Interview with Dangers frontman Alfred Brown IV | By Nicholas Senior

Who are you? How do you identify yourself? Once you’ve figured those questions out, how do you live in this life with all your personal baggage? California hardcore band Dangers really don’t take the nice and easy route with these quandaries on their third record and Topshelf Records debut, The Bend in the Break. Here, Dangers’ punk-hardcore-mathcore-noise-hybrid style is at its most potent, and the intense meaning behind the songs gives them a wealth of depth.

Dangers frontman Alfred Brown IV is one of the best, most challenging and charmingly sarcastic lyricists around. He hones in on the idea that words and thoughts are dangerous, since they can transform someone’s opinion. For The Bend in the Break, Brown hadn’t completed the lyrics before going into the studio, and at the time, personal tales were clearly on his mind. As a result, “there’s more storytelling in this record,” he says. “I’m older now, and my favorite musician is Neko Case. I tried to think of why I love her music so much. She’s really great at telling stories of quiet moments that take on a lot of meaning. There’s a song she wrote about a stop in Honolulu and this kid’s mother yelling at her, and Case is thinking, ‘Your mother doesn’t love you, but I was there to witness it.’ That’s a really quiet moment and really powerful.”

“I tried to take a page out of Propagandhi’s book,” he continues. “They tell stories in their songs, and through that story, you get to really feel connected to the weight of what’s going on. ‘The Devil I Love’ is about how my nieces are 11 and 8 right now and how much I love them and care about them, how they’re pretty much my favorite thing in the world. But at the same time, I’ve done shitty things to women in my life, and that means there’s gonna be men who do shitty things to them. That breaks that my heart. I did take a conscious effort to put myself into the record more than I ever have before.”

So, why all the storytelling? “When you’re a younger kid, big ideas tend to be easy to gravitate towards,” Brown explains. “So, you can listen to Gorilla Biscuits, but once you start to picking apart those songs, it’s a spirit, not a story. I recognized there’s a safety and a shielding of oneself if you’re just talking big ideas. I’m at the point of my life where honesty trumps all things in art. I might not like the art, but if you’re being honest, I’ll respect it. The writing process was more of ‘what’s going on in my life, what can I put into this thing?’ I thought, ‘Who are you, motherfucker?’” he laughs. “‘Why should anyone listen to me; why should anyone give a shit about who I am?’ That, to me, is far more dangerous territory: here I am, folks.”

Brown’s upbringing influenced his desire to explore the realm of the in-between. “I was raised by a lot of really strong women,” he says. “My dad cheated on my mom when I was 3, and I knew about it. I watched my dad be a womanizer growing up. I respect that he was a great father, yet he was a man that I didn’t respect at the same time. That was difficult. In the meantime, I’ve got these women who are very strong and proud, and they were my foundation. I grew up in this place where I didn’t respect who men were to women, but I found myself being a man who was heterosexual.”

“One of things I think about a lot in terms of the flexibility of sexuality [is] the language we used to refer to one another,” he expounds. “This goes back to how everyone says Obama is our first Black president, and I sit there as the child of a Black father and white mother, and that’s disenfranchising a whole type of person who he actually is, and it’s denying half of his heritage. We want to smooth over nuance. My sort of masculinity is its unique thing that I think is fucked up as well. On tour, my nickname used to be ‘The Christian,’ because I tend to not hook up randomly when we’re out and about, even if I’m single. Generally, that’s not what I’m looking for. Part of what this record is about is exploring estuarial spaces, the in-between.”

The title, The Bend in the Break, embraces this idea. “It’s really what all the songs are about,” Brown says, “that feeling when you recognize that snowflake idea that everyone is unique and how bullshit it feels, but really, we’re all in our own in-between world. No one is 100 percent straight or gay or 100 percent male or female. There’s thoughts that I have that would be characterized as female, but I have a dick,” he laughs. “The nuance of who we are is hard to think about, and we want to fit into the norms. Fly your freak flag.”

“There’s a song called ‘The Straight World,’” Brown begins, highlighting one track in particular. “I dated a girl, and at some point, she started explaining to me about how her stepfather and her father molested her in different ways. As a man to this women, I felt very sad and frustrated at the situation. But, realizing that I’ve been with her consensually in a way that those men had been non-consensually, and how that nonetheless links me to them—it’s a dark thought, and it’s fucked up. ‘The daughters we father so that we’re not sleeping alone.’ That’s heavy. No one’s going to listen and say, ‘That’s a cool, fun listen!’ [laughs]. It’s my life, and it’s honest.”

The idea of nuance and grey area comes out in Dangers’ music as well. Brown elaborates, “Our band has a really hard time figuring out who we want to play with or what label to go with. I feel like the bastards of loud music most of the time. The idea that’s implicit is that the attitude is the most important aspect of our band. You’re either in for ‘Fuck it. Let’s be as crazy as we can be’ or you want Corn Flakes every day. That’s not who we tend to be.”

Purchase The Bend in the Break here: Physical | Bandcamp

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