Mark Brainard To Release Self-Titled EP On April 29
Mark Brainard, former frontman of Aristocrat Laundromat, is releasing a solo album April 29 at The Demo in The Grove. The four-song EP was recorded at Loudhouse Studios after Brainard spent time world-reflecting. “I was getting weird being by myself honing my talents in my cave,” he says. Which may not have been such a bad thing, considering how unique each song on the album turned out.
Since the backing band with his previous group dissolved, Brainard had to pull musicians out of thin air to help record this recent project. He ended up with a solid cast—Aaron O’neil on bass, Nathan McCord (a drummer he found on Craigslist), Nick Horn on lead guitar and Nathan Jatcko on keys.
“It was a grind,” he explains. “When it’s only you, there’s just so many micro decisions. If I was just recording, no engineer or anything, I would keep recording over and over. I need someone to say ‘we got it. Zagk Gibbons [Loudhouse Studios engineer] is the God-like figure that kept my perpetually wondering brain as reeled-in as possible,” Brainard adds.
Brainard had always wanted to sing, but wasn’t sure how people would receive it. “It was kind of a secret,” he says. “I would drive around to sing,” he recalls from his time spent in Kansas before moving to St. Louis at 19. “When you’re 19, you’re a pocket full of delusions,” he says. “I got robbed in the first two weeks of being here.” The thieves couldn’t take much of value, but they did get something sentimental—all of his lyrics, poems and notes he had written in his youth. “I got a nice little dose of reality then,” he says.
Picking up the guitar around the same time, Brainard began playing open mics. “Right when you hear yourself over the PA for the first time, it rattles your world,” he recalls. “I don’t know why, but you get back up there.” After many open mics, playing with various musicians in the city and trying to make a name for himself, Brainard decided to ditch the idea of a band and focus on his solo album. Thus, his self-titled EP was born.
The first track “Can’t Blame Me,” is a catchy tune—which you’ll find most of them stuck in your head at some point—which Brainard says is a mystery even to him. “Melissa” is a song (believe it or not) about a brother sister relationship that ends in a fatal shark accident. “‘Melissa’ is about a dude’s sister who gets eaten by a shark, but he kind of has a thing for her,” Brainard explains.
It was written as a play on a couple news stories that Brainard caught while scrolling through headlines. “One story that I saw was about a French couple, freshly married on a honeymoon, and she got eaten by a shark—on her honeymoon!” he says. “The next story was a dude who was at a ballgame with his sister, and she choked on a hotdog and died. So I blended them together into a song.”
The album art on this EP, done by Thomas Thornberry, is uniquely curated to match Brainard’s song themes. It’s dark and ominous the way the cloud-like ship in the background is moving toward what we would see as Earth—described by Brainard as foreshadow.
Influenced by all the greats—from Bob Dylan to Jack White—Brainard uses a slew of inspiration in his work. “I like Beck a lot,” he says. “Beck’s a genius.”
In his songs, Brainard explores the fragility of identity and the human experience, it seems, almost in a humorous way. “What are you really at the end of the day?” he says, “I think you can always tell there’s someone going through the human condition [in my songs].”
Brainard has poured a lot of time and creativity into his work. The album focuses on figuring out how to live, laugh at yourself, survive and just be—especially as an artist. “The brain of an artist is a nomadic one,” Brainard says. “It’s wondering, prioritizing things differently. Most people join a band to avoid responsibility, when in reality it’s so much responsibility.”
Check out the release at The Demo April 29 with a full lineup including Carriage House, The Wilderness and a traveling band called Sweet Talkers. It will be a fun night of rock and roll weirdness.