By Nicholas Jason Lopez
When he was 20-years-old, Brooks Paschal trekked a four-hour drive to Virginia Beach, Va. to Warped Tour just to see his favorite band Green Day.
During their set, Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong panned the capacity crowd of approximately 18,000 to see who to bring up on stage to play his guitar for a song.
His finger set upon Paschal’s face. The moment was set. Paschal got on stage as Armstrong handed him his guitar.
“I remember looking at the crowd and strumming it and hearing it come out of the huge thing in the center of the arena and I remember not being overwhelmed with the moment,” Paschal recalled. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Okay, you’ve just got to absorb all of this. You need to remember every detail of this because you don’t ever want to forget this moment. You’ve got to soak it up. Don’t be so fucking excited that you forget it. You can do this. It’s not too big for you.'”
The group got into a huddle as Armstrong was about to explain how to play “Knowledge” to Paschal, but he got cut off.
“I was like ‘Dude, I know every one of your fucking songs. I know all of your songs in my sleep!” and he’s like, ‘Oh, are you sure?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah dude, let’s do it!’ and so we just blew through ‘Knowledge,’ it was like nothing,” Paschal said. “He was like, ‘Dude, you… you’re good!” and I was like, ‘Man, I know this shit!'”
Armstrong then asked Paschal if he wanted to play something off their 1997 album, ‘Nimrod.’ Paschal was down. Even though “King For A Day” was one of his least favorite songs, he shook his head in disbelief that he was on stage to play it.
It didn’t end there. Paschal was asked by Armstrong and his wife, Adrienne to accompany them as they went to see NOFX play a different stage afterwards. Unbeknownst to them, NOFX was another band Paschal idolized. Of course, he said yes. The night just couldn’t seem any more real.
Paschal’s musical adventures only got bigger and better from that point. He went on to front the 2000s emo band Sullivan, who spawned hits like “Down Here, We All Float” and “The Process.” Whenever Sullivan played shows, his mind occasionally traveled back to being onstage with Green Day to keep him motivated.
“[I’ve since] played some shows with 8,000-10,000 people and that’s of course an incredible memory, but it’s different because really what you’re doing is you’re sort of going, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I dreamed of. I dreamed of playing in front of this many people’ but then there’s the thing where you’re playing on the floor in front of 200 people in a room that can’t hold 200 people and you’re six inches away from someone’s face and you’re like, ‘Holy shit, I didn’t know that I would ever do this and I would feel this way.’ When you’re a kid and you dream about it, you sort of just instantly go to the arena. You don’t think about the small rooms where you’re really in the face of someone,” Paschal said.
Though Paschal released three successful LPs with Sullivan, he sought solo success after their breakup. He has released dozens of solo tracks over the past decade, but never truly “found” himself until his latest solo project, named Surprises. The name popped into his head randomly and he liked it because it was “easy, simple and direct.” If he had to express a general sound for Surprises, he called it a mix of Saves The Day/The Get Up Kids.
“In a lot of ways, Surprises sounds like a certain time period and I knew that immediately,” Paschal said. “I was like, ‘Well this is kind of a throwback’ and that probably would’ve stopped me in the Sullivan days. I probably would’ve gone, ‘Uh oh – oh no, we gotta turn the modern [sound] up.’ I’m a record producer by trade, so I’m very accustomed to that mindset. I get it and I work that way myself all the time when other people’s careers are in my hands, but for this, it was like, ‘I don’t give a shit. This is fun. This is how I write’ and I’m not beholden to anyone so it’s good.”
For Surprises, the core philosophy is one rule – no rules. No means to impress. Though Paschal didn’t intend to, a lot of “himself” came out through his new music. He handles all of the production, engineering and mixing himself to keep the sound authentic as possible. The Surprises debut LP ‘Natural Disaster’ was released May 31, 2019 via Spartan Records. So far, the LP has expelled four singles/music videos – “Tell The World,” “Natural Disaster,” “El Salvador,” and “I Can’t See You Em.”
“I think that there’s a definite common theme with ‘Natural Disaster’ that’s very angry and sort of retrospective and introspective and there’s a lot of sort of negativity that’s in the album and there might be one or two songs that sort of waivers from that, but for the most part, that’s what it is,” said Paschal.
Since the video for “I Can’t See You Em” incorporated clips from campy, old horror movies, it premiered on popular Horror site Dread Central. The idea of the use of old footage came to Paschal while he watched “Kingdom Of The Spiders.” With help from a friend who worked as a director, Paschal watched hours of footage from archive.org to find clips that matched the song’s recklessness and fit the overall theme of inescapability of anxiety.
Paschal was happy to finally let ‘Natural Disaster’ out into the world and constantly thinks of ways he can create more content and promote it. If he had to think about the release, above all else, he’d say he has been lucky, all things considered.
“So far, the response has been great, which is really cool and that motivates me because it makes me feel like the more people I reach, the better,” said Paschal. “Fortunately for me, I’m really happy with the record and if you’re happy with something, you work harder to promote it, you work harder to share it and when you’re sharing it, you’re not sharing it to blindly sell a product, you’re sharing it because you really think someone’s gonna enjoy it.”