By seeing the darker side of the rock n’ roll lifestyle, Burning Brides have learned that the only way to survive is to fight fire with music.
Musicians are difficult to read. Day in and day out they abandon their life’s restrictions and exhibit talent and passion through collections of ear-tantalizing melodies. Their 30 minute sets are their way of celebrating. But in some cases, they’re also their escape. All fans will remember is the music. We don’t truly acknowledge what goes on behind the beautiful noise we hear or witness. That’s why if a musician announces the end to their career, we instantly protest how they won’t produce any more albums. We’ve all heard the same story about how artists spiral from fame to reality, but the question is: are we really listening?
Like all artists, Dimitri Coats has a story to tell but he’s not quick to share it. The singer/guitarist has seen shadows and spotlights with his troop Burning Brides and can come up with one exclamation: music is tough. It’s not an innocent fairytale full of pixie dust and happy endings. Instead its a never-ending road of touring, recording sessions and endless criticism. Not to mention the struggle to establish a lifestyle that won’t cause a nervous tick.
About 15 years ago, the hard rock band that is Burning Brides was brought into existence. Coats met his counterpart Melanie in New York City and with school being a forgotten memory, their dream of starting a rock band was about to become true.
“Even though I maybe had three songs, she thought they were really cool,” explains Coats. “We were into bands like The Pixies and Sonic Youth who had female bass players so we felt inspired to get her a bass and write more songs.”
The end result was three years of searching and moving from city to city. Once the duo hit Philadelphia, they discovered a special yet small music scene and a drummer (former Mike Ambs) that fit their creative puzzle.
“Crowds started digging it right away,” says Coats. “We came in with a heavy trio assault and stuck out. Back to basics, no bullshit.”
The raw sound Burning Brides produce is exactly what defines their title. Even though the name itself was derived from unorthodox films about brides, it started a new chapter for the musicians. The band dived into existence and started building a reputation that included being loud, downright metal and having the skill to pull out a black ballad that screams The Beatles. Their thrash-filled melodies may seem simple (“I write songs usually stoned on the couch and then I teach them to the band” exclaims Coats), but they are created through an artistic and subconscious approach. Dealing with math and spirits fascinates the musicians and often leads them to sessions that shimmer darkness and excitement.
“Sometimes we’ll listen to a wide range of stuff back to back on vinyl,” says Coats. “We’ll go from The Kinks to to Bob Dylan to The Stooges to The Damned to Slayer and so on. We sometimes wear our influences on our sleeves a bit but that’s ok. At least we have decent taste for the most part.”
Such a unique collection of music helped the band get their first large concert in 1999, where they opened for Queens of the Stone Age. Even though its a flashback they wish to never undergo because it might re-hospitalize them again, the concert was a starting point. Burning Brides saw their popularity rise and with record label scouts hounding their live gigs, they eventually signed to File Thirteen Records and released Fall of the Plastic Empire. Often claimed their best album to date, the band’s debut announced their music to the media and fans. But it also produced a minor career downfall, as the band was dropped by File Thirteen.
“We’re really not sure what happened,” says Coats. “We got spoiled when we got signed and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t go to our heads a bit. We also fell a bit too far into the cliche lifestyle which was fun, but a bit of a waste. You live and you learn.”
The learning experience didn’t last long for the trio. As soon as they were dropped from File Thirteen, the band was picked up by V2 Records. Not only did the new business relationship give Burning Brides some stability, but it also presented them with options they didn’t have before.
Photo Cred: Brian Romero
“We showed up to South By Southwest one year and were featured in the local paper and suddenly we were the hot band to sign,” remarks Coats. “Timing had a lot to do with us being signed again, but we were also touring our asses off up to that point and we had to hire a publicist to make some waves. There was a buzz as people started to talk about the first record and the live show. Labels then started flying out to wine and dine us after that and then stepped in V2 who chose to re-release our debut worldwide.”
The new label was a blessing for Burning Brides as they jumped the underground ship and got the chance to tour countries such as Australia and Japan. The experience gave them a huge thrill and it influenced the band to produce multiple records as the years went by. Three records later, the group received five-star reviews, worked with outstanding recording studio geniuses and were featured in Guitar Hero. Burning Brides were at the peak, and because of that, they had several skeletons that needed to be gutted and buried.
With two more albums, Leave No Ashes and Hang Love, Burning Brides had to see the departure of two drummers. Losing a band member is like losing a friend, a teammate or a family member, sometimes all at once. The experience itself can at times cripple an individual, often leaving them wondering about their career and their life goals. Fans tend to see bands losing a member as a minor occurrence because the entire group isn’t extinguished. But when undressed, it’s much more.
“It’s really tough,” states Coats. “Sometimes you think about throwing in the towel and then someone calls and asks if you want to open for Jane’s Addiction. We’re successful enough to justify moving forward, like it’s still a thrill to make records and slay live shows. We’re very proud of what we’ve done. We’ve worked hard and never gave up even when it seemed hopeless. I’ve learned among other things that it’s never too late to go after what inspires or scares you the most. The Brides are living proof of that.”
Photo Cred: Ken McDowell
In a music industry stabbed by record sales and fueled by advertising, playing music for music has become difficult. Listeners have heard bands proclaim they will never sell-out or abandon their fans but by even making such claims, they are already finding themselves in a sense of commercialism. If an artist decides to be a true musician then they should just do it, not say they will. In order to do that, Burning Brides knows that it involves knowing what your goals are.
“It depends on what your expectations are,” explains Coats. “Some people just want to get laid. Others have a sort of disease and can’t stop writing. I often stay up late and am drawn to that sort of thing; it’s built in. We had really basic realistic goals when we started out. We never thought it would take off so fast or that we’d be able to do it for this long. If the whole thing ended tomorrow, I’d still end up creating music on some level because I can’t help it.”
That aspect of being an artist is what drives Burning Brides to improve. Despite four records to their name, the trio is still experimenting with a new drummer in Jeff Watson and claim they haven’t made their most adventurous album yet. Instead of focusing on record sales and what critics think, the band plans to turn a few heads without losing the raw yet attractively catchiness they’re known for. In Dimitri Coats’ words, they hope to bring the party back.
“I’ve written enough prayers at this point and a lot of them have been answered so it might be time to let go and celebrate a bit. We can relax and enjoy ourselves more now. We aren’t going anywhere. Our flame will inevitably burn out some day but you’ll still be able to see the smoke from far away.”