Brendan Franklin, the newest member of The Kissers, found music after becoming disillusioned with visual art – another nonverbal means of human expression. “Sometimes I have a hard time finding the words for things,” he says. “Music filled that void.”
Brendan picked up the guitar in high school in New Berlin, Wisconsin, and began to hang out with other musicians. “I saw that musicians approached things and dealt with things differently, and that became very interesting to me. I wanted to explore that further.”
The musician’s path led to the study of classical music at Edgewood College in Madison. There he excelled, playing in the guitar and jazz ensembles, and sometimes performing with a featured role with the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra.
While at Edgewood, Brendan had the opportunity to travel to Mexico with a professor who introduced students to Huapango, a native folk music from her home region. The music features complex rhythmic interplay between double and triple meters.
“Almost all the songs have the same chord progression, and the same sort of pattern vocal,” says Brendan. “Only the lyrics vary. It’s almost like a rap battle. When they tried to teach us some of the rhythms, I just couldn’t understand the strumming pattern. Later, I realized they were essentially playing in 6/8, and it was a matter of getting used to it. The feel and the pulse are totally different, and I think that’s really a cool and unique thing about folk music.”
Brendan tells the story because there is a parallel with The Kissers’ music. Specific strumming patterns undergird much of the music, and unusual or asymmetrical time signatures are common. There’s also an improvisatory aspect that took some adaptation from Brendan.
“In classical guitar, you really have to have everything planned out and know exactly what you’re doing,” he says. “Otherwise, you were just not going to be able to play what you’re trying to play. With The Kissers, the guys in the band are all really storied musicians. Some of them have been playing for almost as long as I’ve been alive. I can learn a whole lot from them, and that makes me listen and adapt much more as a performer. It uses a different aspect of your musical brain.
“Those are aspects of music that I was interested in, but which I was never really taught in my college experience -- how to listen and then play something, and improvisation,” says Brendan. “We learned cadences, and how to analyze chords, and that’s all very helpful. But being thrown into the thick of it, being able to watch and adapt at a moment’s notice, and recognizing common patterns, are challenges I really enjoy. Especially in my first year with the band, I had a short time to learn a bunch of songs. And of course, The Kissers are all good guys to be around, too.”
Brendan’s long interest in punk music and acoustic music both find expression in his playing with The Kissers. He is also a member of the bands Last False Hope and Nellie Wilson, and he also teaches music at Heid Music in Madison, with students in guitar, music theory, ukulele, bass, banjo and more. A Beach Boys and Brian Wilson fan, Brendan is the founder of the Facebook group Mike Love is a Douchebag.