Broncho frontman Ryan Lindsey is quite comfortable needing more time to reflect on his own music before explaining it. He’s a slick and suggestive wordsmith, often mixing metaphors and ideas to capture a mood — but check back in a few years if you want any definitive interpretation out of him.
The Oklahoma indie-rock band’s excellent fourth record, Bad Behavior, is essentially Lindsey’s bleary-eyed interpretation of the world right now. Backed by an invasive clanking cowbell on the opener, “All Choked Up,” he chants, “Don’t you want to worship/worship all your idols." He sings about the deconstruction of the nuclear family in “Family Values." There are funny, suggestive and unseemly qualities to the record.
Yet Bad Behavior also fully embodies Lindsey’s evasiveness. People are being bad, song after song, but the nefarious undercurrent throughout feels bigger than what two-and-a-half-minute snippets of stories about buying and using drugs, rich men partaking in debauchery in big cities, and sex might suggest.
Of course, this is intentional. Along with delivering a decisively weird and delightful brand of indie rock, Broncho is best known for opaque lyrics.
"I think it’s the way we always write; all of our records are equally vague," says Lindsey. "Sometimes I'm vague on what it is I'm doing. It only makes sense to trickle down to the lyrics. I think a lot of it is that sometimes it seems funnier to be vague. It’s a better joke sometimes the less information you give. Sometimes it’s a better story the less information you give."
Never defining the line between bad and good on the new record will not only allow Lindsey to look back in a few years to figure out what he was up to, but it allows listeners to fill in the gaps when necessary with their own perspective on the world.
"In certain ways, people have their own way of interpreting what anyone’s behavior is," he says. "If you look at something for a short period of time, you don’t get the whole picture, I guess. Everybody's got their own way of doing things, and everything can look different. I think in some ways, there’s room left for interpretation because everybody has their own way of looking at stuff.
“In some ways, [Bad Behavior] is our take on current affairs, and in some ways, it’s just making sense of a song and something that seemed like a good idea at the time."
Although some of the songs that would eventually make up the new record were written a few years earlier, it wasn’t until Lindsey took up watching CNN during some time off between 2016’s Double Vanity and Bad Behavior that the album truly began to take shape.
“[Watching CNN] was entertaining, and it was kind of crazy. It was also just killing time. Through that, you get this certain image of the world and viewpoint of what’s going on," he says.
The record's ripe with themes of chaos, looming ulterior motives, and people reaching the end of their rope.
“There are a few songs on this record that we recorded and started writing on previous records, like three or four years ago," Lindsey says. "There is some of where some songs make more sense later, and versions of it that didn’t make sense on a previous record, but where we are now, that idea makes sense or that song makes sense when we change the production and turn it into something that works for this record. For me, it’s just about being open-minded to all types of possibilities that I can’t even really imagine yet.”
Broncho has managed to make a record that is of the times without being tethered to any specific time. Bad Behavior is at its best when Lindsey does what he does best: not overthink it.
“With this record — under these times, and with the title having “bad” in it, I think on the surface, it seems darker, but in some ways, it’s maybe one of our most positive records," Lindsey points out. "Certain behaviors lead to certain consequences, so certain behaviors can be affiliated with things that might lead to things being really bad.
“It’s hard to say necessarily what we’re talking about in those regards," he adds. "There’s some partying going on, but there’s partying going on in life."