Brandon Butler is a lot like you and me. He works a blue-collar job during the day, and tends bar at night to pay the bills. But to those who loved mid-’90s emo-core, that genre hybrid that brought melody and emotional lyrics to hardcore punk, he is something more.
With his band Boys Life, from Kansas City, Butler made two albums that influenced today’s modern emo man, filling epic guitar anthems with hooks and twisting them into angular rock architecture that didn’t fall far from the Fugazi/Jawbox, Dischord label tree. After Boys Life, Butler tried his luck with Farewell Bend, and brought more hooks to the same formula. After a somewhat lengthy hiatus, he emerged from his cave with Canyon, a spacious, multi-layered project that experimented with country and folk and expanded the definitions and sonic possibilities of each.
The partnership didn’t last. Butler was given a pink slip, so he went solo, creating a more sparse country-folk sound that leaned more toward the traditional. His latest solo effort is Lucky Thumbs, a rambunctious affair that injects a little country twang into blasts of squawking rock, but also adopts a quieter, more contemplative folk mood in parts. With help from Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and cellist Amy Domingues, Butler balances string-laden and piano-based arrangements with scruffy guitar noise and does it quite well. He talked with Goldmine about his latest project.