"I'm sick of everything feeling like a Gap ad. Where's the danger? I want to be scared and moved and turned the fuck on!"
Dimitri Coats on "Fall of the Plastic Empire"
With their raw power, gargantuan guitar riffs, and balls-to-the-wall live performances, Philadelphia's Burning Brides most often evoke comparisons to hard rock forefathers the MC5, the Stooges, and Black Sabbath. Yet, with their innate melodic sense, complex dynamics, and broad musical references, it's the latter-day rock royalty- Nirvana, the Pixies, and Sonic Youth- the band is most often likened to. But the Brides themselves come from an entirely different school of music one that few bands - if any- will know a thing about.
Burning BridesLong before being saved by rock and roll, singer-songwriter Dimitri Coats, hailing from Boston, traveled an almost certain path to success in the theatre while bassist Melanie Campbell, raised in Texas, was well on her way to becoming a professional modern dancer.
"Melanie starts coming over to my house in Jersey City where we were just always listening to music," Dimitri recalls. "She was already into the Velvet Underground and the Beatles, but I start throwing the Stooges and Sabbath at her. I put on this live Who tape and she was like `Oh my God, that's the coolest thing ever? I want a bass.'"
Burning BridesAt the same time Melanie began encouraging Dimitri's rock muse. "I was with him almost every day," she explains, "and he was writing all this great music. Even when it hadn't dawned on him to start his own band, I don't think I'd ever seen a day go by without him playing one of his four guitars. I was like, `Why aren't you playing music? Why are you acting?' It just seemed so dumb." They came to the same conclusion about their stifling professions that could be best summed up in two words: "Fuck This!"
In 1996 the nascent Burning Brides decided to burn the bridges to dancing and theatre leaving New York City behind to find their rock and roll dream. After stints in Portland and Boston, the couple finally settled down in the City of Brotherly Love. "As soon as we moved to Philly," everything started to happen," Dimitri says.
In 1999, with an affordable house complete with a basement to rehearse in, a drummer, and a supportive community of friends and musicians, the Burning Brides were born. The band played their first show at "the best small club in town," the Khyber. "From that point on," Dimitri says, "we had a fan base, and every time we played the audiences got bigger and bigger."
By 2000 the band was ready to record. They chose Miner Street Cycle Sound and began work on "Fall of the Plastic Empire." Co-produced by Dimitri and Brian McTear (Mazarin, Matt Pond PA), the album is like an M-80 grenade exploding with Coats feral vocals and fierce guitar attack interspliced with poignant melodies and sonic intensity. "We pride ourselves on having a lot of different colors to our music, Coats says. "We have a dark metal side, a freak-out side, but then there's also this side to us that loves the Beach Boys and the Kinks."
"Plastic Empire" was released in 2001 on the indie label File 13 to universal acclaim. But the album soon sold out of its initial run. "Critics would write glowing reviews," Coats says, "but they would all say they couldn't find it anywhere."
With incessant touring and a combustible live show drawing upon Dimitri and Melanie's vast performing experience, the Brides slowly but surely became one of the hottest live bands on the touring circuit and something of a band's band. From their first tour with the White Stripes, the band was tapped to play with acts as diverse as Marilyn Manson, the Breeders, J Mascis, Rival Schools, Mike Watt, Royal Trux, Cave In and Local H. Their manager estimates that by the summer of 2002 the Brides had played well over 300 gigs.
Amidst a major label bidding war, the band saved one of its best performances for this past year's South-by-Southwest music conference in Austin, TX. "We played at this place called B.D. Riley's," Melanie recalls, and there were like 200 people listening from outside the window. It was so packed that people were sitting on our amps -- it was just insane."
To say the summer of 2002 was "eventful" for the Brides would be an understatement. The band enlisted a slamming new drummer Jason Kourkounis (Hot Snakes, Mule, Delta 72) signed to V2 records, and went back to the studio to remaster "Plastic Empire" with Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, Sonic Youth). After a year of unrequited demand, "Fall of the Plastic Empire" is being re-released on September 24th with all new artwork on V2. The band just finished recording three new b-sides with John Angello (Dinosaur Jr., Screaming Trees) which will come out later this fall. The Burning Brides will be touring throughout September with Queens of the Stone Age and ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. This will be followed up by a tour in October with The Anniversary.