Sometimes referred to as Chicago’s best kept secret and other times called the funniest band on Red Scare, for all of us not currently living in Chicago, we know them simply as The Brokedowns. After officially closing the book on 2022 on a high note with a live show during the late hours of December 31, they claimed the honor of the last band of 2022 at Reggie’s Rock Club and rang in the New Year in style. Their 2023 is started off on an even higher note, however, with the release of the quartet’s 6th studio album titled “Maximum Khaki”, the band’s fourth release on Chicago label Red Scare.
Out of the gates, the group’s first single “Obey the Fumes” damn near knocks your fuckin’ teeth in. Lead guitarist Kris Megyery kicks the song off with a killer, in-your-face opening riff that sets an excellent tone for the next thirteen tracks of this quick, humorous, thought-provoking punk masterpiece.
In my opinion, this record is what a punk record should be. The songs are fast, both in tempo and duration, with only one track breaking the three-minute threshold (and even that comes in at an even three minutes). The release comes equipped with intriguing, chuckle-inducing song titles that, upon questioning with the band, have both deep and sincere subject matters. After listening from beginning to end and finding myself starting over, I fully understand the pride that these guys hold in their finished product.
“There’s nothing I really regret on [the record],” said Megyery. “At this point I’m usually like ‘Fuck it’s coming out in a few days, this sucks.’ But not with this one, that’s a good feeling to have.”
Keep scrolling for all kinds of cool stuff: music videos for “Obey the Fumes” (which coincidentally was done over a Zoom call as well) and “Samurai Sword Decontrol”, info for their record release show January 28th at the Burlington in Chicago, and the full Q&A with Eric, Kris and Mustafa. Cheers!
(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sake because a good chunk of this interview was just four guys shooting the shit.)
Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate): So first off, congrats on the new record. I know it’s not technically out yet as of this intervew, but I’ve listened to it several times and I love it guys. How long has this been in the works, I know your last release 2018?
Kris Megyery (KM): Yeah I think we started recording in February but we did the bass tracking March 7th 2020. So pretty much we started recording right before the pandemic and then we finished it up like last summer.
So you started recording back in 2020, but are these songs a lot older than that?
Mustafa Daka (MD): I remember, Kris, we recorded for like a split or something and you were like hey while we are at it, let’s just like demo all these songs you had just shown us, so like there’s a kind of a real rough recording of all those songs like a year earlier so like 2019?
KM: Right yeah it was that Copyrights cover song for the Red Scare comp. And my idea was to try to record a whole album that we’ve never practiced once and I thought it would go awesome *laughs*. And we did, we recorded that Copyrights song and then we just like live recorded the whole album and I remember during the session being like ‘holy shit this is gonna work’, like we just did the whole album in like a couple hours. And then we got home and listened to it and we were like ‘oh this is a turkey’. *laughs* So we went back like a year later to perfect them.
So I always like to ask this with new releases, did you just kind of collect these songs over time after your last release or was it like ‘alright let’s write another record’ and you just sat down wrote songs and recorded?
KM: Yeah the way we operate as a band for at least the last 10 years since I’ve had kids is pretty much just like whoever writes a song, like me or John, we make demos with the song and then everyone kind of learns it from the demo, like we don’t “get in the lab” *laughs* or spend tons of time. Like this shit all goes really fast because it has to. So it wasn’t over time and we never do that over time. Usually like we don’t even think about recording anything until we have a chunk of songs. There’s never like we’re just knocking around one song like normal bands do. Normal bands are like ‘hey let’s work on this one song and it slowly grows’, where us it’s like we binge it all man*laughs*.
MD: I will say, it’s been funny that Kris, since you’ve had kids, you are real quick to just hit us with like a bunch of demos and some of it’s like a Casio drum kit and everything or sometimes it’s just like the drums that he’s got laying around that he micd up. But you’ll hear his kids all over it, so I think it’s awesome. Where you have kids that might kind of get in the way of your being able to write and record demos, Kris kind of just combines those two times together so it’s like ‘well I’m gonna hang out with these kids, they may as well get involved’ *laughs*.
KM: Where a normal person would be parenting, I’m demoing *laughs*.
So does this record kind of have a theme, I know like with your last release you tackle like some of the thrills of living in the Midwest. Does this have any kind of main theme or does each song kind of have a different theme?
KM: Well a lot of our songs are like political in nature I guess. The last one was actually a lot more personal songs about like growing up and shit, and a lot of like bummer songs. The year we wrote that album like we had a bunch of people close to us die in like one short period of time, so that’s a bummer record for me. But this one is definitely more about just the cultural nightmare we’re all going through, living in our country and you know all that stuff, all that groovy shit.
Where’s the name of the record come from, Maximum Khaki?
KM: So the word khaki, I kept using as this like reference to just like the banality of evil, like bland evil, not referencing like the soldiers, but referencing the accountants who are making the atrocities happen. And when I would write a song I would have the word khaki written in there. It probably started from that Charlottesville rally you know where everyone was wearing khakis, probably stemmed from that. I think John brought it up, he’s like ‘there are like 6 songs where you mentioned khaki’. So khaki was used as a reference to just like bland cruelty. And we were going to call the record “Khaki Majesty” and right before we started making artwork for it the Slow Death from Minneapolis who we’re friends with announced their new album “Casual Majesty”.
MD: I think I told those dudes, I was like ‘you know we’ve got an album coming out called “khaki majesty”, but yeah not anymore’.
KM: I didn’t blame them or anything, but they definitely heard from our attorneys *laughs*.
MD: Yeah I don’t talk to those guys anymore *laughs*.
I know your artwork for the album always comes into question, what drew you to Ryan Duggan for this record cover?
KM: We love him. He did the album “Species Bender” and we love that record cover of ours. And we’ve always loved everything he does and he does with his artwork what I think we’re trying to do as a band, which is like be funny but not be overtly funny; be kind of very subtly funny. And he probably doesn’t want to be connected to us that way *laughs* But it just always makes me smile, always makes me giggle and always makes me think in a nonlinear way, so kind of a no brainer [to go with him]. He’s always been like doing posters and stuff like that around Chicago, and in the last 10-15 years he’s really developed a reputation. He’s got a really unique style.
So starting with “Obey the Fumes” that’s a kickass opener, that’s an awesome opener you guys put out. Walk me through kind of the meaning behind that because I know you said it was about breaking bad habits in one of the press releases, but can you dive in a little bit deeper maybe?
KM: Yeah, initially, like in my head what I see is like an 80s beer commercial where you’re working in a factory, you wipe your brow, you crack open a cool Coors. But in our like dystopian hellscape that we live in, it’s like glue. So you go to your job, and in this case the protagonist of this song goes to a job where he gets skull-fucked by demons every day, and he just wants to crack open a nice thing of glue and fuckin’ cut loose. But that’s the funny version, but it’s like about trying to break bad habits, specifically drinking, like negative drinking habits in a culture where it’s everywhere.
That was actually one of my favorite tracks off the record, do each of you guys have any favorites you’re excited for people to hear once it’s released on Friday?
MD: I love our samurai sword song, that’s probably one of my favorites and I think is the only song that I used to click track on for that whole album.
Eric Grossman (EG): I like that song yeah. “Cinnamon Kings” is probably a highlight for me.
KM: Yeah that song “Cinnamon King” is like our favorite probably. It’s only like 15 seconds long, but so much fun to play. Been playing it live for like three years, we love that one. I like it all, I think it all kind of moves really fast, it’s super short, it’s like our shortest record. It moves along pretty quick, there’s nothing I really regret on it and at this point I’m usually like ‘Fuck it’s coming out in a few days, this sucks’. But not with this one, that’s a good feeling to have.
Yeah I know guys that regret releases they put out because they do it in such a short amount of time, so I mean that’s a good feeling to have.
KM: I wanna warn the listeners, I may be wrong. You might hate this *laughs*, don’t take my word for it, I’m too closely attached to it to have a unbiased opinion.
So I gotta ask you then, some of these other titles are very intriguing. “Honk if You’re Horny” *laughs*?
KM: *laughs* Yeah real subtle.
Tell me about “Osama Van Halen.”
MD: It sounds funny to hear.
KM: It’s a real bummer, but it’s funny. But I was thinking about just like how you know Eddie Van Halen was an innovator, in a very creative way, but like Osama Bin Laden was also an innovator you know what I mean *laughs*, just in a different way. So like the chorus is about like a 4 minute mile because it took forever for people to run it, but once people ran a 4 minute mile like everybody was doing it. So once Eddie Van Halen fuckin’ busted out a power drill every jack off with a power drill could do that. But once someone does whatever fuckin’ atrocities in the newspaper every week, once you see that it makes it that much easier for the next dildo to do that.
That’s actually really cool, I wasn’t sure which direction you were gonna go with that *laughs*. So this is your 4th release over at Red Scare, I take it you’ve had a pretty good experience over there with Toby?
KM: Definitely yeah! Yeah he’s great.
MD: He sends me hoodies and shirts sometimes, and pens, it’s awesome.
EG: Lots of swag. Moose has to pay for them but he gets them *laughs*. When Moose orders it, he gets it.
MD: Sometimes I get $0.69 off and sometimes I get $4.20 off *laughs*.
So from what I’ve seen, the Chicago and Chicago suburbs, the whole scene is flourishing, makes me jealous down here because it just seems like you guys have stuff going on every night. What are some local bands that you guys want to name drop as influences or just bands you’re into?
MD: Wig, I love Wig. I love Permanent Residue, they’re fantastic. Salvation, of course Meat Wave is one of my favorite all time bands. Lollygagger‘s a great band, shit I could keep going. Oh, Avantist.
KM: I’m listening to that Stress Positions EP over and over again for the last couple weeks that’s fuckin’ kicking my head in. Obviously Meat Wave, all the bands Moose said, Wig. Yeah there’s a lot of good shit, there’s always good shit it’s the third largest city in America. Where are you at?
I’m down in Nashville.
KM: Oh yeah that’s not a place known for music *laughs*.
Speaking of locals, Deanna Belos, in “Corndog Sonnet” she named you guys. So when are you guys gonna the line “listen to Sincere Engineer” in one of your songs *laughs*.
MD: I don’t write lyrics
KM: It’s hard to work that in, I’ll figure it out. It’s a little lengthy. It’ll probably be in a super offensive song title, she’ll be like ‘hey thanks but no thanks’ *laughs*.
What about outside of Chicago, what kind of influences do you guys have?
KM: Well the obvious answer, everyone compares us to, collectively we all love Dillinger 4. That was like a huge influence for us. Fugazi’s like my favorite band of all time, that’s creeps in there a lot you know.
MD: Toys That Kill
That’s actually the one that you guys reminded me of on this last record, it’s actually in my notes for the interview *laughs*.
MD: I will absolutely rip off Toys That Kill. Jimmy will send me a text message for like whatever we put out and be like ‘oh I heard it’s great’ and I’ll be like ‘listen to this song, that’s the song I totally ripped you off’ *laughs*. I always am like thinking of Toys That Kill whenever I’m playing somehow, I just love love love those guys and I love their drums.
So your album release is on the 28th, where are you guys playing that?
EG: That’s at the Burlington, which is also pretty close to Moose.
MD: I like it because it’s pretty close to the practice spot so it’s like you just gotta pick up the gear, drive just a few blocks and go right back.
KM: Moose’s love for venues are all based on geography *laughs*.
KM: Chinese Telephones we haven’t played with in at least 10-12 years. And the other two bands we’ve never played with, but we’re friends with all of them. We wanted to play with bands we haven’t played with in at least a decade or never, but they’re all great super great and I’m super excited for all of them. I love them all.
What about your guy’s strict touring schedule? In one of your interviews you said out of town shows 3 a year, do you have those three out of town dates booked up yet or what’s the plan?
KM: There’s a bidding war going on, it’s like when a city hosts the Olympics because when we come to a town it brings a lot to the local economy *laughs*, the dispensaries.
MD: No we haven’t booked anything yet out of town, but we’re gonna definitely play a lot more this year hopefully. We might do as many as four shows out of town *laughs*.
EG: Yeah maybe. We’re talking about maybe.
So when did you guys form, I’ve seen a few different dates, but I’ve come up with 2002?
EG: What you define as the band as it is today was 2002 yeah. John and I have been playing together for a really long time, way before that probably ‘96 or ’97, somewhere around there. I mean we weren’t really serious about it and the band that you see today was 2002. I think that was when we first played with you Moose, right?
MD: Right, I used to watch you guys from like ‘96 and then in 2002 is when I joined the band, holy shit *laughs*.
KM: Yeah we should have changed our name when Moose joined because I feel like it all became kind of different.
MD: But I saw the first Brokedowns show, I wasn’t in the band but I think John was fourteen I was 18
EG: Yeah I think I had just joined the band at that point. I don’t know if I even played that one maybe I wasn’t in yet.
KM: But John was like a fuckin’ 7th grader *laughs*.
MD: I have a DVD that my friend’s uncle sent me and it has the Brokedowns playing like before you and I were in the band Kris. I think it was Taylors last show in the band. Kris and I weren’t even in the band at the time, Eric was but …
KM: Today those are referred to as the who gives a shit years *laughs*.
I’ve talked to a lot of guys who have either quit music or stopped for an extended period of time after doing it for so long, and I mean you guys have been at this for a while and I mean, based on the new record, it doesn’t seem like you guys are slowing down. What’s kept you guys going?
KM: We’re all very close friends and we don’t do much and even when like we were young, the band was never like the top priority. And because it’s never been the top priority, we’ve never had to like really sacrifice. It’s created a very low pressure situation you know.
MD: I always said it was like fishing buddies, but we play music together instead. It’s like when we lived together, sometimes our Fridays are Saturdays would be just going into like Kris’s garage or whatever and just playing for hours, get drunk in the process and sweat it out right.
KM: It’s just as simple as like if someone doesn’t want to do something, we don’t do it. And then the three people that did wanna do it just quietly resent them behind their back *laughs* and we vent to each other about how terrible that person.
MD: It’s always Kris, we always hate Kris.
KM: That’s funny because I always hate you *laughs*.
MD: Oh shit that’s so funny because I hate you even *laughs*.
KM: Honestly though, 21 years, like the band is old enough to legally drink now and I can’t think of an actual fight, like a single one.
EG: I don’t think so, no.
MD: Maybe something I did, probably. If we fought, it had to have been about something I wanted to do or didn’t wanna do.
KM: I love that false modesty there *laughs*.
So you guys have been referred to as the funniest guys on red scare, who’s second, who’s coming for your title right now? I saw Sam Russo a few months ago and that dude was pretty funny.
KM: Wow. We would never say we’re the funniest. Brendan Kelly is obviously insanely funny. The Copyrights are really funny, they’re super funny.
MD: Like personally those guys are funny as hell.
KM: They refer to movies as Kilmers and books as Grishams; every book’s a Grisham and every movie’s a Kilmer, that’s a good bit *laughs*. I love that bit.
Okay, last question here. I know the record’s not even out yet, but do you guys have any other upcoming plans far future maybe? I know you’re kind of known for doing splits, do you have any of those planned for the coming future?
EG: Not really, we don’t have anything planned. Got a bunch of stuff demoed.
MD: I was gonna say Kris already sent us demos for whatever we’re gonna do next, it’s probably gonna be a split.
Any bands that come to mind for doing splits?
KM: We were supposed to do one with Canadian Rifle actually, so probably them. But they recorded their songs and we never recorded ours *laughs*. So we blew that one. But there was a pandemic, in case you didn’t notice *laughs*.
Well that about wraps everything up, I really appreciate you guys taking some time and sitting down with me. Once again, congrats on the new record and good luck with the album release on the 28th.