Death and Rebirth

Burning Brides persevere through relationship and record-label challenges

The seemingly simple but no-less-than-promethean act of creating rock 'n' roll always seems to be, at least in part, built on a dissatisfaction with the existing music or culture around us. If rock musicians were completely satisfied with what they heard coming out of the radio, would they ever be inspired to make fresh music?

"We started this band because I was frustrated with what popular music was at the time," says Dimitri Coats, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Los Angeles-based hard-rock trio Burning Brides.

"And now it seems to be becoming even worse. I don't think we're trying to reinvent the wheel or anything like that; we just want to be able to try anything with music that seems like it might make a good song, whether it is with acoustic guitars or three Marshall stacks."

So, in that pursuit at the end of the last millennium, Coats formed Burning Brides with bassist and girlfriend Melanie Campbell (she became wife Melanie Coats this past November). They were students at the Julliard School in New York City--he in acting, she in dance--but they relocated to Philadelphia to pursue their mutual rock muse.

"We played our first gig on May 11, 1999," Coats remembers. "We had like six or seven songs that ended up on our first album. Our roommate at the time, after hearing us playing in the basement, literally walked down to the local club and demanded we have a show. He told the booker, 'If you like Black Sabbath and the Stooges and Sonic Youth and Nirvana and the Pixies, you're going to love this band.'

"Melanie and I made up a bunch of fliers, and we were playing on the next Tuesday night. Our first show was pretty packed because of how aggressive we were about getting our friends to come to the show. Then we would open up for bigger bands that would come to town, and we were maybe considered the hot rock band of the moment."

Pretty soon, Burning Brides were playing shows with the Melvins, Royal Trux, J Mascis and Queens of the Stone Age, among other acts. The band won high-profile fans such as Chris Cornell, Steve Jones, Mike Watt, Tommy Stinson and Keith Morris, Coats says.

A record-label bidding war ensued, and Burning Brides signed with the now-defunct V2 Records, which released its first two albums, in 2002 and 2004, respectively. Then that label imploded. Somewhere along the line, the band (and the Coats-Campbell relationship) almost dissolved, too. A move to Los Angeles helped get Burning Brides back on track.

Now the band has released its stellar third CD, Hang Love--built from equal parts punk energy, metal riffage and pop-song smarts--on their own imprint, Modart Recordings. It hit stores June 19.

The missing link was drummer Pete Beeman, who joined the band before the recording of Hang Love, and whom Coats cannot praise enough. "It's like he just smacks you around so expertly," says Coats of Beeman's drumming.

Thus came about the current concert tour, which brings Burning Brides to Club Congress on Saturday, June 30. The early-evening gig is open to all ages.

So Burning Brides may not be reinventing the wheel, but Coats says the members have been hard at work reinventing themselves.

"This is our first band, and we've been through a lot," he muses. "We've run into some personal obstacles and some band obstacles, but it's in our blood. We don't really have another option. I don't know what else we would do. So we found a way to make and release the record ourselves, and we own the masters. Our goals and expectations are evolving. We've found a way to become something new while staying on the same path."

The cycle of destruction and re-creation is integral to Burning Brides' music and to Coats' philosophy, which is part of the reason Coats is depicted hanging from a noose on the cover of the new album.

"I don't hang myself on the cover to project any kind of negative or suicidal message. It's a positive image in my mind. It's celebrating the death and rebirth of rock 'n' roll. It's about survival and shedding old skin. I mean, Bowie killed off Ziggy, right?

"I am actually a very positive person; I see the glass as being half full 90 percent of the time. But I also think, 'What if this bus were to swerve and run over me today?' That would be OK, because I just made the best record of my life, and it's something that some people somewhere will talk about after I'm dead."

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