Since talking with BRONCHO frontman Ryan Lindsey last week, I've had his band's most recent album, Bad Behavior, on steady rotation. It runs just short of half an hour, but its 10 terse, tightly wound songs have morphed into a kind of musical hydra, all of its catchy choruses merging into one behemoth chorus that's always swirling around inside my head.
It's true that BRONCHO — that's how it's stylized, in all caps — has an undeniable knack for hooks. Look no further than their signature song "Class Historian," which has an infectious "dit-dit-doot-doot" refrain that burrows its way into your brain. It makes sense that BRONCHO's songs have been featured on soundtracks and in commercials.
That doesn't mean the Oklahoma quartet is a blatantly commercial band, though: They have a spacey, wiry sound, with Lindsey's pinched, slurry vocals matching perfectly with his I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-but-let's-party-anyway demeanor. Lindsey actually started the project as a solo venture, tapping drummer Nathan Price for occasional assistance, but he soon realized he needed fuller instrumentation, eventually bringing guitarist Ben King and, later, bassist Penny Pitchlynn into the fray.
"We just ended up coming up with a bunch of songs, so much so that there was really no choice but to start a band with them," Lindsey says. "Our hands were tied. There was nothing we could do.
"It all happened real naturally. I feel like I didn't have to do much work to make it happen."
When Lindsey discusses his earliest musical influences, his answers are a bit surprising: As a kid, he was obsessed with the Jackson 5, and with an album by the juvenile reggae band Musical Youth, best known for the 1982 hit "Pass the Dutchie." He also had a musician uncle — who, incidentally, gave him that Musical Youth record — and he remembers being taken to his shows.
"My mom got us in to see him play in bars when we were really young, and I thought that was cool," Lindsey says. "All that was probably a big influence on where I am now, which is playing in bars."
Bad Behavior is the band's fourth LP, and it continues the trend of each new BRONCHO album branching off in an entirely different stylistic direction. Its sound is a noticeable departure from its fuzzed-out, reverb-drenched predecessor Double Vanity — airier in its production, with noticeable space left between the instruments.
"Every record has its own thing going on," Lindsey says. "There's a similarity between all the records just because of the way we work, but they come to different conclusions production-wise."
The band started demoing tracks in their warehouse space in Tulsa, "which isn't temperature controlled," Lindsey says. "I can't remember if it was too hot or too cold. Or it might have been rainy." They eventually moved the sessions to a studio in Norman, Oklahoma, where they chipped away at the songs during breaks in a year touring before finishing the whole thing in a mad, two-week dash.
The tracks on Bad Behavior flow together in a rush of melody, with the end of one song bumping into the start of the next one, and the melodies come through with even more clarity.
"The last record, the songs were slower. More of a slow chug," Lindsey says. "So we added reverb to fill in the spaces, and just kept adding more until it felt good. And this record, it was the opposite. We started with reverb, and started taking off more and more. There's something happier about this record. Maybe there's a little less darkness."
Lindsey's lyrics are deliberately cryptic, though it sure sounds like there are allusions to drugs and debauchery, with talk of risky positions and something melting on tongues. Or maybe it's just the sheer strut of the songs, the come-hither attitude of the basslines and the jittery nature of the guitars, that gives us the idea we're hearing something salacious.
Or perhaps it's the album's title — winking at its perceived themes of hedonism, Lindsey toyed with calling it Coke, and then Caffeine Free Diet Coke — that suggests all these things.
"It's almost a 'choose your own adventure' in how you look at it," Lindsey says. "You can be offended by the notion, or you could be more playful with what 'bad' is.
"Like, Michael Jackson had the Bad record. What did that mean? It meant 'cool.'"
Whatever it means, you'll have it stuck in your head. ♦
BRONCHO with Pinky Pinky • Wed, Feb. 6 at 8 pm • $15 • All ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174