By Crystal Zen Meyer | Immersia | April 7th 2014
“While we are on the subject of high energy, if you are into ska you need to check out “Burnstyles”! This ska inspired music with a swing to it had a rock vibe as well and was like a new evolved form of ska that I haven’t ever heard live before. Bret’s lyrical skill and stage presence made for a great show! Spitting lyrics that crisp while jumping around the stage to the music is no easy feat and you did it with swagger my friend!”
By Andrew Gaug and Shea Conner | St. Joe Live | December 26th, 2013
TOP 10 LOCAL ALBUMS OF 2013
Burnstyles, “If There’s Smoke”
People used to frequently dog Bret Yager and his band, Burnstyles, for sounding too much like Sublime. Hopefully, those yokels have since shut up. With “If There’s Smoke,” the band has proven it has so much more to offer than mere reggae-rubbed rock songs.
Don’t get us wrong — Burnstyles still plays Sublime-flavored party tunes like “Keep Moving On” and the ska-heavy “People Dancing” better than any other band in town. But the group often ventures into emotional territory as well. “Here’s to You,” for example, is a bitter send-off to an awful ex-girlfriend anchored by acoustic folk guitar strums. Meanwhile, “With My Friends” comes off like a mid-’90s alternative anthem about picking yourself up — all while Yager spouts verses at blistering speeds.
Did we mention that, at times, this album totally rocks? “Arizona” should appeal to fans of punk, nu-metal and ’80s hair metal alike. It’s an adventurous hard-hitter anchored by a great hook and an iconic guitar riff from Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head.” The band even covers J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” — they call it “Sinterfold” — in a way that only Burnstyles possibly could.
Other notable tracks from the CD include “Melody,” an up-tempo song about Yager’s love for music; “Years Go By,” a track with a hip-hop breakdown that proves that some people never grow up; and “Long Story Short,” the album’s marching opener that was written by guitarist Tommy Schwarz.
Sublime copycats couldn’t pull off what Burnstyles does on this album. “If There’s Smoke” is both a fun and motley listen.
By Shea Conner | St. Joe Live | December 5, 2013
Bret Yager would be the first to admit that his band’s sound isn’t particularly fresh or new. In fact, he hears from a lot of people who say the Burnstyles sound like bands that broke through more than a decade ago.
“If this was a different city and it was 1996, I think we’d be a hit,” says Yager, the group’s lead singer, guitarist and songwriter.
“Dude, even if we were a little late and it was 1999, we’d be good,” replies Corey Kropp, the band’s bassist.
“Maybe even 2003,” chimes in trombone player Pete Bailey.
Take one listen to “If There’s Smoke,” the new album by the Burnstyles that will be released this weekend, and it’ll feel like a bit of a flashback. Through the CD’s 11 songs, the band wavers between up-tempo ska punk anthems reminiscent of Reel Big Fish, Rancid and Operation Ivy while the group’s laid-back acoustic stylings boast a smoother flavor blended with touches of hip-hop. Think Sublime or Everlast.
So, the question begs to be asked, why would 2013 be a good time for the Burnstyles to unleash this sound?
“It’s not,” Yager says.
The Burnstyles isn’t a trendy band. The guys aren’t aiming for a feature in Pitchfork. But they are undoubtedly passionate about their music and pretty good at what they do.
Each of the group’s members listen to all different kinds of music. Yager likes his share of punk and reggae rock, as well as ‘80s rock and metal. Guitarist Tommy Schwarz often springs for more modern rock and hip-hop. Drummer Andrew Huffman listens to lots of fast-driving punk tunes, while Kropp likes songs that are a little more mellow. It seems like they bicker about music quite a bit, and “they suck” is an oft-uttered phrase in the band’s rehearsal space. But the music of the Burnstyles brings each of the members a surprising solidarity.
“That’s the place where we all overlap,” Schwarz says.
The Burnstyles has been in existence since Yager moved back to St. Joe from Minneapolis three years ago. The band has gone through multiple lineup changes and a few brief hiatuses during that time, but the current quintet has made a great connection. Yager, Schwarz, Huffman and Kropp met at an open mic night and started playing together a year ago. They recently added Bailey to the fold to provide some of those signature ska punk horns that are peppered throughout the band’s arsenal of songs.
When performing at any local club, the Burnstyles play original songs that largely were written a few years ago by Yager, as well as some covers of songs that you probably would have heard a lot during the 1997 Warped Tour — like Pennywise’s “Bro Hymn.” As Yager says, the group tries to keep things “fast and hard.”
“As far as playing live goes, I want to be known as the party band,” he says. “If you like our slow songs, buy the album. When you come to a show, I want you to dance and jump.”
The Burnstyles should get the crowd jumping at Cafe Acoustic on Dec. 6 when the band performs at its CD release party. The event starts at 9:30 p.m. Punk rock guitarist Ben Constable and rowdy Southern rock band Missouri Homegrown also will perform at the show.
The new album boasts a fair share of party tunes like the reggae-fied rocker “Keep Moving On” and the ska-heavy “People Dancing.” The latter half of the record dives into more emotional territory. “Here’s to You,” for example, is a bitter send-off to an awful ex-girlfriend, and “With My Friends” sounds like a mid-’90s alternative anthem about picking yourself up — all while Yager spouts verses at blistering speeds.
Both songs lead up to “Arizona,” an adventurous hard-hitter anchored by a great hook and a riff from Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head.” “Arizona” started as a demo for Smokey Bogart, Yager’s band from Minneapolis, but he decided to use it for the Burnstyles after a few listens with the guys.
“Everybody I ever brought it to said, ‘That song is so cool! We have to play it!’ And I was reluctant because I didn’t write the lyrics, but it ended up working out,” Yager says.
Other notable tracks from the new CD include “Melody,” an up-tempo song about Yager’s love for music; “Years Go By,” a song with a hip-hop breakdown that proves that some people never grow up; and “Long Story Short,” the album’s opener that was written by Schwarz. Yager says he hopes people to relate to his lyrics, even if he doesn’t feel like he’s reinventing the wheel.
“When I was growing up, I really liked the Phunk Junkeez and the Bloodhound Gang. They have cheesy lyrics and the guys can’t sing, but they’re more witty. I’m really not as witty as those guys are, but I want to be,” he admits. “So, some of the lyrics are stupid, but they’re true and they’re relatable.”
The Burnstyles are even trying to relate to listeners who might fall outside of the band’s target audience: They added a punked cover of J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” at the end of the CD.
“It was the only (cover) song we played that wasn’t a Reel Big Fish song or something like that. It was something that everyone could identify with,” Yager explains. “My brothers and sisters might like it because they’re a tad bit elder.”
Now that “If There’s Smoke” has been released, the group has plans to venture to other markets like Omaha, Kansas City and Jefferson City, where the Burnstyles will play some upcoming shows.
If you can’t make it to Cafe Acoustic or the band’s other upcoming gigs, you can order a copy of “If There’s Smoke” at renickstreetrecords.com.