“We see ourselves as Robin Hoods of rock and roll,” says Burning Brides’ main man Dimitri Coats. The past few years have been one big adventure for the tough-as-nails rock trio. They came up from the streets of Philadelphia, raided the corridors of corporate record biz power and emerged with their artistic integrity intact. Now they’re ready to give it to the people.
Hang Love is Burning Brides’ third album, a raging slab of towering riffs and melodies that stick to your soul. It’s rare to find such unrelentingly heavy rock coexisting with a keen sense for pop melody. But as Dimitri points out, “our band is all about opposites. Even the name Burning Brides and the way we sound; there’s a fine line between beauty and darkness.”
Or to sum it up in one simple word: Rock! It’s a rare commodity these days. But those who know and love it have given Burning Brides the seal of approval. Chris Cornell and tastemaker ex-Pistol DJ Steve Jones are believers. So is rock and roll luthier Mark Fuqua, guitar maker to Queens of the Stone Age and the Eagles of Death Metal, who designed a guitar especially for Dimitri, telling him. “You’ve re-inspired me. Rock and roll is back!”
And Burning Brides deliver it on their own terms. Having played the major label game, they’ve decided to self-release Hang Love on the independent Modart imprint via a distribution deal with Caroline/EMI. “We own the record,” says Dimitri. “We dictate how and when we do things. This is the way the future is going to be. But we’re one of the only bands I know of who are doing it.”
Dimitri and his real-life Burning Bride, bassist Melanie Coats, were latecomers to rock. Both were pursuing other art forms at New York’s Julliard School. He was studying acting and she was a gifted student of dance. They didn’t meet until after graduation, but they quickly became a couple.
“We started smoking pot and she’d come over to my apartment and listen to records,” Dimitri reminisces. “I’d turn her on to Sonic Youth, the Beach Boys or the cool Black Sabbath records. She was already into the Velvet Underground and the Beatles.”
It was Melanie’s idea for them to jettison their “legitimate” arts careers and start a rock band. “I’d been playing guitar since the seventh grade,” says Dimitri, ”but it never occurred to me to try to write a song or sing. Melanie encouraged me to start writing and I taught her how to play bass. A huge part of our sound comes from the fact that Melanie and I fell in love through music together.”
The duo relocated to Philadelphia, found a drummer and recorded their first album, 2001’s Fall of the Plastic Empire, “which we made for 5000 bucks in a motorcycle garage in Philly,” Dimitri adds. Burning Brides quickly gained a reputation as a formidable live act. “That’s what got us out of Philly,” Dimitri notes. “Right away we started opening for bands like the Melvins, Royal Trux and J Mascis.”
Pretty soon Burning Brides were a buzz band themselves. “We found ourselves in a huge bidding war,” Dimitri recalls. “We were the last of the unknown bands to get a million dollar record deal.”
The band signed to V2, who immediately re-issued Fall of the Plastic Empire and put Burning Brides back out on the road, which helped them expand and consolidate the dedicated fan base they’d garnered as an indie band. And in 2004, V2 released Burning Brides’ hard-hitting second album, Leave No Ashes, produced by George Drakoulias (Tom Petty, Black Crowes). The disc was well received by fans and critics alike. But in those years of major label downsizing, Burning Brides languished in promotional limbo. Things started falling apart.
“During all this mess, Melanie and I were totally fucked up on drugs, ”Dimitri confesses. “On our first, and only, headlining tour we were broken up, onstage hating each other every night. Our drummer at the time said, ‘I’m outta here.’ That could easily have been the end of the band.”
Instead, Dimitri and Melanie healed their wounded relationship. They moved out to L.A., got married and found a new drummer, Guzzard vet Pete Beeman. “Pete is what a rock drummer should be,” Dimitri raves. “He rides a motorcycle, smokes cigarettes, fishes and drinks beers. All the girls like him. And if anybody looked at me or Melanie the wrong way, he’d push ‘em against the wall.”
Through deft legal maneuvering, Burning Brides were able to get out of their V2 contract with a six-figure check in their pocket. This gave them enough to live on for two years as they regrouped and retrenched, with enough left over to finance the recording of Hang Love. The band teamed with engineer Mathias Schneeberger (Joseph Arthur, St. Vitus, Mark Lanegan), whom Dimitri and Melanie met while contributing tracks to Lanegan’s ‘04 Bubblegum album. Hang Love was recorded in just a month and a half at Shneeberger’s Arcadia, CA studio.
“It’s by far our heaviest record,” says Dimitri, “and the best example yet of who we are.”
While working out the logistics of self-releasing Hang Love, Dimitri also found time to play guitar on Chris Cornell’s forthcoming new album.
Dimitri is emerging as a guitar hero in his own right. Burning Brides even contributed a song, “Heart Full of Black” to the first Guitar Hero video game. And look for Dimitri in the upcoming rock vampire movie Suck.
But for Dimitri and all the Brides, the first priority is Hang Love .
“Most bands make their craziest records early on, then they mellow out,” Dimitri notes. “We’re just the opposite. We’re stripping away more and more of the fat and getting into the essence of who we are as a band.”