It’s been two years since sexual misconduct allegations against Brand New frontman Jesse Lacey became widely known. The news came as a shock to some, while others pointed out that the accusations weren’t new, people were just finally listening. I’d long considered Brand New to be my favorite band, and for all I knew about them, I was stunned by the stories. Jesse had written dark lyrics before, but I never would have suspected him of grooming children for sexual gratification.
People loved Brand New and still do. For those outside the club, it’s difficult to describe the relationship people of my age group have with the band. Jesse spoke to us and for us. His lyrics became a soundtrack for so much of our young lives, from high school pop punk fun to college frustration and adult retrospection. Jesse helped us feel like a part of something. We were in it together with Brand New.
I hadn’t been following Brand New closely in late 2017 (their newer music didn’t appeal to me as much as their earlier stuff), so reading the horror stories about Jesse was like finding out something terrible about a good friend you had lost touch with. After that the question for fans became: what do we do now? Burn all our Brand New memorabilia? Scrub our memories clean of the band? Like I said, the music is so intertwined with my coming-of-age that it’s a part of me like other pieces of pop culture aren’t. I didn’t want to stop listening to the band, but reading about a woman getting “physically sick” listening to the songs is tough to square.
I haven’t deleted Brand New’s music from my computer. I don’t tell people to stop playing Brand New if I’m in the room. Rather, I’m drawn to the music. I still love it. But I don’t listen to the band much at all anymore. And I know I’m lucky. I once hung out with Brand New on their tour bus after winning a street team contest. My buddies and I had driven four hours to see them open for Dashboard Confessional. We didn’t care much about Dashboard, but we thought Brand New’s abbreviated setlist was worth the drive. It’s a cherished experience. Two girls were there because they’d won the same contest. And I can’t help but wonder if they had the same positive experience we did.