Dive bars that host live music are on the endangered list, their scarcity shrinking the circuit on which rock bands used to earn their bread and beer. But Brainspoon, scheduled to return to the Buccaneer Lounge in Sierra Madre this Saturday, keeps soldiering on.
Led by frontwoman Daphne Vandervalk and her husband, drummer Chris Diez, Brainspoon also features bassist Tom Underhill (a founding member of late-’70s South Bay punk outfit the Earwigs) and guitarist/backup vocalist Michelle Balderrama. They play area bars like the Buc, Café NELA in Cypress Park and the Redwood Bar in Downtown LA. The guitars crunch, the rhythm section slams, Vandervalk kicks, and she and Balderrama whip their lengthy locks around. It’s unapologetic, “straight-up rock,” Diez says.
“You hear a lot of garage rock, you hear a lot of punk stuff, you hear a lot of ’60s influence, but you don’t hear a lot of straight-out rock these days,” he elaborates. “We try to fill a void, or just do something different in that way. There’s definitely some influences that are maybe old school. People compare us to Girlschool once in a while. And Wolfmother, even.”
Most of their songs growl with punk attitude and compact images: “Dangerous Eyes.” “Dressed to Kill.” “Bleeding Black and White.” “Skeletons in the Closet.” “Pick Your Battles” stands out with its topicality: “We manage to manage our culture/ Anything you could want we provide/ All our problems are solved, look at us, we’ve evolved/ Sell your soul and you won’t know you died.”
“Pick Your Battles” is from the self-titled album they released in February on CD and vinyl. Listening to it — or, for that matter, 2008’s “No Damage,” or the band’s cheap but effective videos — it’s easy to pick out Brainspoon’s influences: the Ramones, the Pretenders, Blondie, the Stooges, AC/DC, Black Sabbath. Asked what contemporary bands they listen to now, Diez mentions Fu Manchu, but struggles to think of anyone else.
“It’s weird, you just don’t hear a lot of newer bands,” he says. “Everybody just goes to the old-school stuff. That’s actually a good question. Today, who would we gravitate toward? I don’t know.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is not regenerating itself at all. … You don’t see the younger generation coming up. Not to say that kids aren’t playing, but …” The decline in live music venues, he acknowledges, could be a factor.
“When I was in high school, I’d go down and see Guns N’ Roses and Poison and all those bands [in Hollywood]. I could go to the Troubadour and I could go to the Whisky. You could go in — it wasn’t 21 and over — you could see those bands, and if you put a band together, you could go play in those venues. But there was a scene. You could go down and meet people and create a band. There was a scene going on. Now, it’s not the same thing. If you’re a young band, where are you going to play?”
Brainspoon and the Mission Creeps play the Buccaneer Lounge, 70 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, at 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3; free admission. Info: (626) 355-9045. Brainspoon.com