Reporting and writing by Karla Tipton
It’s not the way things were supposed to go.
Brian Lisik’s new album Gudbye Stoopid Whirled, his first since 2015, was supposed to come out in the spring.
“By March we’re ramping up the publicity campaign, and the record’s going to come out in May. We’re going to hit the road and play a few different states here and there, line some things up for a tour, and then whammo,” Brian says. The rest is history.
But the songs and even the title existed pre-COVID-19.
“The album was titled months before the pandemic; it was not intended at all to be prophetic,” Brian says. “If COVID-19 has done anything, it’s given me a better story to tell about these songs. My tongue’s in my cheek as I say this — they’re all about COVID, but none of them are.”
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The record, a cross between power pop and folky alternative, was pushed back to an Oct. 2 release. Instead of the usual release party with a club full of people, the album will break into the current cultural context via a livestream hosted by LIVE at AV Club. The event is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 1 on LIVE at AV Club and the Brian Lisik Music Facebook page.
“I’m looking at it like, make lemonade out of lemons kind of a thing,” Brian says. “We couldn’t have a live CD show, but this is like being on Austin City Limits.”
Backing him up will be bassist Steve Norgrove, guitarist Robb Myers and drummer Martyn Flunoy of the seminal Akron Sound band, The Bizarros.
“I brought Steve out of retirement for one hour of livestream,” Brian says. His longtime writing partner had transitioned into producing full time, after building Bass Mint Studio, where Gudbye Stoopid Whirled was recorded.
Legendary producer and Canton resident Don Dixon (R.E.M., Counting Crows, Smithereens, Gin Blossoms) came in to mix the songs.
“Steve and I had some good recordings, but Don really put it over the edge,” Brian says. “He really took it from ‘hey, this is a pretty good record’ to ‘wow, this is a really good record.'”
Brian’s band, The Unfortunates, disbanded in 2019. The new 10-song, 33-minute record has a stripped-down basement vibe. “There’s barely three instruments on most of the stuff,” Brian says.
The lyrics fall against a backdrop of crunchy guitar-powered melodies that stick in your head. Drummer/guitarist Chad Jenson of Hillbilly Savant contributed to the album’s style.
The songs’ subject matter could easily have been rooted in pandemic angst.
“All the songs are about isolation and irrelevance and trying to find your place in the world, about getting old and switching gears,” Brian says. “I could be very opportunistic and say they’re all about COVID. Thank you, pandemic, for making me relevant again.”
On Gudbye Stooped Whirled, lyrical topics run the gamut from
sex-as-self-medication (“Mindship”); addiction and suicide (“Death of a Broken Heart”); and the obsession with chasing fame in the social media age (“Junior High School”).
While the words are dark, the music is not. The album builds classic sounds into a fresh, concise package of hummable tunes.
Brian cites diverse influences, from Big Star (think “That ’70s Show” theme song), John Mellencamp and the Replacements, country influences such as Waylon Jennings, as well as ’60s girl groups. Closer-to-home inspiration comes from the Raspberries and Cleveland’s Peter Laughner of Rocket From The Tombs fame.
Now living in Canton, Brian grew up in Ellet, near the border with Goodyear Heights. “You had kids whose dads were machinists and long-distance truck drivers on the normal side of Ellet, and then all our dads worked in the rubber shops. If there was a seedy side, that was us.”
As far as the future of music, he is a little worried.
“I’ve heard these horror stories that if this goes another two months that 90% of the clubs in Nashville are going to close. I can’t get my head around that,” he says. “You wonder how much of it is permanent, how much of it’s not.”
While Brian embraces new methods of getting his music out, he says he’s “hopeful that one of these days that Zoom meetings and livestream shows go the way of the Furby.”
He laughs. “What I need to find out is how they did livestreams in 1918.”
A native of Barberton, Karla Tipton earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University and spent 14 years as a staff reporter and editor at the Antelope Valley Press in California before returning home. She is the author of two time travel romantic fantasy novels. She keeps busy writing, working in the IT field, playing rock guitar, photographing urban settings and enjoying the local arts and music scene.
Photos: Used with permission from Brian Lisik.