It’s hard to decide what deserves your attention at a Falsies concert.
Is it the music? The musicians themselves, constantly swapping guitars for saxophones, for drums, for keyboards? Or is it band founder Lance Brenner in his yellow chicken suit, gesticulating wildly while shoving a microphone into the beak to sing? Maybe you’re wondering how hot it is inside that chicken suit, or caught up in the anticipation that comes with knowing—once Brenner sheds the faux-feathered fowl—he’s likely to reveal at least two other costumes underneath.
Is it the song lyrics? The choir of a dozen-odd characters singing and dancing behind the band?
The answer is all of the above, and now that Charlottesville’s absurdist rock band is back in action after a five-year hiatus, we’ll all have more chances to hunt for meaning in this musical wilderness.The Falsies—Brenner, along with multi- instrumentalists Carter Lewis, Morgan Moran, Corinna Hanson, Katie Albert, and Sophia Mendicino—play the Southern Café & Music Hall on Saturday, and whether or not Brenner will don his “FUCK YOU” candy heart costume from Valentine’s Day hangover shows past remains to be determined.
The Falsies began as concept. “It was a joke, really,” says Brenner. He’d been playing in power poppy rock band The Naked Puritans with some success—the band toured up and down the East Coast, and in 2004, Village Voice music critic Chuck Eddy said the band’s three-song EP “exudes more power and pop than most powerpoppers’ entire careers”—but at some point, it stopped being fun.
Brenner mentioned to a friend that he dreamed of playing drums (not his primary instrument) in “a band of neophytes that would eventually end up with an album” perhaps one titled Greatest Tits, full of songs that seemed ridiculous on the surface but had depth to them.
Brenner put together a band full of people who he clicked with socially, and they started writing songs. Songs like “Fuck,” which uses the titular word in every way possible. “Maybe it’s overtly aggressive, but the spirit of it isn’t aggressive at all,” says Brenner of that particular Falsies classic.
It turns out, Brenner says, that everyone he recruited for the band was a pretty good musician. The more they practiced, the better they got, and the more The Falsies’ catalog grew. And the more complex the songs (written by Brenner and fine-tuned by the band) have become.
The Falsies have this “fuck you” energy combined with “quite a bit of camp,” says Brenner, and the careful steps required in walking that fine, sometimes moving, line is what makes the spectacle that is The Falsies more complicated than one might think.
Brenner hesitates to explain the concept of the band—”theatrical punk” is as far as he will go—or the songs, too deeply, lest he ruin the fun of discovery.
But he will talk—briefly—about the four new songs the band will debut on Saturday night.
There’s “Get It On & Get Along!,” “a Falsies prescription for world peace,” and “My Balls!,” a “body-positive song” on which Hanson sings lead, often to the audience’s surprise. “(But Then) I Stuck It In the Wrong Hole,” is another, one that started off with a bass guitar and amp plug-in blunder during practice. And the “OMG, You Dirty Talker,” a song with a conceit based in mystery and mundane objects.
Brenner knows not everyone is up for this level of absurdity. More than anything, Brenner’s happy that his band members—and those who come to experience The Falsies—are more than ready to join him on his “conceptual playground.”
The Falsies play The Southern Cafe & Music Hall on Friday, February 16.