Rich Howells

SONG PREMIERE: Scranton alt rockers The Broke Pines debut with longing for ‘Your Baby Blues’

SONG PREMIERE: Scranton alt rockers The Broke Pines debut with longing for ‘Your Baby Blues’
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Musicians communicate in many different ways, through lyrics, chords, beats, and in wavelengths heard and unheard.

On stage, subtle movements, head nods, countdowns, eye contact, and little musical cues are indications that a band is talking to each other. When it all comes together, it can create a song that speaks to everyone.

When The Broke Pines publicly debuted at the NEPA Scene Open Mic in February, anyone listening could hear the sounds of experienced artists crafting something special. Vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Burke and bassist David Connors of indie folk band Jung Bergo, vocalist/guitarist Sean Flynn of Americana/folk rock solo project American Buffalo Ghost, and drummer Steve Werner of defunct indie rock group Blinded Passenger formed a quartet out of a mutual love of particular influences.

“The band began as an excuse to hang out and jam between Sean and I. We knew each other for years through the local scene, and we would flirt with the idea of getting in a room and nerding out together over our mutual love for alt/country rock bands like Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, Big Star, and the ‘Workingman’s Dead’ era Grateful Dead. We started hanging out every week, working on new song ideas and seeing where they might take us. That was in September of 2022, and it wasn’t long before I knew that I wanted to get Dave and Sean to collaborate as well, being familiar with Dave’s writing process, I had a hunch that it would elevate the tunes we were kicking around. We were also trying to figure out a rhythm section and Dave is a really solid bassist, and Sean had been working with Steve on American Buffalo Ghost, so we had our lineup figured out fairly quickly. Now it’s been seven incredibly productive months with these fellas!” Burke enthused.

“This group definitely began with the intention of being an alternative country band, but it quickly took on a direction all its own. So while there are definitely folk and country elements to some of the tunes, I think we all agree that we’ve ended up in an alt rock band. I think Sean has pretty accurately described us as if Tom Petty fell in love with The Replacements and Television.”

Their alternative sound can also be described as a mashup of the Scranton-based bands each member is known for while still carving out its own niche.

“Personally, I hear all of our origins in this music. To me, so many of the choices feel very self assured, and I don’t know if that can come from abandoning your roots and familiarities. I see Dave’s fingerprints in a lot of the lyrics, as well as what I know to be Sean’s leanings and inspirations. I think the music as a whole has an energy that I’ve never been a part of before, but I also think that if you dig anything the four of us have done prior to The Broke Pines, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll enjoy this band,” Burke continued.

“One of the things I love about this group is how very democratic our process is. We are always checking in with one another, making sure that everyone is happy with the direction a song or artistic choice is taking us in.”

One song they chose to unveil at the open mic was “Your Baby Blues,” so it was only fitting to have NEPA Scene premiere their first-ever single as it hits major streaming platforms today. While the songwriters themselves get along beautifully, that doesn’t mean their subject matter communicates just as well.

“This song began as a nugget that Sean brought to the table during one of our earliest writing sessions. I think we had the chords and arrangement worked out by the time we brought Dave in to write lyrics on the second verse, which eventually steered the song into the duet that it is now with Sean and I trading lead vocals,” Burke recalled.

“For me, the song touches on themes of longing for a time that has passed, viewing that ‘olden’ time through rose-tinted glasses. There are references to the difficulties communicating in modern times, despite the abundance of technology that is meant to connect us with greater ease than ever before, ‘It looks like clickbait to me over the phone.’ The narrator of the song reminds that, ‘We’ll get there someday baby, at the end,’ perhaps highlighting the futile nature of longing for anything but the present.”

Countless bands form out of the dissipation of others, so The Broke Pines is an exceptional case where everyone is still active with other projects, allowing their friendships and creativity to spill from one project into another.

“Sean has a great work ethic and I think he enjoys having multiple irons in the fire. Since this band formed, he’s released two records with American Buffalo Ghost and still performs fairly regularly with Those Clever Foxes. Steve is on his way to becoming a music therapist and he gigs regularly, solo doing handpan music, and with Patrick McGlynn from Blinded Passenger. Steve also recently joined Jung Bergo!” Burke explained.

“As for Dave and I, we write music together nonstop, and honestly Jung Bergo is flush with songs that need to be tracked and albums in various states of completion, so it was really appealing and exciting to collaborate on something brand new with someone, with Sean’s willingness to put the work in and Steve’s dedication to his craft. Between the four of us, the songs have taken shape quickly and naturally. To oversimplify it, the project just feels right and easy, perhaps like a good relationship ought to!”

Even their name is a reflection of their shared musical interests and local imagery.

“If my memory serves me correct, this is the first band that the four of us have been in with ‘The’ in the name, and that feels like a rock ‘n’ roll clich√© that I am excited to check off the list! There were other names and variations on the table, but we kept circling back to The Broke Pines, I think because it sounded like the name of a band that should have already existed and evoked imagery of life in the Northeast. It makes me think of camping and cheap electric guitars.”

Before entering Windmill Agency Recording Studios in Lake Ariel with producer Eric Ritter, they stopped down at The V-Spot in North Scranton to try out their new material at the weekly NEPA Scene Open Mic.

“We had been getting ready to head into the studio, but we were also itching to get out in front of people and play the songs live. Going from rehearsing in our little room for months with just the four of us to hear it, we were really excited to test the waters and blow off some steam at the open mic! We had such a fun time, of course, that we’ve ended up back there a few times now. I can’t express enough how lucky we are in this area to have that stage and platform at our disposal – it’s perfect for trying something out, workshopping your craft, or just enjoying as an audience member,” Burke noted.

Soon after, they played their first full headlining set at The Bog with some fellow open mic performers.

“The Bog, being the landmark that it is to downtown Scranton, felt like the perfect place to christen the band with its first full set. Our friends Betty White Devil and Zeu rounded out the bill and made it feel like a full-blown concert. Our performance also marked the return of Wednesday night music at The Bog, which has hosted so many of the area’s renowned acts over the years. The energy in the room all night long was very celebratory, and everyone in attendance was super supportive, even those that had just happened upon a seemingly random Wednesday night rock show!”

High on all that positive feedback, The Broke Pines opened for singer/songwriter Mike Miz at his album release show at the River Street Jazz Cafe soon after and are currently in the final stages of mixing and mastering the tracks from their recording sessions, letting “Your Baby Blues” out into the world first to set the tone for things to come.

“We plan to release more tracks this summer, eventually culminating in the release of an EP,” Burke revealed.

“We keep lovingly referring to ‘Your Baby Blues’ as a sort of ‘thesis statement’ for what this band sounds like. However, knowing the spectrum that the rest of the tracks occupy, I feel like we have an eclectic, sonically wide-spanning EP to share!”

It just goes to show that, even when musicians are firmly established in the scene, there is still room for more projects when the chemistry is right and the communication is clear. Local audiences can see it all for themselves this weekend.

“On Friday, June 2nd, we will be performing at the River Street Jazz Cafe [667 N. River St., Plains] with South Side Five and Joe Burke, then on Saturday, June 3rd, we will be performing at Arlo’s Tavern [10340 Rt. 171, Union Dale] for our first-ever acoustic set, where we’ll be sharing the evening with Jung Bergo. Then on Aug. 2nd, The Broke Pines perform outdoors at Nay Aug Park [500 Arthur Ave., Scranton] for the Wednesday evening concert series! You can find out more info and stay up to date by following us on Facebook and Instagram.”

Learn more about Jung Bergo and The Broke Pines in a recent live interview with Jeremy Burke and David Connors in Episode 172 of the NEPA Scene Podcast: