Brix & The Extricated are alive and kicking.
The band bristles with post-punk energy. It contains four former members of The Fall, an iconic Irish guitarist and has a brand-new album Breaking State out on 26th October, with a launch gig at city centre venue Night People the evening before, followed by a UK tour.
“We are a Manchester based band so what better place to start than our home town,” says Brix Smith Start, the frontwoman from Los Angeles who came to this country in the 1980s to pursue her passion for music (she chose the name Brix because of The Clash song The Guns of Brixton).
She joined The Fall during one of its most prolific periods and married founder Mark E. Smith.
“Obviously, being in The Fall in my formative years both affected and infected me as a musician to the point that the sound of Manchester is in my bones and in my blood. It is my musical home base,” Brix tells us.
Although Brix departed both The Fall and her marriage to Smith in 1989, she has been the catalyst behind a number of musical projects as a powerful songwriter, vocalist and guitarist in her own right.
The Extricated were born out of what was meant to be a one-off gig at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge in 2014, where she reunited with fellow Fall members and brothers Steve Hanley – bass player in the band for almost 20 years – and drummer Paul.
Here they played a selection of Fall songs to mark the launch of Steve’s book The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall. But they didn’t stop there.
The three musicians went on to recruit a further former Fall member Steve Trafford (who is also BA Songwriting Course Leader at Manchester’s BIMM), plus Irish guitarist Jason Brown to complete the 5-piece line-up they have today.
“In the south of Ireland I would be described as a “blow in” as I’m what seems to have become the token non ex-Fall member!” says Jason.
“I did play with the Hanleys in Tom Hingley & The Lovers for ten years before The Extricated so I’m well connected to the powerhouse rhythm section.”
Brix & The Extricated released their debut album Part 2 in September last year and now their second, Breaking State, is due out on 26th October – with plenty of bold basslines, guitar and an attitude to boot.
“The album is a great step forward for us,” says Jason. “Musically, while retaining a thread of consistency, we have certainly allowed for a broader sonic pallet – the use of strings on four tracks reflects that – but also the harmony and arrangement of the songs shows growth in our sound. Having said that there is still the Hanley rhythm section at the very core grinding out a sound that is unique only to them.”
Breaking State is an impressive ten tracks with vivid cover art thanks to Rufus Dayglo, the influential comic book illustrator behind artwork including Tank Girl, Judge Dredd and 2000AD. It depicts an out-of-this-world female character with the rest of the band around her – which feeds into the themes of the album, according to Brix.
“Each song is a personal account of how I took a bad situation, broke state, moved forward and transformed myself as a human being, a musician, a woman I guess. Lyrically, these are the most personal words I’ve ever written in my life.
“Every time you put on a piece of music you actually break state. Breaking State is a technique I use to propel myself forward. It’s a technique I use to manage my emotions – to get out of a bad place and open the way to simply feeling more positive in the present moment.”
But the origins of the title of the album may come as surprise to some, according to Jason.
“The title comes from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Someone asked me if it was about Brexit but that’s not the case! Breaking State is very much about shifting from one emotional place, often negative and unhelpful, and breaking out of that into a more positive place.”
Brix & The Extricated certainly see Manchester as a positive place – not only did they form here, but they record at the legendary Blueprint Studios (also the home of bands including Elbow and The Slow Reader’s Club) and have deliberately chosen the small independent venue Night People for their 25th October launch.
“We’ve not played there before but it should have a fairly intimate feel,” continues Jason “I’ve been living in Manchester for 30 years now – I’m originally from Derry – and Manchester’s contribution to music and popular culture is second to none. That’s what attracted me to the city in 1988 and that is as still valid today as it was then.
“In fact, me and Brix are the only two non-Mancunians in the band and we both moved to the city for the same reasons. As a result you will hear Manchester punk and post-punk influence on the record. The city’s resilience and can-do attitude is a constant source of inspiration.”
But how do the band balance their historic origins with making new material?
“Many of the songs I wrote during my period in The Fall had not been played for thirty years. I feel as if my songs are my children and it seems only fitting as a songwriter that I bring back some of my best work and reinterpret them,” says Brix.
“Any time we play any of these songs it fills me with great joy and it’s an honour to keep this music alive. I intend to never let it die so many more people can have the joy of hearing them in a live environment.”