Soundhoose has written the perfect album to make sense of all the feelings and thoughts you’ve had during quarantine with their 2021 release Quarantine Psycho, and they’re just beginning to scratch the surface of their talent.
Formed by lead vocalist Brandon Smith in 2018 while in school at the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the LA-based alternative rock band is influenced by some of the favorites of the early aughts rock scene such as Blink-182, Green Day, and Linkin Park. Their full debut album Mr. Bad Luck and their EP Into The Wild were both recorded at the Institute of Production and Recording. Quarantine Psycho is a departure from the sound present on the pop-rock trio’s previous efforts, usually leaning on 80’s style synths, and it’s a welcome one. They perfectly channel the frustration and self-reflection that bubbled beneath the surface of quarantine-induced rumination during the pandemic. Smith used his alter ego “Mr. Bad Luck” to construct energetic tunes that speak to many people.
Smith spoke with Highwire Magazine on Zoom about the new album, the inspiration behind his alter ego, all of us being “rejects” in one way or another, and more.
Quarantine Psycho perfectly captures the madness that is quarantine. How did you get through it?
I was actually going to school in Minnesota for the last four years. When I moved home, that’s when quarantine started, so I hadn’t seen family or friends a long time. It sucked that I was about ready to say hi to everybody and get back to seeing them, then I wasn’t able to due to the lockdown restrictions. So I hadn’t even started thinking about making music yet. It’s something that got me through it, but it’s also the idea of “Okay, this could be something to write an album about” because a month goes by, and you’re like, “I can’t see anyone, I can’t go outside. I can’t go anywhere.” The idea came up because the only thing you can do is sit by yourself and think about the stuff that’s going on in your mind, whether it’s past relationships, not seeing anybody, not being able to do anything, and it’s the inter. It’s with the thoughts that go through your head. Those are all the ideas that continuously plagued my mind during that time.
Quarantine Psycho calls for reflection and staying true to who you are, no matter the objections. How has this time changed how you view yourself?
[Quarantine] definitely had a lot to do with it. Especially with the whole job thing, and with family and everything too, it’s just a matter of them saying, “Hey, you should maybe take this path,” and I know that there’s been a little bit of criticism as far as what path I wanna do with my career and everything. Music’s not necessarily the safe choice, but I would rather fail than doing what I wanna do and giving it my all than having it be ten, fifteen years down the road and not enjoy what I do and have that regret. So I think quarantine has been a blessing in disguise in that regard where it’s allowed me to have a little extra time to focus on this stuff and make music. Prior, I may have made excuses for not being able to come up with new music right away and using outside stuff to come up with reasons why I couldn’t get it done. Now, when you’re locked up in your house, and there’s nothing to do, it’s like, “Okay, now there’s no excuses.” It allowed me to continue with the music and do what I wanted to do.
Speaking of songs, you’ve said that ‘Rejects’ means the most to you, with the song declaring that we’re all rejects in some way. What do you say to those who are scared to embrace that?
I can’t count the number of times that people have told me, no, and I’ve been rejected, whether it’s relationships, job opportunities, even your parents when it comes to your lifestyle preferences, anything like that. At the end of the day, you must do what makes you happy. If you’re not comfortable with yourself, whether it’s your image, job, your personality, you have to be happy. The way to find that happiness is to embrace who you are and not give a damn what anyone else thinks and go about doing your business. It’s like, “Hey dude, if you’re with me, great, hop on board. If not, whatever, I don’t need the toxic vibe you bring to my life. I’m gonna keep moving forward and doing me.” That’s the way I try to approach things, especially the last few years. I don’t know when that clicked for me. The last few years, it’s been that mentality of “You’re either on board, or you’re not. I respect your opinion if you’re not, but I don’t need you around in that sense,” so I want everybody to have that same mindset, that I’m gonna do me and you either like it or you don’t.
Your music is made up of a blend of influences (Linkin Park, Green Day, Thirty Seconds to Mars, etc.) How heavily did you lean on these influences when penning Quarantine Psycho and these songs?
Linkin Park was much more into this one. Green Day has always been there, as more of a Billy Joe persona. Whenever I see a show, and I’ve been to hundreds and hundreds of shows, I don’t think anyone puts on a show as a frontman the way he does. So I would say he influences me in that regard. Musically, as far as the sound goes, definitely Linkin Park for sure, with the Hybrid Theory and Meteora albums. Quarantine Psycho has a lot to do with that. All Time Low was another one. ‘Rejects,’ very much in the All Time Low punk vibe. Blink-182, too, because Travis (Barker) is Paul’s idol. It definitely has a lot to do with that as well. I wanted this album to get a little more of that anger and frustration out, whereas I feel like the first album I was putting out was a little more pop-rock. This one is a little bit angrier, in a way. I think Mr. Bad Luck comes out a little bit more. There’s a reserved shell with the first two albums, for sure.
You write, record, produce and mix everything yourself. Do you prefer to work that way?
It was the way I had to work. When I was in school in Minnesota, I didn’t know Paul or Eric yet. I met Paul in October of last year, but we didn’t agree to be in a band until late December / early January. Everything before that, with the first album, was done on my own between my bedroom and my school. I wanted to make music, and I didn’t really have anybody with similar influences and had a similar taste. It seemed like everybody was more into hip-hop or electronic music, and that wasn’t something that suited my style of music. Knowing that I would be going back home to LA, I didn’t necessarily want to get a drummer and a bass player out there because they probably weren’t going to move to LA with me. It’s something that had to be remote to work, and I had to do everything independently.
What inspired the character of “Mr. Bad Luck”? How does this figure into the ‘Quarantine Psycho’ track?
“Mr. Bad Luck” is a general character for me being on stage. It does, and it doesn’t have to do with ‘Quarantine Psycho.’ It’s based on and is very similar to Blurryface of Twenty One Pilots. And I love what Tyler did with that. Mr. Bad Luck is a symbol that people can relate to, not necessarily in a hero way, but someone they can relate to in the sense of not being the only one going through struggles. He’s that figure that makes them know that they don’t have to resort to alcohol abuse, depression, anything like that. Even though everyone goes through those circumstances, they’re not alone. He goes through it as well, but he finds a way to make it through because it seems like he’s always dealt a crappy hand, but he tries to make the most of it. He’s a persona of anything to do with music; without it, Brandon doesn’t exist, so anything to do with ‘Quarantine Psycho’ and music, it’s all him.
You recently recruited Paul Burns on drums and Erik Netland on bass. How did all of you get together?
So there was a mutual friend of mine named Chet that I was playing hockey with and his girlfriend threw a surprise birthday/Halloween party, and I just happened to be at that party. Everyone’s out drinking and socializing, Paul and I end up going inside, and I said, “Hey, you wanna play some tunes?” He’s like, “Yeah, what do you have in mind?” I started playing ‘American Idiot’ by Green Day, and he goes, “Oh, hell yeah!” so we did that, we did ‘All The Small Things’ by Blink-182, which is one of the covers that we do during our show. He’s like, “Dude, you like all the same stuff I do!” I’m like, “This is dope!” So Chet was going to be my drummer when I first came back here. He was very busy with a bunch of other projects, so he couldn’t necessarily commit full time, and so I ended up reaching out to Paul, and he’s like, “Hell yeah, I’m so down, and I even got somebody who can play bass for us.” I got a 2-for-1 deal with Eric.
Touring and concerts are being scheduled as we emerge from the pandemic. Do you have any plans for that?
[We want to do a show] as soon as we’re able to, I know a lot of venues are getting booked right now with more prominent bands that definitely wanna play shows too, and the ones that were supposed to be played last year, they have to make those shows up. We’re trying to get as many local shows to experience all three of us under our belts. But I definitely know that we want to do a little bit of a Midwest tour. I know that we want to go through Arizona and Texas and do a couple of 2-3 week tours and stuff like that. A lot of local shows, like at the Whisky and things like that. I tell pretty much everybody this: I really don’t care about where it is; we’ll play. The only thing is I feel like our music isn’t made for an acoustic set or acoustic type of performances. You can’t play ‘Rejects on an acoustic and expect it to sound the same or to have the same impact. That’s probably the only thing we’d stray away from. But when it comes to playing live, regardless of the venue, the size, whether it’s 100 people or two people. We’ll play wherever. Bring ’em on.