Exploring Madison's Music Scene
Apr 29, 2013
09:23 AMLocal Sounds
Brett Newski: Madison By Way of Saigon
On “Eau Claire,” a song from the new Tiny Victories CD by Brett Newski and the Corruption, recently repatriated Brett Newski sings, “I really don’t got anywhere I gotta be.” That pretty much sums up Newski’s life for the last twenty months or so.
Newski spent his college years working hard on his power-pop band the Nod and doing other promotional work. As the members approached graduation things began to fall apart for the group. They had released three albums: Shoddy Heart (2009), Easy, Maverick (2010) and Tomorrow Compadre (2011). Tomorrow Compadre was released the day of the band’s farewell show at the Memorial Union Terrace in July of 2011 and the next day Newski boarded a plane for Bangkok.
Upon arriving in Southeast Asia, Newski began a 30-date tour that took him to Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Korea and the Philippines. It was on his “Homeless in Asia” tour that he recorded a solo album, In-Between Exits. The gigs themselves were not conventional, with performances occurring in apartments, on the street, atop roofs and wherever else he could find a willing audience. Newski travelled on a beat-up motorbike he bought on arrival. The pollution was so bad he came down with a nasty case of bronchitis, but he soldiered on.
After the tour Newski settled in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. There he became a guitar teacher, did music and voice-over work for advertising and played gigs when he could. In a city of twelve million people, the Americans and Europeans kept a close-knit network and it was here that he met Matt Vend, a South African musician who took a liking to Newski and his music and invited him to tour South Africa. Unafraid to take up an adventure, Newski joined Vend and did twenty dates in in the latter’s country, culminating in a folk-festival appearance in September of 2012. The South Africans appreciated the type of folk rock that Newski was performing. After the second date Vend’s bus broke down and the rest of the tour was completed using public transportation, no easy feat in sub-Saharan Africa.
Back in Saigon, Newski teamed up with British drummer Matt Green and Canadian bassist Jeffro Ganter to form a new band, Brett Newski and the Corruption. The group’s sound has been compared to Weezer, REM, the Hives, the Pixies, and the Violent Femmes. They’ve been featured on MTV Asia, “Hard Rock Cafe Live,” and on high-profile Southeast Asian festivals. “Saigon is a city that’s about forty years behind the world,” Newski says. “Musically, it’s like a blank canvas. Everything was torn down after the fall to North Vietnam. An alternative scene is just beginning to form and rock ‘n’ roll is a new thing to them. There are little pockets of rebellion.” The band began gigging and writing, eventually completing an album in a Saigon recording facility and doing some of the technical work on their own. The album,the aforementioned Tiny Victories, is now out and the sound quality is surprisingly good (you can read an entire review of Tiny Victories here). They even made a video for one of the tunes, “New York Apartment,” by constructing a makeshift oven out of PVC piping. The video concept comes from the song’s central lyric: “Last night I slept inside the oven / Waiting for you to turn me on.”
Newski will now be joined by the rest of the Corruption on a tour of the U.S., kicking off right here in Madison on May 3 at the Frequency. Now back in the States Newski doesn’t have any immediate plans to return to Asia although he may go back to record with the Corruption. “Playing Asia was fun,” he says. “But there is no better place in the world to play than the United States.”