We wanted to write some words about the passing of Teenage Bottlerocket‘s Brandon Carlisle. This could have easily been twice as long. Ugh. Forgive me, but I am physically exhausted and am currently emotionally unprepared to really dive into this. That said, I am gonna take a cue from Brandon and be relentlessly positive regardless of the situation. That’s how Brandon chose to live. So, given the choice to eulogize or share some fun memories, I’m gonna choose positivity and good times.
If you want the tl;dr version, I will refer to the last texts between Brandon and myself and they pretty much mirror what everyone else is sharing right now…
Bran Bran: You’re the best dude, Toby.
Me: Bro. I love you.
That sentiment is a recurring theme as I scroll though our messages. Like a couple of stinkin’ hippies, I tell ya. Also note the proper punctuation in his texts. I appreciate that.
I first reached out to Teenage Bottlerocket eleven years ago, and it was Brandon that fired back an elated response. Pretty sure his email included the words, “stoked”, “pumped”, and “rad”. Go figure, right? Well, at the time Red Scare had only two releases and the label was about 2 months old, but that didn’t diminish their enthusiasm for putting out a record. The rest, as they say, is history. Fans of the band know they’ve went on to make great albums and play shows all over the world. Your auntie or your boss probably won’t understand their music, but for our little corner/niche of weirdos and nerds, those songs can mean everything.
His loyalty to me as a friend and to our label was unmatched and unwavering. Anyone who would challenge or naysay our team was met with a united front, and as far as I’m concerned, Teenage Bottlerocket is a punk rock success story. In recent years, he would give me the same speech on a monthly basis about how grateful he was for helping get the band off the ground, and I would let him go on and on, tease it out, letting him gush and flatter me. Then I would start laughing and finally let him off the hook by telling him, “DUDE, you realize I wouldn’t be able to do this without you, right?! It’s ME that owes YOU!” And we would both share a laugh and do it all over again a few weeks later.
He was so gracious and appreciative about the things he had been able to experience through music. But music was by no means the only thing that defined Brandon. Not even close. He enjoyed exploring the backroads of the Front Range on his motorcycle, was an avid fisherman, an Astros superfan, a Dachshund enthusiast, and was even an accomplished geologist. Not many people know that about him! I’m not even joking when I say that I would call him up and ask him about sinkholes or a weird rock formation I had seen. Before Brandon toured the world as a musician, he had already been abroad testing soil and groundwater in places like Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia. He lived a very full life, to say the least.
It’s a credit to the punk community that people have been so supportive of Team TBR and right now we’re all very emotional about the people left behind and how we go on with our lives. But I want to remind people about something that I feel is important. I want to remind you about his attitude and about Brandon as an individual. As a twin, Brandon came out of the womb having to share everything in life. As a drummer he had to literally make his music behind the rest of the band. But while we’re here thinking about him, we may as well take something away from his indomitable spirit and maybe borrow some of that upbeat worldview. Let Brandon touch you with his positive energy the same way he touched so many people with his music. Honor him by taking his cue and be relentlessly positive. Smile more, headbang more, love more, hug more… you know, like the song says: shut up and get rad.
And here’s a pic of our Bran Bran (with Peanut as a puppy) from the Total era: