By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
I'm going to make a quick hypothesis here," says Jeff Wiant. "One of us is going to die on stage tonight. This is not a large stage."
Or a stage at all, really. It's just after 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday at Surfside 7 in Fort Collins, and the Brotherhood of Dae Han is the last band of the evening. Wiant, the frontman, and his bandmates are crammed into a corner just to the right of the front door, standing shoulder to shoulder before several dozen enthusiastic, underage hometown fans. While many acts might feel constrained in such a confined space, this emerging metal-core outfit rocks out with complete and total abandon.
But then, having lived together for more than three years in a house meant for three people, these five guys -- Wiant, guitarists/vocalists Joey Barba and Justin Greenhouse, bassist Chris Reeves and drummer Brett Mays -- are used to functioning in cramped quarters. When they first moved in, the idea was to pool their resources so that they could lighten each other's load and focus their energies on songwriting.
"We thought that if we got jobs, that we would be loaded and we could do whatever we wanted," Wiant confesses. "Meanwhile, we all have jobs and we're broke; we have a song about how broke we are. So that didn't really work out, but it kind of put a new seriousness on the band, kind of took us to the next level in our heads, as far as making us realize this is truly what we want to do with our lives."
Not that Barba and Mays needed any added encouragement. Childhood friends from Virginia, the two had long before discovered their life's mission. "My sister used to show me Guns N' Roses tapes and Metallica tapes, and I would just listen to that stuff," Barba recounts. "And one day, I came up to Brett and this other kid, and I was just like, 'Dude, let's start a band.' Literally, I was like, 'Brett, you'll play drums; I'll play guitar, and let's just start a band.' And we did. I went out and bought a shitty fifteen-watt Crate amp and a Series 10 guitar."
Barba and Mays played together all through middle school and high school. And as the two musicians progressed, they developed an undeniable fraternal bond. "We've always clicked really easily together, writing and playing," Mays points out. "We didn't even need words. He would want something from me, or I would want something from him, and we wouldn't even have to talk about it."
Those telepathic abilities were put on hold for a few years while Barba and Mays attended college in South Florida -- the former at Lynn University, the latter at the University of Miami -- and then Barba left school for Colorado, where he befriended Wiant and Reeves and eventually became the second guitarist in their band, 12 a.m. Mays, meanwhile, stayed behind and finished his degree. After college, he went to Los Angeles to do an internship at Universal, a position he soon opted out of in favor of returning to Virginia to rekindle a long-term relationship. On his way back to the East Coast, he stopped briefly in Fort Collins to visit Barba.
Meanwhile, Barba and Wiant had become friends with Greenhouse, whom they'd met through a low-budget horror movie he'd helped write. The two had responded to a casting call and wound up landing roles in the film. "I remember it so well," says Wiant. "The movie was about a boy band that gets stranded in the woods -- I know, really creative idea, right? I remember hearing the music for it. Me and Joe looked at each other and were like, 'We can totally write better stuff than this.'"
Ironically, Greenhouse had also written the music for the soundtrack. Nonetheless, once they discovered he was a Coheed and Cambria fan, Barba and Wiant began jamming with him. It immediately became clear that Greenhouse and Barba had really great chemistry. The timing couldn't have been better.
When Mays arrived, the five musicians hastily demoed the first batch of songs that Barba and Greenhouse had written. Those recordings led to long-distance collaborations on four more tunes once Mays got back home.
"Me and Justin would cut scratch tracks and e-mail them to Brett," Barba recounts. "The songs weren't super-complex, but they were definitely technical. I remember being on the phone with him for hours, being like, 'No. No. That part's like, dun-duh-bap-bap-bap-dun, duh-do-bap-bap-bap,' working out these drumbeats over the phone."
"I'd write 'em with my mouth," Mays adds. "And he'd be like, 'That's going to work.'"
Mays would then head over to Barba's cousin's makeshift home studio in Virginia to record the drum parts over the existing scratch guitar tracks, then e-mail the results to Fort Collins. The new songs were good enough to push Wiant, Reeves and Barba to start planning 12 a.m.'s ultimate demise.
"It's not that the songs we wrote were that amazing," Wiant insists now. "We just kind of saw where it could go. We felt like we could do so much more with a new band."