Futuristic indie-rock giant Brainiac celebrates his legacy with two reunion shows in Chicago

Brainiac’s story still haunts Ohio indie-rock fans and those who appreciate deliriously weird electronic rock and pop. Loved to tease zine editors with the style of their 3RA1N1AC name, this Dayton band formed in 1992 and released three brilliant and always surprising albums that made them feel like a harbinger of subversive, futuristic rock to come. . When they released the 1997 EP Electro-Shock for President on Touch and Go, they had been getting offers from major labels for years and had begun work on a feature film for Interscope. But Electroshock it would turn out to be their last release: in the early hours of May 23, the band’s charismatic frontman Tim Taylor was killed in a horrific car accident. It was later determined that he had been overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from his old car and was likely dead before impact. The band’s career ended in an instant.

Or was it? In the decades that followed, Brainiac was gone but never forgotten; his music turned out to be too idiosyncratic to age easily, and the specter of what he might have been has given his catalog a posthumous shock. Guitarist John Schmersal went on to form the New York art-rock trio Enon in 1999, and during that band’s run he was approached by independent filmmaker Eric Mahoney about a possible Brainiac documentary. In 2016, Mahoney took up the project, as he told the Columbus Shipping in 2019, he was inspired to revisit the band’s legacy when he realized that the 20th anniversary of Taylor’s death and the 25th anniversary of Brainac’s 1993 debut album, smack bunny babyThey both got closer. The project it quickly generated buzz, and fans of superstars Mark Hamill and Trent Reznor (who cites Brainiac as an influence) were among those promoting Mahoney’s Kickstarter campaign and other fundraising efforts. The resulting film Brainiac: transmissions after zerowhich premiered at South by Southwest in 2019, brought together a huge list of musicians, family and friends who knew the band in its glory days, and includes footage from a reunion show with the surviving members.

The renewed interest in Brainiac led Schmersal to investigate the gang’s files. In January of this year, Touch and Go launched the nominated predator, an EP that compiles nine previously unreleased demos. The songs are short and unfinished, like ghostly outlines of a potential that hasn’t been fully realized, but Brainaic’s distinctive personality shines through so brightly that if you close your eyes you can imagine them playing in your living room. The surviving members’ live shows were originally meant to be occasional tributes to Taylor’s legacy, but the group seems to be announcing dates more and more frequently: their February UK tour schedule seemed like that of a band to me. of actual work. Still, it would be foolish to take any opportunity to see Brainiac for granted, and he’s got two this weekend: in the empty bottle and on day one of Do Division Street Fest.

brainiac Lung and Matt Espy open. Thursday June 1, 9pm, empty bottle, 1035 N. Western, sold out online, tickets available at the door, 21+

brainiac Brainiac plays the Damen (East) Stage on the first day of Do Division Street Fest. Also performing are Jesse Royal, WITCH, Akasha, Beats and Bateria, and the Cowboys. Friday June 2, 7:15 pm (music starts at 5:45 pm), split between Damen and Leavitt, $10 suggested donation, all ages