Braintree's New CD Tsicavo Gives Voice to Underemployed Zoloft Generation

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As a solid citizen of the underemployed Zoloft generation, Braintree’s Peter Griffin has a lot to say in his new album about alienation and disillusionment, about struggling to make a living with music that doesn’t fit the corporate mold, and about running headlong into the age-old question: “Where is the God of my childhood when horrific things happen?” And as a musician and lyricist who has mastered five instruments since his first drum set at age six, Griffin says it all powerfully and without self-pity. The music often stands as a counterpoint to the lyrics – relatively gentle, deceptively upbeat music plays for those “Quarantined in Tsicavo,” who have “pulled out their own eyes” and “sown up their own ears” by refusing to like or accept any music other than that which they are told they should like. It’s a not-too-thinly veiled reference to the rough road of trying to play original music in a cover-band town.

As a solid citizen of the underemployed Zoloft generation, Braintree’s Peter Griffin has a lot to say in his new album about alienation and disillusionment, about struggling to make a living with music that doesn’t fit the corporate mold, and about running headlong into the age-old question: “Where is the God of my childhood when horrific things happen?”

And as a musician and lyricist who has mastered five instruments since his first drum set at age six, Griffin says it all powerfully and without self-pity.

The music often stands as a counterpoint to the lyrics -- relatively gentle, deceptively upbeat music plays for those “Quarantined in Tsicavo,” who have “pulled out their own eyes” and “sown up their own ears” by refusing to like or accept any music other than that which they are told they should like. It’s a not-too-thinly veiled reference to the rough road of trying to play original music in a cover-band town.

“I always write the music first and think about the mood that the music portrayed,” said Griffin, who sings and plays rhythm guitar in Braintree. “Then certain words pop up in your head and you think, ‘What does that mean?’ When there are specific things you want to say, however, it works best when the lyric fits easily with the music -- you can’t just shoehorn something in.”

Tsicavo, which will be released May 23, is Braintree’s second CD. The first, fabricate, sold more than 3,000 copies, but most were sold through guerilla techniques in which Griffin donned a photographer's jacket with pockets and sold the CDs in clubs, at shows and on the streets of Chicago -- anywhere people would stop and listen to a few songs.

“This time I plan to go the more conventional route and sell them through venues where they will be picked up by SoundScan,” he said.

Tsicavo is in four weeks of promotion on Chicago’s Q101. The official release party will be June 7 when Braintree performs at the Double Door, 1572 N Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago.

“We always enjoy playing at the Double Door,” Griffin said. “The audiences are receptive and the vibe is great.”

Griffin says the major influences for Tsicavo have been At the Drive-In, Fugazi, Radio Head, “and of course, the Beatles.” That’s a change from fabricate, which was more heavily influenced by Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Third Eye Blind.

Near all the songs on Tsicavo deal in some way with the issues Griffin sees most people in their late-20s and early-30s dealing with.

“We are the generation that was told that getting a college degree would give us a wonderful edge,” he said. “Then we enter the job force and realize that isn’t the case anymore. ‘Tear Down the Sun’ is about spending a ton of money and time getting a degree, going into debt to do it, and then not being able to find a job to pay for that debt or in our field, and working for bosses who are half as educated as we are.”

On the liner notes, lyrics hand written over a prescription for Zoloft surrounded by pills is a pull-no-punches reference to the prevalence of depression in this generation, but also of the welcome help many have found in the newer antidepressants.

“Taking antidepressants doesn’t hurt your creativity or turn you into a person who is all happy all the time,” said Griffin, who takes Zoloft for depression. “Taking antidepressants turns you into a person who can feel all the wide range of emotions and have control over them, not have them control you.”

“You can have bad days and see things you don’t like, but you don’t want to put a gun to your head at the end of the night.”

Griffin wrote the music and lyrics and played all instruments and vocals on Tsicavo except for three songs on which brother Joe Griffin, who is lead guitarist in Braintree, did backing vocals. The other members of the performance band are Jeremy Wanat on bass and Jimmy Jensen on drums. All the color artwork for the CD was done by Kenneth A. Murray.

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Dominic Francis
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