Brian Russ moved to Brooklyn, NY in 2005 and started playing backing guitar in some groups to get a lay of the NYC music scene. He got to play at CBGBs once before it closed its doors doing this. But after visiting an exhibit (https://whitney.org/exhibitions/summer-of-love) titled "Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era" at the Whitney museum in 2007, he was inspired to start a new band of his own, Backwords. Based on 60s rock traditions but with a modern twist, Backwords would go on to play hundreds of shows in hundreds of venues, tour around the country, and become local staples, lasting in the scene, just about eight years or so. Nothing lasts forever, and the band broke up.
Brian then put together a new act, based more on African inspired rhythms and chord progressions, called Spirit Plate. Spirit Plate stuck around for a couple of years, put out two records, then called it quits too. Having no band and no musical project for the first time in years, Brian reached out to his buddy Brad living in Nashville. The year was 2018 and the idea was, let's loosely put together some songs remotely. I'll record parts, send you the files. You layer new parts on top. It will be a fun experiment. What started as a batch of 3 songs, ended up becoming a full length record, and the birth of a new band, Unisex.
The Unisex debut record, "Powerful Situations," (release date: April 23, 2021) was written and recorded over the span of three years. Started as a remote project well before the Coronavirus pandemic, the recording process had no choice but to go remote in 2020, when Brian reached out to friends around the country to lend additional tracks in order to wrap up the album. Before the pandemic hit, Brian put together a live version of Unisex with drummer Billy Fidler and Bassist Connor Zarkowski, who also lended a hand in the recordings. The trio had been rehearsing, kind of secretly, preparing to launch the band and the record together, and play their first show. Just as they sat down to book show #1 for Unisex, the shutdown happened. They ended up having to leave their rehearsal space and prolong the idea of playing live.
Since being 15 years old and getting a hold of a mixer and then multitrack recording software called CoolEdit, Brian has been recording music on his own. That tradition was alive here on the Unisex debut LP, "Powerful Situations." It's an album entirely recorded, mixed and mastered in small apartments and attic spaces in Brooklyn, Nashville, Los Angeles, and Missoula.
Thinking back on the entire three year process to make "Powerful Situations," it's striking that the original concept was to make a remote record, recorded in different places by people who would never be in the same room at the same time. That concept was something they wanted to experiment with two years prior to the pandemic, when for a while everyone would be forced to interact this way. The record walks through a pre and post-pandemic interpersonal dark period overlayed by a national and global time of turmoil, pain, hyporicacy and upheaval.
Songs like the first single (release date: March 21, 2021), "Let the Tide Take You," suggest simply giving up and giving in, knowing that consumerism and capitalism will one day consume us all. "Address to United Nations" brings up one of the first global appearances by then President, Donald Trump, where he used the stage to spread a message of nationalism and threaten possible nuclear war. This was at the 2016 UN summit. The record makes references to the Parkland shooting, the spreading of diseases on the New York City subway (written before the pandemic), The culture of fake news, fake tans and botox. The paranoid feeling we now live with of always needing to be ready for a possible attack. "Powerful Situations" questions the death of young artists before their prime, asks why some people hate their mothers, wonders why so many useless plastic products get shipped around the globe on those menacing massive cargo boats, discusses the gathering of white supremacist groups and the rise of hate crimes in the Trump era, and blatantly claims "everybody is full of shit." Overall, it's a gas!
Although "Powerful Situations" was written as an initial reaction to the Trump presidency, it molded itself, magically, into a response to the pandemic. It was worked on both pre and post covid. But Brian Russ knew in his heart that it needed to be completed before the 2020 election. Not it lives as a stamp in time, reminding us of what we went through for four years, and begging us to learn and grow for all that we have survived through. Afterall, as the song, "Bernadette," dedicated to his four year old daughter, suggests "we're tiny little specks on this tiny little stone, and people sometimes forget that we share this little home."
With "Powerful Situations" out there and now released to the world, Brian is now wrapping up his next project, a debut novel, "The $100,000 President," a story set in the not-so-distant future about a woman who challenges the status quo to becomes an unthinkably cool legend in tumultuous times.