Smile Politely

The fall and rise of Chris Broach

Chris Broach is enjoying life at the moment. When he calls me on a breezy, August afternoon, he’s just put his 15-month-old daughter down for a nap. He’s leaving next week for a short, 10-day tour with Braid through Nashville and along the southeast coast, down to Florida. “Lots of amazing things have happened in my life that are really great,” he says. “I’ve got a house, a family, a studio in the basement.” He has even reunited his old band, synth-rock project The Firebird Band.

“I basically decided, if not now, when? I’ve got the time this fall to really sit down and make this record. Let’s just get this record finished,” says Broach. His attitude is energetic and optimistic, a reflection of the years of struggle it took to reach this point. “I had to stop doing music for three years,” he explains. “I was living a life that was not me. I walked away from it and wasn’t really connected with anybody in music anymore.”

Financial issues, relationship troubles and creative frustration began to take a toll on Broach. When The Firebird Band broke up in 2007 and scrapped the album they had been working on for over a year, it was the catalyst for a downward spiral into alcoholism and depression. “The shit hit the fan in 2008. My label fell apart, nobody was buying music, I got into this bad relationship, I started drinking again,” Broach admits. “It was a combination of all this stuff and I just said, ‘fuck this.’”

The personal turmoil made it difficult for Broach to focus. “I was dating a girl, even got engaged to her, but the relationship was very oppressive. It wasn’t healthy. It took me out of my own head,” Broach says. He stressed about things he realizes in retrospect weren’t that important after all. “I was trying to play the ‘normal’ guy, and it just didn’t work.” Drinking became a means of escape. “It’s a release that’s always been available to me, and it’s difficult. I’ve struggled with alcohol for a long time,” he confesses.

Broach’s drinking problem fed into a cycle of depression as well, preventing him from playing music and seeing his friends. “If I’m not doing music, I’m depressed. I turned to other things to divert my attention away from the fact that I was unhappy,” Broach says. He was also geographically isolated from his city-dwelling friends by a move to the suburbs in 2008. After Broach and his ex-fiance broke off the engagement, he returned to Chicago in 2010.

Finally, things in Broach’s life started to improve. “I have to say, 2010 was really the turning point for me,” he says. “I moved back, started hanging out with my buddies again, and that’s how I wound up connecting with everyone again, just being in the city. I met my wife at the end of the year and we started dating. Things started looking more rosy, if you will.”

Broach largely credits Braid bandmate Bob Nanna with pulling him back to reality. “Bob was already doing his DJ night and he invited me to join him. While we were DJing, we started talking and thought, ‘maybe we should start playing together again.’ That was how I got back into playing music,” Broach says. “We’d reminisce about old times, we’d stay out late. Bob and I missed hanging out, we missed playing with each and writing, so we decided, ‘let’s fucking do it.’ It was a slow process, getting back into the proper mindset to do more music.”

Broach, Bob Nanna and Anthony Green at Common Ground Music Fest. Photo taken from

Broach says the support of his friends and family has helped him realign his priorities. “I’ve been deciding that there is an ideal me, who I want to be. I’m not going to be the best me that I can be, make some great music, unless I start now. Time just fucking flies by.” The wasted years spurred Broach to reunite The Firebird Band and put together another album. “When I finally got back into playing music, I was like, ‘what the fuck was I doing? Why was I fucking around for so long?’ I could have been playing music.”

Now, Broach is taking back control of his life. His move to Chicago helped him reconnect with his friends and lead to the Braid reunion, which reinvigorated his passion for music. “Playing with Braid again really ignited the flames for me. I love doing the Braid stuff, but there’s this other piece of me as well. I started to realize I also missed doing The Firebird Band.” Although writing with Bob again was exciting, Broach yearned for greater freedom. “With The Firebird Band, I get to explore different ideas that wouldn’t necessarily work in a band like Braid. I can do what I want.”

Deciding that creative control is integral to his own happiness, Broach has made self-releasing a new Firebird Band record a necessity. “If you can raise the money to do it yourself, whether by saving up or through a Kickstarter campaign, you get to do the record on your terms,” Broach points out. “We can set our own goals instead of being restricted to what someone else wants the record to be. It gives me more freedom to explore musically. I can do anything, really.”

To that end, Broach has started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the recording, production, and vinyl pressing of a new record from The Firebird Band. The campaign ends on Sunday, August 9th, whether or not Broach meets his $15,000 goal. “Ten years ago, it would be easy to raise this money. People would be like, ‘I’ll totally pitch in, I’m going to buy this record anyway,” Broach says, anxious about raising the funds.

A week out, the Kickstarter remains more than $11,000 shy of its goal. Broach says this record means too much to him to never see the light of day. “I have to make this record. I was born to write and play music. It’s just a part of me,” he says. “The Firebird Band is going to make this record no matter what. It’s just going to take a lot longer if we don’t get funded.” The money from Kickstarter will go towards pressing the record on 180-gram vinyl as well as recording with producer Will Yip, best known for his work with bands like Title Fight, La Dispute, Circa Survive, and mewithoutYou. Yip also produced Braid’s comeback LP, No Coast.

“Will is very demanding about what he wants to get out of you in terms of performance. He doesn’t settle,” says Broach, explaining his desire to work with the producer again. “He really pushes you to get the biggest performance,” a quality Broach assures me is going to make the next record The Firebird Band’s best one so far.

During the No Coast sessions in Chicago, Yip stayed with Broach. During their daily commutes between the studio and Broach’s home, the two shared music with one another. Eventually, Broach showed Yip new demos he’d recorded for The Firebird Band. Yip’s response was ecstatic. “He went off, talking about how we could make this stuff sound really big, how we could really grow this stuff out,” Broach recounts. “To have someone like Will, who I think is very talented at producing and engineering records, be excited to work on this project and understand how to blow it out — it was a no-brainer to work together,” says Broach.

Of course, recording a new The Firebird Band album with Yip and pressing it to vinyl is dependent on the success of Broach’s Kickstarter campaign. If it fails, he hopes to fund the album through alternative means, but that process could take months or even years. After everything he’s been through over the last decade, Broach needs to complete this album, one way or another. “I’m not sitting around and regretting anything. I think that was a huge struggle I had to go through to get me to the point where I was ready to start doing some killer music again,” he says. With the worst behind him, Broach is concentrating on the music: “I’m going to spend as much time as I can writing music because that’s what I really want to do. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Contribute to The Firebird Band’s Kickstarter campaign here, and listen to a demo recording (with a working title) from the new album, debuted below.

“HoldFast (Turn Up The Radio)” by The Firebird Band

[[mp3 firebird_band_demo]]

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