Brighton MA, one of two indie band on Red Bull Rock the Route Brighton MA

Brighton, MA could very well have dissociative identity disorder – from a musical standpoint, that is. The Chicago, Illinois-based quintet is known to perform energetically in concert, yet they also have the tendency to reveal a softer and more emotional side on stage.

Brighton, MA Members

  • Matthew Kerstein
  • Jim Tuerk
  • Sam Koentopp
  • Joe Darnaby
  • Jon Ozaksut

“Musically, there are two versions of the band that I see,” guitarist Jim Tuerk says. “One, the rock-n-rollers playing loudly [and] flying off the rails. And two, the emphatic singer-songwriter. The former is what most see at our live shows, but the latter is what all of us in the band draw from.”

That split personality of charisma and soul, as well as stellar musicianship, is what landed the indie rock juggernaut a spot on Red Bull’s Rock The Route Tour. While this is arguably the group’s biggest opportunity, the veteran collective have paid their dues for the past five years and now, the fruits of their labor are being recognized on an international level.

In 2006, vocalist Matt Kerstein and drummer Sam Koentopp left indie pop band Scotland Yard Gospel Choir to launch a new project with Tuerk. Former SYGC members Devon Bryant and Matt Priest initially rounded out the lineup, and the five would perform under the moniker Brighton MA for an assortment of reasons.

“The name was meant as a nod to childhood, or youthful development, in the spirit of Greetings From Asbury Park by Bruce Springsteen,” Tuerk explains. “It's where Matt [Kerstein] grew up, and topically, all the first songs we worked on were looking back as much as they looked forward - where you come from and what from your past informs your present or shapes your future.”

We used to play shows at this small bar called Simon's. Known for their mulled wine

A year later, Brighton MA had enough material for their self-titled debut EP and linked up with Loose Tooth Records. “We used to play shows at this small bar called Simon's. Known for their mulled wine, we'd set up in the corner, invite our friends, and play for hours - new tunes, old tunes, covers we'd rehearsed [and] covers we hadn't. It was a great time,” Tuerk says. “I remember Curt [Swank] from Loose Tooth coming out to one of those and talking to him about releasing the EP. He loved it, we all hit it off, and that's that.”

In 2008, they released their official debut studio album, Amateur Lovers. The full-length was recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio - the same studio once used by Nirvana, The Breeders and The Pixies – and featured heartfelt ditties like “Let’s Be Friends Again” and “Not Our Fault.”

Unlike their previous music, Brighton MA decided to go in another direction with Amateur Lovers. “Instead of the simplistic tunes of the EP, [Kerstein] began writing more complex lyrics and pairing them with more dynamic forms. It was a completely different process of recording,” Tuerk recalls. “I think we were trying to re-define who we wanted to be as a band. We wanted to be tighter, for things to sound more put together and cleverly arranged. We wanted to explore different ways of mining material for [Kerstein's] songs.” 

null Brighton MA

The group would also be forced to shuffle the lineup. Bryant and Priest left the band, but Brighton MA replaced them with bassist Jon Ozaksut and guitarist Joe Darnaby

Another drastic change occurred as well. Despite the great relationship Brighton MA had with Loose Tooth Records, the group felt it was in their best interest to part ways with the label. Though currently unsigned, the quintet decided to both self-finance and self-release their latest EP, Schubas Residency.

Nobody is going to make it happen for you if you can't for yourself

The collective views this business strategy as the wave of the future. “Bands are going to start doing this more, for sure. We're already seeing that,” Tuerk explains. “Labels are starting to put less money into bands, and the bands they do put money into have to be road tested to show they can do it on their own. Nobody is going to make it happen for you if you can't for yourself.”

Thus far, the Chicago juggernaut has done just fine without any label assistance, having placed songs on television shows like Castle, Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill.

Brighton MA are slated to hit the studio to record their next full-length album and have tapped The Sea And Cake’s guitarist, Archer Prewitt, to produce the effort with the intent of creating songs that are “shorter with clear ideas lyrically and musically.”

Before that happens, however, the Chicago five-piece will finish out Red Bull’s Rock The Route Tour. For the past ten weeks, the troupe has amazed crowds with their energetic, sometimes emphatic, style and Poya Pictures, the production team behind the traveling festival, have caught every second of it.

“It’s a party on wheels with a hell of a production team following us. [We] couldn't have asked for it to have gone better,” Tuerk says. “The footage has been great to revisit those memories - or lack thereof. Our fans have really enjoyed it too. [I] can't tell you have many notes we have received saying how awesome it is to see us in our element on tour.”

Sounds like Brighton MA has their head on straight. Maybe they don’t have dissociative identity disorder after all.


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