The bird is a symbol of freedom. From "Black Bird" to "Free Bird," winged things have always been associated with autonomy and escape, and the appropriately named Los Angeles power-psych-punk band, Bluebird is an embodiment of artistic freedom.
Bluebird's music and aesthetics aren't easy to define or explain. In the way that Black Sabbath or even Queens of the Stone Age deftly blend heavy guitar riffing with shimmering vocal melodies, Bluebird makes catchy pop songs driven by heavy layers of guitars, that could also just as easily be outtakes from Swervedriver or Jane's Addiction. And, like Perry Farrell's former freak-flag-fliers, Bluebird is comprised of such divergent personalities that any song - from its most traditionally structured rock tune, to its freeform droning jams - seems to be tugging in a variety of directions all at once. This friction often results in some of the most psych-damaged ingenuity this side of the earliest Meat Puppets mutant punk-country. The charismatic and downright loveable characters in the band bring the passion and intensity to Bluebird's music, and its talented musicians prove that anything is possible with the proper alchemy of magic, will and intuition.
At first listen to Hot Blood, Bluebird's follow-up to its Y2K album, The Two (Dim Mak/Pacifico), the band's riff-rock may sound similar to Wool, QOTSA or even early Foo Fighters. However, the guitar textures and tasteful "jams" are far more reminiscent of 60's psychedelia, 70's warped skronk, and the MC5's throttled power-riff breakdowns (in fact, former MC5 guitar god, Wayne Kramer makes a guest appearance on the track, "Beautiful Believer"). Bluebird redefine the freejazz-in-rock thing by throwing the noodling out the window and actually having a capacity for working off of one another to build effective riffs and crescendos which bear some similarities to Drive Like Jehu's patchwork guitar strata. Perhaps the band's guiding force is the innate connections between brothers, Jim and Bryan Lee Brown (bass and drums, respectively) who have played together since elementary school days. But, the melodic hooks of vocalist Sam Velde and the thick guitar layers paved by Barry Thomas and recent recruit, Paul Fig (ex-Amen) add further glue to this bond. Composed of five musicians who each contribute a vital energy to every detail of their music, Bluebird's masterful balance of pop sensibility and sonic battery is compulsory listening.
Bluebird's live stage presence is equally impressive in its strangely symbiotic balance between members. On one side of the stage, there's Jim, flopping his hair, dancing and bashing his bass, while Barry, stone still, stands like a Medieval warrior going to battle. Across the stage, Paul hammers at his guitar, while Sam and Bryan solidify the center. The band appears transfixed in a stoic intensity similar to the Laughing Hyenas or Black Flag. It's a monolithic presence, from the way that all the equipment has "Blue Bird - Los Angeles" stenciled on it, to the band's late-80s SST bands' type of "fuck it" attitude, for just going all out.
The band spent much of the last year out of public view, but it remained incredibly productive during that time, and its recent onslaught of new material shows Bluebird to be refreshed and even more clearly defined in its mission. It's two recent albums - released just months apart - represent the diverse styles of the band.
The first album is the ambient, entrancing and mellow collaborative songs of Black Presence (Dopamine Records). The album was recorded in the band's rehearsal space in a series of open-ended "jams" with such guest musicians as Josh Hughes and Andrew Rothbard (Pleasure Forever), Dave Catching (QOTSA/Earthlings?), Mattias Shneeberger (Earthlings?) and J. Yuenger (White Zombie). The resultant tracks ebb and flow through musical landscapes much like contemporaries, Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor, and Spritualized.
The second album, Hot Blood (Dim Mak Recordings) contains 13 infectious blasts that perfectly demonstrate the Bluebird enigma. Hot Blood was also self-produced, mixed by Joe Baressi (Melvins, QOTSA, Weezer, Jesus Lizard) and mastered by David Chepa (Velvet Underground, BRMC, Dr. Dre...). A split EP with Dead Meadow will be released in 2003 by the infamous Buddyhead label/website, and a handful of singles and compilation tracks are all in the works for 2002 and beyond.
History Bluebird is a rock group from Los Angeles- a mess of hair, guitars, collision and exhiliration set to the odd light show, burning effigies and guest musicians. Reckless, intense and throbbing while wide-open and sensitive. Songs are reborn in impovisation or edited together, coalescing into an evening's set. The Brothers Brown, desert people of the American Southwest have been playing music with each other and with various ensembles since their baby teeth. James the elder gravitated towards strings and horns. Bryan towards percussion. In the mid 1990's, as a rhythm duo, they began playing impromptu and improvised sets in and around the LA basin. It was through these chance performances that Sam James joined the Browns in their musical endeavors. Soon after, old friend, nomad, and veteran roadie extraordinate, Barry Gordon Thomas entered the fray contributing guitar sounds. Improvisations became songs in which to improvise lyrics and music.
That the aforementioned foresome would become a band seemed an unavoidable eventuality. The significance of these formative machinations is that experimentation, dynamics and rhythm remained a permanent organ in the group. Although their bashing as a bass/drum/guitar unit accounts for most of their material, they've included other accompanying instruments and musicians in their work. Vibraphones and accordians even find their way into recorded work. Satellite congeros and timbaleros join them on stage.
In the tail end of the year 2000, the addition of fellow Bluebird compatriat occured in the form of Shelby Cinca. Formerly of Frodus, a bombastic DC-based futurist punk band that toured with Bluebird in 1998. A short time after Shelby decided that the trips back and forth from DC to LA were a bit too much. Former Amen guitarist Paul Figueroa joined the group before they began writing and recording the newest and sophomore release "Hot Blood" on Dim Mak Records.
Bluebird is a living thing best observed in real life. On a given day or night, they might be found in a household, cafe, bar or library filling the room with high energy rock and roll - a pounding rhythm section, loud, wiry guitars and vocals that are exorcised as much as they are sung. Sam dances and writhes. Bryan and James set the pulse - vigorously whaling and unconsciously in time. Barry is the technician - painting maps to the surrounding soundscape with his ever-expanding array of effects boxes. And Shelby destroys and rebuilds his instrument in the fire of rock and roll warfare. In full swing, the power, adrenaline and volume of their music is consistently bombarding it's own dexterity and passion. Unrehearsing their rehearsals on stage. Bluebird is the beginning and the end....
Hot Blood LP/CD Dim Mak Records 2002
Black Presence LP/CD Dopamine Records 2001
The Two CD/LP Dim Mak Records 2000
High Atmosphere EP CD Lovitt Records 1999
s/t CD/12" ep Revelation Records 1996
Family Room 7" Outer Universe Research 1997
debut 7" Saguaro Records 1996