I've been a fan of Brian Lovro's musical output going back to early '90s, when I first heard his tormented vocals on Threadbare's debut EP. There was something about his delivery that always resonated with me, and that continued into the rest of the Minnesota band's run together. After Threadbare broke up, Brian went on to bring his intensity to The Blinding Light, continuing to punish his vocal cords for the sake of his lyrics.
Brian's currently fronting Precious, a Southern California-based outfit that finds him working with other vets from the '90s hardcore scene. Their recently released debut album, Sick Rooms, inspired No Echo contributing writer Dave Williams to say: "I'm hard-pressed to think of a release that tops it at this halfway point in the year."
In this new interview, I chat with Brian about his entire musical path, and the roots to his lifelong obsession with music.
You know how I like to start these off with… where were you born and raised?
I was born on January 14, 1974, in Sioux Falls, SD. Parents divorced when I was really young. Very blue collar, we didn’t have a lot of money like most people so my parents worked all the time to support us. Not a lot of supervision for me, so I got lost in myself most of the time, waking up super early, getting on my bike and just being gone for hours going all over town. Being a product of divorce wasn’t a real unpleasant experience for me though, I gained a lot of independence from it and really enjoyed it at an early age. There was no railing against my folks for me. I had it pretty good. My parents are still my closest friends.
As a fellow child of the ‘80s, was MTV big for you as a kid? What kind of music did you gravitate towards at a young age?
I suppose it was. Before we had it I think basic cable was what we had first. Friday Night Videos on NBC, just waiting for that glimpse of something heavier than the usual pop stuff. Donald Fagen’s "New Frontier" stuck with me for years. The video was weird and the song I never forgot, even though I didn’t get into the Dan until many years later. Night Flight on USA network was more my jam though. Another State of Mind was watched every time it was on. When I think of MTV all I think of was the Young Ones, though. I’d tape every episode with my boom box held up to the tv, with me giggling in the background. My uncle Doug basically got me into everything though so I didn’t really need it.
What was the first concert you attended? I’m guessing it was an arena show?
First one was super lame. Eighties-era Beach Boys at Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, SD. I would rather went to an actual stock car and sprint car race.
First real shows? Danzig/Soundgarden/Corrosion of Conformity — First Avenue, Mpls. Danzig was on the Lucifuge tour, Soundgarden, Louder than Love, and COC, it was Blind, I believe. Soundgarden killed that night and I think it was the first time I experienced the God that [Soundgarden bassist] Ben Shepherd is. I think he had just joined. Danzig was great too. Cheese but great. I wasn't really into that era of COC.
When and how did underground music/hardcore/punk enter your life?
I saw my first punk stuff with a local band called Face of Decline. It was two brothers, Bill and Paul Erickson, and my friend, Terry, who I had just met playing bass. A really interesting and weird band combined with a lot of cool influences. I loved everything they did. They covered the Damned's "Feel the Pain" at that show and basically got me super into the Damned.
As I was saying before, my uncle Doug on my mom’s side had a lot of influence in this. He was a huge record buyer when I was really young. I’d go over there, pre teens, and he’d let me just go through his vinyl and let me listen to basically whatever. Not worried about me ruining it or anything. He’d play me stuff that was his favorites, stuff like Squeeze, English Beat, Specials, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Madness, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Replacements. Things of that sort. I think Ramones End of the Century and Replacements Stink were some of the first punk-ish stuff I heard. He had that cool Replacements EP called Boink that had b-sides like "If Only You Were Lonely" and "White and Lazy" that I used to play all the time and laugh my ass off at...like I knew what he was talking about; I was like 8.
How did you get into the more punk stuff?
Punk started for me with Another State of Mind. I wasn’t sold on the music yet per se, but the personalities I was fascinated with. I dug Ian Mackaye and Shawn Stern a lot. Mike Ness not so much, but I really like the first Social Distortion record, that I got into later on.
It was mainly through skateboarding. I was more into hair metal bullshit until that. The first three Santa Cruz videos were pretty much all SST soundtracks, so that’s what really caught my ear. I remember being really into GNR and a friend of mine and I went to a record store and picked up some stuff for cheap. He grabbed The Age of Quarrel and I got the Exploited Let’s Start a War. I wasn’t into Wattie. Then he throws on the Cro-Mags and my eyes kinda bugged out. I traded him Wattie for the Mags, kinda felt bad about it like I was gipping him and it was on [laughs] AOQ blew my mind. It still rules.
Jimi Hendrix was another one at a young age for me. I was up late listening to KKRC and I’m not sure if they played the whole thing — they may have but I heard live at Monterey and hearing the versions of "Killing Floor" and the guitar smashing freak out of "Wild Thing" from that freaked me out. Yeah, I’m pretty sure they played the whole thing because I remember going “what the fuck” and I threw in a tape to record over. It was the craziest shit I’d ever heard. This was pre-punk for me. I just remember feeling really rattled by the noise at the end.
Who were some of the underground bands that had a massive impact on you back then?
There’s some obvious mindblows that a lot of us had, but I’ll say Neurosis really went to a different level for me and several of us from our area. Ernie November was a great record store in its day in Sioux Falls and I went there one day and there was a small poster for the Libido Boyz It’s All So Obvious in the window and Jeff Schnobrich, their guitar player, had a Neurosis shirt on. They had Pain of Mind on cassette there, still the Alchemy version...I still have it [laughs]. Anyway, I picked it up, brought it to my best friend Jon’s house and we threw it on. I think there’s a part on the last song on side one where you hear whoever say “that sound good?” Jon and I laughed out asses off and there you go, favorite bands. The Melvins are a big influence as well.
Who were some of the bands that were locally huge during the early ‘90s?
The Minnesota border is like 15 minutes away from me, so I was mainly South Dakota until I was like 18. But there was a lot of back and forth between here and usually Mankato, which is about an hour south of Minneapolis. Both really fun scenes to go to shows to. Big dogs then from the region would’ve been Face of Decline (SD) and Dissent (SD) — their last seven inch they did was cool as hell. Tough to define, just look it up. A ton of local bands as well. Suffer (SD) was a sick death metal band that I really liked a lot. The State Birds (SD) was another one from there I also loved. Minnesota had Libido Boyz, Misery, Reach, Forty Ton Beatnik, there’s just too many to think of. Bands that didn’t have the following like the obvious MN choices, but still cool as hell.
How about the venues?
Shows were such a mixed bag it was awesome. We really relished that. Stuff that shouldn’t fit together but ended up totally doing fine. Our respective towns a lot of bands really enjoyed playing. Kids were legit into it. A lot of really fun unpretentious enthusiasm we all had. Props to Terry Taylor and Jason Knudson for those shows. I know I left out so many local bands too, sorry guys. Venue wise and just shows in general, our era and region was super lucky to have Terry Taylor doing shows then at Nordic Hall. I actually ended up living across from it for like 10 years before I moved out here. Great venue, basically no stage — completely diverse lineups, zero fucks given that way. Our town was a well-kept secret for a lot of bands that came through. Same with Marti’s and Jason Knudson. I can’t think of any shows I went to either that I didn’t like, seriously.
Tell me about the formation of Threadbare. Did you guys know each other from playing in other bands?
Threadbare actually had an incarnation before the one that is generally known of. It had members of Reach (Dustin and Mike), but that went away when Reach disbanded. I had talked with Dustin visiting him in Mankato at Ernie November, a record store there, and we kind of got to know each other that way. Reach had gotten Mike to replace their old drummer and I had been hearing the night and day difference between the two and it was something I needed to see. Not sure if they had recorded their demo yet or not. Their demo was starting to make the rounds, they had did it with Tommy Roberts, aka Zachary Vex of ZVex pedals, and we heard and went nuts over it. It was incredible, we were just getting exposed to Inside Out and the ilk, and that kind of energy was crazy to hear and also see live. I’ll get back to them with our seven inch stuff.
But, anyways, I was in a hardcore band called Switch here and we played together and it was an incredible show. They blew my mind. Pretty sure Carl was there too. We basically told each other we would be starting something soon. Pretty integral moment for me because I was starting to feel some disconnect from my town. Dustin and I started writing each other, him and Mike joined Bloodline so that put it on the back burner for a bit. Did another great record with Tommy which was cool because everyone was like “who is this guy doing these guys’ records?!” Sounded incredible. My goal at that point was to record with Don Fury. And here was this guy from our area just making these incredible-sounding records. Bloodline split after a Europe tour, unfortunately I had enrolled in school at BHSU in Spearfish, South Dakota, so it was going to take some maneuvering. Summer of '93 (?) we booked some studio time, a first show, and I was off to school like 9 hours away. That’s the quick version [laughs].
When I interviewed bassist Dustin Perry and I asked him about the musical path Threadbare wanted to follow during the early days, this is what he said, “I know from my perspective, I wanted it to be original and not rely on metal influence to be heavy. I was really into the power of DC Revolution Summer stuff and a lot of post-hardcore that was happening.” What do you think of that? Agree or disagree?
I dunno man, but I do agree with Dustin’s statement.
That was such a great era of music to draw inspiration from in so many forms, and as I got to know the guys a little better I realized it was gonna be cool just because they had so many great points of reference, along with great taste in music. Plus they all played so well, as I saw right away with Dustin with Libido Boyz, then hearing the Reach demo (which should’ve been just as groundbreaking as No Spiritual Surrender — and it is and more in my book, but I’m obviously biased) I was like wow! DC was definitely in our wheelhouse with him and I. But there’s so many other influences that creeped in as well. It’s still heavy too and we never really tuned all that low.
The Threadbare demo came out in 1993. What do you think of that recording/material now?
Pretty wild what we got done in a weekend. I want to say it was likely Labor Day weekend. We had our first practices with me, recording and our first show and first thing when I got home it was off to Black Hills State in far Western South Dakota for me. The guys picked me up at the airport, and off we went to Mike’s parents house in Brooklyn Park and just started bashing away. Our first practice was handled like a show. We were wrecked afterwards. It was brutal and awesome, I can’t imagine what Mike’s folks must’ve thought of the noise. I blew my voice out so bad the next day it would completely stop working right while I was in the middle of a sentence. Insane. Pretty much screamed myself sick.
Chad had helped with some construction of the AmRep studio in Minneapolis and I believe they paid him with some free studio time, so we used their engineer, Tim Mac, for it. I could tell he was hating it, culminating with the half hour version of "Penicillin" we did. Just screeching and feedback and drums. Which is funny, I was like you guys are like this noise label, well here you go! But yeah all the energy of that first practice went straight into that recording, even as weird as it sounds. Finding the practice tapes I was sent before the band had really got going and during the time I was out west before I moved was super cool. There’s a couple of unrecorded ideas on there.
Threadbare’s first record was the self-titled 7” that Watermark Records, a label co-owned by Jason Jordan and Joel T. Jordan, released in 1994. How did you guys hook up with them and how did the 7” end up doing?
The Jordan Brothers were supposed to do the Reach demo as a seven inch at the time. I can’t remember but I’m pretty sure the Lincoln seven inch was just out so that was a big deal to us that they were doing it with them. Reach had ended rather abruptly and they didn’t want to put out a record they couldn’t really support with a functioning band so they told them about Threadbare and it was basically set. We had a budget from what I remember and they were cool with doing it with Tommy Roberts who was now at the Terrarium, where Bloodline did One Thousand Screams, which sounded amazing. So I was psyched. But, also being in a professional studio now so it was a nerve-wracking experience. We just dug in for a weekend and banged it out the winter I was back. It was crazy listening to tapes of it on the way back. I couldn’t believe I was in this band.
The record did pretty well for us and them. Really well received so it was cool to read reviews like that, also something I’d never experienced before. So that was basically it for me. I already knew I was going to transfer to Mankato to be closer to them to devote more to it, but after hearing what we did, it was a no brainer.
The next step was the Feeling Older Faster record. For that, you signed with Doghouse Records, a label that was already on its way up in terms of visibility and popularity. Did it feel like a big deal when it was happening, or was it just a matter of knowing the folks at the label from playing shows in the Midwest?
Yeah, with Doghouse it was the next logical step to us. They were already friendly with them after Doghouse doing One Thousand Screams, being familiar with Endpoint, and what not. They seemed to be doing pretty well so we went with them. I wasn’t really part of that conversation so much so I don’t really know about it. I’m sure their distribution was probably a lot of it too.
This was the band at my favorite point of it. I was now in Minnesota, so practices were more frequent, along with local and regional shows, so we were able to improvise and flesh out songs more to prepare. A fair amount of our really early shows we’d do songs I hadn’t heard yet and I’d just say “go ahead” and I’d wing it. I didn’t really have to do that anymore.
What do you remember about the Feeling Older Faster sessions?
Recording that was crazy, from what I remember of it. Same studio as the seven inch, Terrarium, with Tommy again. I spent way too much time at the sessions. Like pretty much all of it. Inexperience, basically. Sounds and songs were tinkered with to the tee and it shows. Funny because then vocals it was usually a time crunch. Stressful and I was usually sick by the end of it. After one of the earlier weekend sessions, Dustin and I were on our way back to Mankato just in a daze from bashing at it all night and we stopped in I always think New Prague and we died when we saw theater-size boxes of Dots. We’re listening to the playback half goofy and Dustin is driving and sorting through which Dots he didn’t want to eat first.
His bass is his best I’ve heard on that one. Hearing isolated tracks of it and in the songs without vocals ready I wished I had those tapes still. I’ll never top the satisfaction making a record as I did with that one. And watching Tommy grow a beard daily every session was wild. And the most patient gentle guy ever. Chad and I were driving around Brooklyn listening to it one night and we just were kinda shaking our heads by the end of it.
The first time I heard Threadbare right after Feeling Older Faster had come out. I remember a lot of folks in NYC being into the record. What was the response like back home? Did you notice your shows getting bigger?
It’s funny because most of the interest that I remember mainly came from the East Coast. Sioux Falls, SD, my town, we’d already done twice and it went super great. Mankato was always good to us as well. Granted this was over 20 years ago and also there was no internet and all that to really get much of a vibe where you should go. We never really toured, save for the East Coast week Vic Szalaj booked for us with Cable. That was like the only one. Which was great, by the way. I’m not sure why we didn’t do more. But hey, it was quality usually not quantity for us.
I also told Dustin this, but the only time I ever saw Threadbare was a show in the basement of a bar in NYC with the band Milhouse on the bill.
That NYC show at Z Bar was awesome! Owners were super cool to us. Watching Gavin from Burn basically throw Dustin's bass cab on his shoulder and carry it up the steps on the sidewalk was crazy. I remember that more than anything. Regardless of what record was out, that band rarely had a bad show, from my memory. We had a few that were sparsely attended, but who doesn’t?
The Escapist record was the next Threadbare release. You got my fellow Queens native Jordin Isip to do the cover painting for that one. What’s the story behind that?
Jordin and Melinda we were always big fans of their art and I’m sure we probably had the idea of contacting them for art in all of our collective back pockets likely the whole time. Then, at some point, I figured out they were married and was like “how cool?! Those two together!” Not sure why I thought of one vs the other but I simply decided to write him one day and basically talked about the idea I had. He wrote me back and said he would do it and I was floored. We respected visual artists just as much as bands we were fans of. Totally cool because it turned out just as I had imagined it. Chad has the original piece now which I always have to stare at for a bit whenever I can. We eventually ended up working with Melinda at our first reunion we did at the Triple Rock in Mpls (RIP). So we finally got to check that one off too.
In terms of your lyrics for Threadbare, what kind of stuff were you writing about? How much of it was coming from experiences you were going through at the time?
I was a big fan of how confrontational Vic DiCara’s stuff was with 108, also Zack with Inside Out, just frustrations and what not with living in the material world. So, ultimately, some Krishna consciousness crept into there. I thought it was interesting even though it was something I’d never dive full on into. Also figure in early adulthood and not generally knowing what the fuck you were doing.
There was also a physical aspect of doing something that aggressive vocally that was just as important if not more to me than lyrics. A lot of the guys that were integral to me, like Daryl Kahan of Citizens Arrest, Sam McPheeters of Born Against, Blaine Cook of the Accused, Rollins, etc., had this point they would hit in songs where they were just about unbearable. They made the songs have this pain to them that was ugly and compelling and that’s what I was gonna do, vocal cords be damned. I wanted to make it hurt.
From your perspective, why did Threadbare break up, and were you at peace with the decision?
It was just the usual thing. Everyone's lives were taking them elsewhere, be it moving, wanting to do other projects, and whatnot. We focused on that band pretty hard for a spell so maybe we were just kinda burnt out. Wouldn’t have hurt to put it on the back burner for a year and just see what everyone was feeling then. Escapist was recorded basically after the fact, so I was just glad to get it over with which made it even more of a bummer for me. But we also got to revisit what made that band excellent later with those reunion shows so I really can’t complain.
I have to ask you, what’s the story behind Stickler, the one-off project you released a 7” called Everybody’s Punk Rock Now with?
Stickler was me fumbling on bass, Russ Stedman on guitar, and Bill Erickson on drums. Bill I had known for years through Face of Decline and whatnot. I had been back in Sioux Falls for a handful of years at that point. Working at a record store that I loved, not really caring about doing anything hardcore related whatsoever. It was a fun time, just working and devouring music and watching the collection grow like threefold. I’d met Russ around that time. He’d been doing home recordings for many years at that point and had this library of home tapes that was unreal. I was getting into Guided By Voices heavily at that point and here was this guy that was more or less doing the same thing. It was more of a pop and rock thing which was about all I was listening to at the time. Digging into stuff I was already familiar with but not real well versed in. We did like the one single and a self-released CD and then we lost interest. Russ is still cranking away at it though. He rules. I miss those guys.
We now get into The Blinding Light, a criminally underrated metal band you fronted in the early ‘00s.
I don’t think we really had intentions on doing much at first, I remember the first couple practices were pretty rough. I think some people came and went before we settled on the lineup, if I remember right. Once we got going, I was fairly dead-set on sending the demo we had (Glass Bullet) to Deathwish Inc. They had really cool all-black ads in zines that basically said nothing about the label, which I liked. Low and behold they wanted to put it out, which was cool because I don’t think I’d sent it out to many.
The Blinding Light released an EP (Glass Bullet) and a full-length (The Ascension Attempt) on Deathwish Inc., and then a record called Junebug on Init Records. I think The Ascension Attempt has some of your best vocal work on it.
Most of our stuff, besides Junebug, was self-produced, which made it more fun. We just experimented with it completely. I just wanted to make a really fucked up-sounding metal record that just sounded unhinged which I think we pulled off fairly well. Totally blown out. Plus, there wasn’t any pressure time limit wise working with a label since the recording part we were basically doing ourselves, so that was one of the first records I’d done that I didn’t really feel any pressure during the process of. Josh Ferrie (our drummer and his studio), and I would just crack a couple beers and or/I’d pour a scotch from his bar and we’d just hit it. Weird record but it turned out really cool. I can’t imagine how it was trying to master that thing, the levels were basically in the red already. Longest band tenure I’ve had yet.
What ended up happening with the Blinding Light?
We played around a decent amount, did a ridiculously fun week with Converge and Cave In, but we would go through phases of it just kind of sputtering out. Junebug got completed after talking about it forever, we did a show or two after it, and that was that. We’re older now so members got busy with families and what not. Usual thing.
In 2012, you joined some friends of yours in a project called Xaphan.
Mike and I had been talking about doing another band for a while after the Burning Fight shows and we just weren’t stumbling across anyone that we were really interested with playing with. Right around that time, Disembodied asked him to start doing some shows with them. I had been in contact with the Disembodied guys as well right around that time and as that wound down, we basically decided to do something. I wasn’t sure what to expect about it, but Joel sent some demos and I was super into it. Super guttural and sludgy and ungodly loud. The practices were the loudest ever. I walked into the first one and everyone was wearing shooting range ear protection. I quickly found out why. Anyways, we kicked around with that, a couple lineup changes and put out a really cool split with Primitive Man out of Denver that I met through Morgan, our bass player who joined later. There’s still a couple songs floating around I believe. Favorite band I was in to this day.
Well, we are caught up now and get to Precious, your current band. I know that it all started out when guitarist Dan Sena (Adamantium) wrote some songs in 2015 and then you got your hands on the recordings.
[Former Threadbare bassist] Dustin [Perry] had gotten a hold of me and told me of a guy he knew that was doing a recording project that he wanted me to check out. I was super over doing music at that point but figured I’d give it a listen at least. So, I listened to the songs that would end up being EP 1 and 2, and it definitely had a lot of Threadbare elements going with it and some cool melodic stuff I was into. I came out to California the first time just to feel it out and hang out mainly, I wasn’t ready to record anything at all. I’m really not tech-savvy at all, which I need to remedy with all the cool technology that’s readily available now.
Cross-country bands aren’t a stretch like they used to be anymore. Second trip later we finally got down to record it and I basically threw down on the spot. I had little skeletons of song ideas so I just went with it and winged it pretty much the whole way. You can do that in bedroom studios when there isn’t a clock ticking, so that’s cool. Recording the Xaphan stuff with Jason Bauer had the same relaxed feel. Which is awesome because I get anxious dealing with recordings like most people do. So we banged my stuff out relatively quick and I really liked the end result.
Since then, you’ve moved to Orange County, CA. What brought you out here to SoCal? Was it the band?
I was out here doing the three Cali shows and that’s how I met Christine, my girlfriend, in San Diego after the show was actually over. [Laughs] I was considering a move already, but as things got rolling with her, it made sense and somebody was gonna have to move, so there ya go. First winter of really no winter. Pretty weird. Leaving an area you’ve known your whole life is intensely difficult. And more so in your forties.
Tell me a bit about Sick Rooms, the recently released Precious full-length. I think it’s refreshing to hear a band actually taking the time to write metallic hardcore with nuances and dynamics. It’s way more than just a bunch of cool riffs thrown together. I think that’s a testament to all of your musical talent, but it’s also probably stemming from your collective experiences. You aren’t kids.
Sick Rooms was a title I’d had on the back burner for a few years. Which I tend to do. The Blinding Light was something I held onto for a number of years before I actually used it for the band. It’s more or less kind of a bookend to Junebug to me. A lot of place in time, location and whatnot. It’s funny what it’s more or less about which, of course I’m not going to give away [laughs]. Dan had been sitting on the tracks for at least a year. He had most of it done probably by the time we got the first two EPs finished on my end. I’m never on really much of a schedule anymore when it comes to that, so I just write randomly when things come to me. But a lot of it, and the EPs was studio written. It’s weird and pressure-filled that way, but it’s worked well so far. The tracks were way more rock and just straight up aggressive so we just went with that. I’m really enjoying listening to it when I do. Not the usual thing for me.
What’s the plan for Precious now that the album is out? I know Dan is busy with his DJ stuff, and Dustin lives outside of California.
It’s not really a touring entity, so we’ll do what we can and what makes sense. With the guys and families and jobs and other bands, you just make do. Which is fine by me. As a live act we’ve done way more than I planned on doing with this thing as it is. It seems even with more established bands most of them are a doing a week or two tops. I’ll keep it at a few shows when possible and I’m good. I never had that lifestyle and never really wanted it anyway.
Outside of music, what else is keeping you busy these days? How are you adjusting to California life?
Just working mainly. Trying to bury myself in it, really. It’s been really helpful as it’s always been when I’ve gone through a struggle, and doing the move hasn’t been easy for me or my girlfriend, for that matter. But it is what it is, I knew this was going to be tough, but maybe not to the extent it has. Just keeping my head up and to just keeping pushing through. It’s a trip having two baseball teams to go see. Baseball has been so insanely enjoyable. But damn I miss my Twins and Target Field. And gotta get those late night skate runs back going again as well.
If you had to pick your all-time favorite hardcore/metal band to come out of Minnesota, who would it be and why?
Damn, that’s hard. It was for a long time the Replacements. That was from being a young kid and my Uncle Doug, but I’d have to say Hüsker now. I suppose Sugar doesn’t count because that’s technically Georgia. I’m going with Bob and Grant (RIP), though. Talk about a band that could really do it all. Major Zen Arcade and Flip Your Wig jag for me. But I’ve been obsessed with Sugar since Copper Blue was released. We practiced before the show and was listening to File Under Easy Listening on the way back and my ears were just ringing like hell like I’ve heard Bob’s do. My hearing is still intact but I think it’s finally time for earplugs for this guy. It’s been a good run.