About 45 seconds into “Masking,” the title track from Br’er’s forthcoming LP, things get uncomfortable. “I feel dizzy, I can’t breathe,” moans vocalist Benjamin Schurr. A swirling, droning opener gives way to a pounding, industrial throb. It sounds like a migraine topped off by a panic attack.
That’s what it’s supposed to sound like. “The song kind of sums up the feelings that you get when you go to the club in the wrong state of mind,” says Schurr, a 29-year-old Petworth resident. “I wanted to have a club song that sounded like you’re having the worst time in the entire world, but you still wanted to dance and freak out to it.”
While living in Philadelphia—and after fighting with his then-girlfriend—Schurr wrote a 10-minute song that eventually became the much shorter final product. “I started messing around on my synthesizer and created this really weird, dissociative, nauseating drone,” he says. “The whole song is just us chopping up that drone.”
“Masking” draws heavily on Schurr’s early love of industrial and electronic music. It packs in more aggression than Br’er’s earlier releases, which he wrote when he was listening to more classical and early goth stuff. During a one- or two-year-long break from Br’er, Schurr—who also plays in the poppier band Pree—produced a lot of other projects, focusing primarily on rhythms and grooves. When he finally returned to Br’er, he began to incorporate more experiments with drum machines and electronics into his work.
Despite being a mostly electronic song, “Masking”—and the 2015 album it will appear on—is firmly grounded in the human experience. “The whole point of the record is to focus on the way that people distance themselves from each other by having to cope in social situations and repress a lot of human feelings,” Schurr says. “Almost all of the songs are about observations of people who are just masking to one another and how terribly they treated each other as a result.”
In addition to introducing a new sound to the band, Masking marks the beginning of a newly collaborative writing process for Br’er. Schurr previously handled most of the songwriting, but this new record pulls in more input from fellow members John Delascio, Ben Usie and Erik Sleight. “This is, to me, the four of us working together to make the record,” Schurr says. “So it’s the first step [toward] a full band, as opposed to a project I was doing where I would just… get somebody to play strings for me.”