I don’t want to alarm you, but if you missed Broken Bricks’ only NXNE performance last night at Rancho I feel you have done yourself a disservice. Taking the stage promptly at 9 pm after a strong set by Young Contrarians (gotta love those festival turnarounds) it didn’t take long for Broken Bricks to turn the mostly full house into a crowd of believers.
Founded by high school friends Marlon Chaplin (vocals, guitar) and Luke Kuplowsky (vocals, piano), the band now includes drummer Matt Duncan and bassist Joey Clement. These lads bring real presence to the stage and when it comes to the audience experience very little is left to chance. Visually they present a modern take on a gothic vaudeville style with a painted plywood screen over the keyboards and dressed in retro finery. Guitarist and vocalist Chaplin began the set in a black coat reminiscent of a circus ringmaster, but if you’re familiar with Rancho you know things heat up quickly on stage and the coat had to go after the third song.
Broken Bricks have gotten a lot of comparisons to 90s Britpop and in particular the Kinks, but I think that’s oversimplifying something that is far more complex. While too many genre influences can easily leave a listener muddled, this band manages to evoke elements of retro pop, blues and garage rock without losing a cohesive sound. Probably my favourite example of this was featured on the track Boom when Kuplowsky pulled out a harmonica and added a distinctive John Lee Hooker flavour to a hooky and energetic pop song.
The crowd stayed with them from start to finish, not wavering when they introduced a more acoustic vibe with new track Jigsaw or when drummer Matt Duncan broke his drum pedal mid set and a replacement had to be brought in.
Next for Broken Bricks is a series of shows in New York City, booked no doubt on the buzz that’s been building since they released their EP Little Fugitives this February. Keep an eye on http://www.broken-bricks.com for upcoming Toronto dates and for details on where to purchase Little Fugitives.