Why I broke up with my favorite band

Jesse Lacey in New Orleans in October 2017. (Photo by William Wheeler)

It was late on an October evening in City Park, New Orleans. The crowd was gathering around the stage early, as this was the first time Brand New, an alternative rock band from Long Island, was going to play music from their most recent album, “Science Fiction.”

The swamp fog was rolling in as the big, orange sun was sinking below the willows. Without an intro, Brand New erupted into an hour-long set filled with old classics and new favorites.

I fell in love with Brand New’s music the first time I heard their debut album, “Your Favorite Weapon,” in middle school. After waiting more than a decade, I finally got to see them, and everything was perfect.

All of that came crashing down on Nov. 10. I was floored when I opened a text from a friend and fellow Brand New fan. Jesse Lacey, the frontman and lyricist, had been accused of unwanted sexual misconduct with a minor. Needless to say, I was absolutely devastated.

This man was inspirational, and I had always respected him and his band; the music is deeply personal and philosophical, and contained positive messages that really helped me (and many others, I’m sure) in my early teens. Most of the lyrics deal with religion and the lifelong striving to be the best person you can be, and these themes helped me deal with some typical teenage issues. Even the name of the band’s website is fightoffyourdemons.com. To hear Lacey admit the accusations — that he solicited nude photographs from underage women online — were true was a real rude awakening.

It was easy for me to damn Harvey Weinstein as a perverted monster, just as it was unthinkable to NOT condemn Kevin Spacey for his disgusting, predatory actions. It was much harder for me to accept that Lacey, in fact, is guilty of unwanted sexual advances. At first I hoped it was just internet rumor-mill stuff. It is wildly inappropriate and problematic to victim-shame, but I admit I pondered the motive of the victim coming forward so many years later (the incidents occurred almost 20 years ago, long before Brand New became a successful rock band).

The motivation for coming forward with allegations of abuse isn’t relevant; always stand with survivors. There will come a time, when and not if, that someone you respect and admire will be publicly exposed. It could be for sexual assault, it could be for domestic violence, it could be lots of things, but when (not if), you must remember the victim. Your gut reaction might be to defend the person accused, as some tried to defend Lacey. “He’s a rock star, of course he wanted to sleep with these women,” or “what was she expecting, he’s famous” are not excuses.

I’m glad I got to see the band when I did. I could not enjoy the show, nor could I financially support the band after the allegations. It is going to take a long time before I will be able to listen to Brand New’s music again.

Lacey issued a lengthy apology and went on to describe his battles with addiction and rehab, but that doesn’t make it OK. So in Lacey’s own words, from the song “Seventy Times 7,” “I can’t let you let me down again.” This is goodbye, Brand New.

2 Comments on Why I broke up with my favorite band

  1. Sigh… this is incredibly one-sided. Yes we should absolutely support victims, but we should also seek the truth when it comes to ruining somone’s reputation. The solo supposedly-underage accuser’s own friends have publicly outed her as someone who chased after bands and has pulled this kind of stunt with them for whatever reason. Now on the flip side, Jesse was undoubtedly an asshole back then (anyone who has listened to the lyrics of the first 2 albums knows that), and he likely mistreated lots of women as he tried to make himself feel better by using these girls. That’s never ok, but Jesse acknowledged and apologized for that much publicly and sought help for his “demons” years prior to the accusations by this girl. However, other than this one person, there has been no indication that he sought underage girls nor that the attention was “unwanted” by them at the time. He undoubtedly broke some hearts, but I think completely shunning a band because of one person seems shortsighted and reactionary. If girls were coming out in droves (or even more than 1) claiming he was knowingly soliciting underage photos, fine, let’s burn Brand New to the ground. I am more skeptical in this case. I can support victims and still feel that way. Just as you can take one account and treat it as truth.

  2. Amazing. Astounding. Apex work. It is so difficult to accept that our once beloved and admired personas are capable of heinous actions. Victim shaming and blaming is an unfortunate experience that many survivors endure and often is a product of cultural myths. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) reported a study from Rennison (2002), a researcher for the Department of Justice, found that an estimate 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Between 2%-10% of the assaults that are reported end up being false accusations (Lisak, Gardinier, Nicksa, & Cote, 2010). The FBI reported that this percentage is the same for other felonies. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) reported that only 6 rapists are incarcerated for every 310 reported assaults. This remains true for the rich and famous rapists that have recently been revealed- many will never face incarceration. The likelihood of false accusations is incredibly low. Survivors are afraid to speak out for various reasons but largely because of the backlash other survivors experience. I can only hope that the people utilizing public platforms to identify rapists and abusers will empower other survivors to speak out. Identifying abusers and supporting survivors is absolutely crucial in order to change the systematic and cultural oppression of survivors.

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