It would seem to anyone outside the band that Braveyoung has weathered crises that would derail most other acts. External forces imposed an abrupt name change in 2009 (Braveyoung was originally called Giant) and then, just last September, shut down the band's high-profile community show space just days before a show by modern black metal masters Wolves in the Throne Room.
Maybe the Braveyoung guys are just as patient as their understated post-rock suggests, allowing them to treat these problems as superficial and transient. Or maybe an underground-centered, anti-establishment DIY-or-die worldview allows them to roll with or even expect such an oppositional binary: a "them" for every "us," so to speak.
"At the point of its demise as a show space, we were working on making it less about shows and more about personal projects, which was its original intention," Braveyoung guitarist Isaac Jones says of Legitimate Business, the semi-legal venue in question. While this is unsurprising, considering Legit Biz is primarily a practice space and studio, the spot had made Greensboro a tour destination for the heavy, artsy fringe in a way it hadn't been. Many midsize touring bands forego the town in favor of the Triangle's noted venue scene, just east.
Yet, for the third-largest population center in North Carolina, per the 2010 census, Braveyoung's city retains a small-town approach to the "problem" of loud music. Something as ultimately inconsequential as a noise complaint can dominate the police department's nightly agenda, Jones says. "Greensboro has a unique situation in that its major property owners don't give a flying shit about actually renting their spaces," which he says leads to price-gouging and zero concessions or "tolerance for sketchiness, i.e., shows."
Jones hopes some passionate locals will take up the torch, but admits the outlook may not be good for such a space's survival. "As it stands, there's really not much happening. Legit Biz still functions as a studio and practice space, so it's still a part of our lives, just not the community's."
Even if this show space was anomalous in its own town, cities like Providence, R.I., are synonymous in music circles with the proliferation of nontraditional venues. Frenetic noise-rock duo Lightning Bolt may be the best-known act to emerge from the Providence basement scene. The Braveyoung guys are good friends with a more recent, far-heavier duo from that town: The Body (also playing The Milestone).
The two bands recorded and released Nothing Passes, an ambitious and deeply textured collaborative record, in 2011. If the loss of Legit Biz was a low point, this was the high.
"I can't quite recall what moment we made it a solid idea. We exchanged ideas via e-mail then made our way to Providence to write and rehearse for a week or so, then record," says Jones. The result mixes The Body's elemental low-end rattle with Braveyoung's patient tone-worship, plus the ethereal intensity of the all-female Assembly of Light Choir. The two bands tour together and often share the stage. Yet Jones denies these two sonic beasts will form some kind of fringe supergroup: "As for future collaborations, we definitely excised whatever thing was between our two bands in Nothing Passes."
Braveyoung is choosy about its collaborators, sure, and protective in general. In a series of e-mails, Jones came across as cautious and occasionally even guarded (when not raging against industry structures, that is). Braveyoung takes integrity and purity of motive as seriously as its underground roots would suggest, resulting in a band that champions major modern composers like Pärt and Glass with the streetwise sneer of hardcore lifers. The resulting mix of minimalist glockenspiel melodies with rants straight out of some mid-'80s hardcore 'zine is an intriguing intersection: post-rock with a pulse for sure.
"Everyone is being used, now, and we don't even recognize who's doing the using," says Jones. And while decrying the questionable ethics of industry institutions is nothing new, Jones points out an essential difference in the post-major-label music world. With practically no one making money on music anymore, there's a new exchange unit: indie cred. And widespread competition for the elusive, transient ephemera that is online buzz gets under his skin.
"Everyone's dying to be in some fucking bad writer's blog when they release their first record so they can eventually be on a more popular blog," he says, pronouncing this hunger for "fake credibility" as a commercialization of the underground: a hierarchy of firsts (to have heard of a band first, to have written about a band first, to have been the first to get some specialized new genre, etc). "It's a competition, a popularity contest."
Yet as long as there has been commercialized entertainment, we've had these pesky questions of motive and artistic integrity. Whether it takes the form of the instant online backlash to Lana Del Rey's recent SNL set or Mark Twain's brilliant deconstruction of James Fenimore Cooper, the philosophical argument is unchanged. And Braveyoung — opinionated, politicized, and wildly talented — have no reservations in picking a side in this endless debate.
With The Body, Veda Wolf, Husky. $6-$9. Feb. 7. 9 p.m. The Milestone.