by Tim Kindem
Brice is Minneapolis’ answer to good time indie pop rock. Brice combines the hard rock of Weezer with feel good Ben Folds-like hooks, with tight, top-notch musicianship, savvy use of layered vocals and sounds, and hard work ethic that translates into an orchestra of fun. Brice displays the coveted ability to inject even their most lighthearted songs with a sense of honesty while keeping an underlying level of real emotion and credibility.
In an era of instant critical backlash and musical snobbery,
Brice fills the niche for the music lover who simply enjoys a good time. Their
songs are anthems for the funny life-of-the-party types, the witty proud-to-be
dorks, and the groups of friends who never joined the fraternities of the Greeks
or the hipsters but whose bonds you always suspected were tighter.
For nearly five years Brice has been climbing the Twin Cities’
rock ’n’ roll ladder rung by rung, amassing a dedicated following
during the course of playing over 150 shows. The band’s consistent love
of life channeled through music culminated in last winter’s release, What
Happens in Space Camp Stays in Spacecamp, a collection of their live staple
songs. For Brice, it was an appropriate nod to their past as they ready themselves
for the future.
don’t take things too seriously,” said drummer Sam Hoolihan. “But
we take that very seriously.”
“Being fun and positive is something people can really
relate to,” said singer/trumpeter John Drankwalter. “It’s
all about an escape; an excuse to have a great time.”
The members of Brice all grew up together in the suburbs south
of the river. After spending the ’90s separately honing their skills in
a variety of grunge-inspired high school bands, guitarists Andy Gustafson, Brad
Thompson and Bill Blaszczak ended up living in the same house as Hoolihan and
Drankwalter while attending the University of Minnesota. After pooling their
musical resources for a thrown-together performance at Spring Jam, the longtime
friends thought it might be worth playing together in their basement on a regular
“We all wanted the chance to play together,” said
Blaszczak. “We were all living together, and we started having a lot of
fun pushing each other musically.”
The band soon began tirelessly playing the coffee shop/Eclipse
Records circuit as they took the attitude of playing every show and any show—once
even playing for Best Buy’s Corporate Headquarters’ janitor party
where, after the show, the attendees had to clean up their own party.
As the years unfolded, Brice managed to keep up their rigorous
local gig schedule while juggling school, work and touring (mostly around the
Midwest and as far out as Los Angeles). They also entered a studio to begin
recording the songs that would make up their first full-length release.
As the recording process dragged, Brice continued to play around
the Twin Cities. Their live shows became increasingly festive as the band grew
tighter. Slowly making its way onto the bills of the more reputable local rock
venues, Brice began to attract an ever more loyal group of fans outside their
friends’ six-degrees-of-separation. As the recording for their full-length
dragged on, the band released a self-titled EP in late 2002. Soon, the attendance
at the shows they played began to reflect an even wider audience.
“It was nice to get to the point where we didn’t
know everyone,” said Thompson. “[We didn’t know any of the
crowd personally] Yet they were lip-synching our songs,” said Drankwalter.
“It was incredible.”
Though they were eager to put out the finalized versions of
the songs they’d been playing for years, the members of Brice refused
to deviate from their “take it to the max” approach to recording
in the studio. All the members wanted to ensure that the versions of the songs
they ended up putting to tape were the best possible —a situation that
resulted in intense interband struggles that eventually helped the band’s
“It got to the point where I’d actually come up
with guitar parts in an attempt to wreck a song,” said Thompson. “But
the more I’d play a part that didn’t make sense, the more perfectly
While putting the finishing touches on Space Camp, their EP
garnered the band a little notoriety on college radio around the country. In
January of 2003, CMJ listed Brice as a Top 10 add to college radio play lists.
By the time Brice finally released What Happens in Space Camp Stays in Space
Camp CMJ named Brice as one of the top 50 unsigned bands in the Nation. The
single “White Socks” also began receiving 70 spins a week between
the two radio stations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The songs on Space Camp reflect the growth of a band whose
members have matured from college kids playing nearby coffee houses to a collective
of young adults hitting their indie rock stride. The set opens with the blistering
guitar picking of “I’m the Boy,” a high-energy anthem of eternal
youth which juxtaposes lighthearted, yet spot-on rapping with soaring multi-part
harmonies, which sets the tone for the following collection. These are fun songs
sung with the kind of reverence anyone can relate to.
Songs like “White Socks” (about having a crush
on a girl who, oddly enough, doesn’t wear them) and “Ten Guys”
(an ode to the revolving door atmosphere of life in a large college house) could
easily be written off as shallow if it weren’t for Brice’s ability
to build them on such a strong foundation of sincerity about their meaningfulness.
Perhaps more impressive is the way they manage to seamlessly segue from the
introspection of “Alright With Me” (a song about self-doubt during
a budding relationship) to the goofy party rap of “Ninja #9” (a
song about a ninja) without throwing integrity aside.
Now that the definitive recording of their early years is complete
and released, the members of Brice contend that they are more focused on the
future than ever. The band is already eagerly recording the new material they’d
put off during the recording sessions for Space Camp. They plan on having a
new full-length recording of new material ready by the end of the year. In the
meantime, Brice continues to play around town and plans to tour more extensively
around the Midwest. As they begin to commemorate five years of fun, Brice suggests
that the one thing that rock ‘n’ roll can always be is a good time.
Brice plays on Sat., May 15, at the Uptown Bar. With
TBA. 9 p.m. TBA. 21+. 3018 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls. 612-823-4719.
You can find
out more about Brice on their official website.
Click to download an mp3 of Brices’ song White Socks.