Beasts of Burden

Todd Lewis and Taz Bentley want to make it, sure. Mostly, they want to make it last.

"I was quite surprised by their decision," says Last Beat's Tami Thomsen. Both parties remain reticent about the sudden departure, but Thomsen promises no lingering bad feelings. "We wish them nothing but the best."

The album the Burden Brothers made with Trauma/Kirtland, Buried in Your Black Heart, came out November 18. From the opening track, it's black and broken stuff: "Why do I fall for you?" Lewis wails on the title track. "Look at me now. I'm a wreck," he cries on "You're So Goddamned Beautiful." Later, on "Your Fault"--"Everything we make we break apart/And it's all your fault." Even in this bleakness, though, there is hope. "Let It Go," the album's closer and its best song, slows down for an organ and a gospel choir, a stab of light in the darkness. An end that is a beginning.

"I enjoy listening to the CD," Lewis says. "Which is odd--at least it is for me."

Part of that has to do with the duo's involvement in the whole process. If they were entering into another record deal, they were damn sure going to do it right. They secured lawyers. They wrote a business plan. They practically wrote their own contract, lingering over the minutiae, the monotony of residuals, distribution in Japan. It's a far cry from their punk-ass youths, when only music mattered. "My fear then was that [the business] would drag me from music and my artistic ambitions," Lewis says. Instead, experience has taught him the opposite: Watching the business end actually makes it possible to keep playing.

"We approached it differently than when we were kids dreaming of being onstage," Bentley says. "Now we're dreaming of making it work as a career. If it bites us in the ass, we're the ones to blame." Young bands, take note: This is how you get it done. Yet, like all wisdom that accompanies maturity, this knowledge is hard-won, built on disappointment and scar tissue. It's not the kind of advice you can readily share.

"People have asked me for years: What's your advice to get ahead in the music business?" Lewis says. "Stop trying. Write music and watch your ass."

"When I first started out, it was like: How do you make it? What does it take?" Bentley says. "All it's ever, ever, ever been about is writing the damn songs, which I didn't find out till much later in life. Don't worry about let's wear flannel, let's sound like this. Those are trends that hundreds of thousands of bands follow."

Sometime next year, the Burden Brothers will go on tour with their newly formed band: bassist Casey Orr from Rigor Mortis, guitarist Corey Rozzoni from Happiness Factor and Clumsy and guitarist Casey Hess, whose band Doosu plays its last gig on Saturday. Touring won't be the same this time; Bentley and Lewis are both fathers. That doesn't mean they can't rawk.

"We decided we're gonna do Reunion Arena circa 1978 every night," Lewis says.

Bentley holds up the devil's horns--the universal sign of rock 'n' roll--and tosses his long hair back and forth. He laughs. "I'm sure some people think, 'Goddamn, you guys need to settle down,'" he says. But not yet. They're in it for the long haul.

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