes has been the vehicle for guitarist Chris Brown’s songs, which are characterized by a sense of biting humor, and an emotional depth and sincerity that is rare for a band with such punk fervor. Rounding out the group are co-ring leader and drummer Jayson Gerycz, and newcomers John Elliott and Nathan Ward. Both new members have a significant pedigree of their own, respectively coming from Cleveland’s modern psychedelic spearheads, Emeralds, and arguably the best midwestern hardcore band, Cruelster.
I caught up with singer and guitarist Chris Brown before their show with Sebadoh at the Grog Shop — a show that marked the beginning of a month-long tour that included dates with Sebadoh, as well as Total Babes’ first European jaunt. I wasn’t afraid to ask him the tough questions.
Q. Heydays seems like a fitting title for the record, suggesting a nostalgic element and reinforcing this “soundtrack to a young man’s summer” vibe. Any other close contenders for titles?
I considered Larry Bird heavily as a potential title. Also, Thick Pink Hand Soap. I consider both better titles than Heydays.
Q. Many of the reviews for Heydays refer to the band as a super group. Some reviewers seem misinformed or overly concerned with the group’s shared members with other bands. Anyone — alive or dead — who you wouldn’t mind having people believe was part of the band?
I don’t think I would mind if people thought we were involved with any massive failure of a player in the NBA like Darko Miličić, Sam Bowie, or Greg Oden.
Q. You and Jayson have collaborated for years in several different projects. You guys are clearly a strong creative team that seems to play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Is there a buddy cop movie that would best describe your relationship?
Q. Those who know you and Jayson know your wide range of musical tastes and affinity for deeply American artists. Should listeners expect to hear these influences explicitly?
I think those influences peek out a little on this record, especially on “Repeat Gold”, which was the last song we wrote for the record. I would love to explore that sound, but we’ll have to see what happens when we start working on new cuts.
Q. Anything else I should know about the band or the record?
I just want to reiterate how much I would like to be perceived as a Darko Miličić Project.