The Brook Lee Catastrophe
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The Brook Lee Catastrophe

Long Beach, California, United States | INDIE

Long Beach, California, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Folk


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"Brook Lee & Other Catastrophes"

Brook Lee and Other Catastrophes
Well hot damn it's been a little while. I see that my last post promised a exegesis on LOST -- on the occasion of the Season 5 premiere. Oops. Not gonna get into that now, other than to say, a) no, they weren't dead the whole time, and b) seriously, what did you expect -- "Holy shit, Kevin Spacey was Kaiser Soze all along!!!"?

But I digress. Here's what I came here to say: If there were any justice in the universe--

Sorry, cliche detectors just went off. Let's try again: You know how a lot of really awful, terrible people write, direct, and record a bunch of heinous bullshit that inexplicably brings them fame and wealth? And how a lot of really awesome people do amazing work that somehow never breaks through enough to let them quit their fucking day jobs? Well I'm here to say that it's high time to flip that equation on its head -- and since you asked, let me tell you where to start:

So let me tell you a bit about Brook Lee. He's been at this music thing since he was in high school, back when he was fronting a hip-hop outfit called Psychotic Twist of Rhythm (fun fact: if Brook's reading this right now, he's plotting my death for bringing that name up). By the time I met him, he was playing solo acoustic at a sushi joint in Orange County, fusing his rap-style lyrics with a folk-rock accompaniment that I'd have called "ungodly" if wasn't so damn cool.

For the last five years he's been playing with a band of ragged blues/rock/folk troubadours that dub themselves The Brook Lee Catastrophe, and for good reason: they blow the roof off of every joint they play (shit, where's that cliche detector when you need it?). They've released two albums of heart-wrenching, ass-kicking, soul-elevating songs that by all rights should already be "that song I listened to after I left her/he broke my heart/I stopped trying/I dragged myself back to my feet and decided to try again."

Why should you care? Well, first off, because you're one of the Good Guys. You've seen mediocrity celebrated while brilliance goes ignored all your life, and goddamn it, you're not going to take it anymore! But guess what? There's something in it for you, too. You get to discover a new band that's gonna be right up there on your iPod playlist (or however it is you kids do it these days) and tell your friend, "Oh yeah, I've been listening to them since forever" once they finally jump on the bandwagon.

So here's what you're gonna do: hop on over to Take a look around. Listen to some tunes. Delve into their two new albums -- the epic, genre-bending American Hotel and the deep, soul-smothering Motel Americana. Go to a show. Tell your friends. Start a fire. Bring some justice back to the universe.

And then write to Obama and tell him to stop being such a pussy. Seriously.
- Bastard Stepchildren Blog

"The Brook Lee Catastrophe Overcomes Venue To Reach The Crowd"

Well, look: a bar is always going to be a lousy place to see a band play live. Best-case scenario, the acoustics are merely fair, the mix is only adequate, at least a good third of the crowd are shouting their private conversations over the music, and the drinks are always (always) over-priced. Add in a row of pool tables at the back and even your loudest acts are going to be fighting a mean battle with an unfavorable signal-to-noise ratio.

Click through for more, and listen to some tunes from their CDs…

Follow up:

So it says something when a band can run headlong into the inherent issues of a given venue and still manage to rock the ass off the place. Playing Fitzgerald’s Pub in Huntington Beach last Friday night, The Brook Lee Catastrophe stepped up to do just that.

Starting their set with “It’s a Sin”, an up-tempo rock number whose driving energy belies the darker heart of its lyrics (“ ‘I don’t care anymore,’ she says / ‘I don’t care anymore where you go / what you do / or who’s doing it with you’ ” goes the sing-along chorus), the Catastrophe laid their plans out bare. They had come to put on a show.

Free MP3 It's A Sin by The Brook Lee Catastrophe AlbumFind videos


More The Brook Lee Catastrophe music on iLike

Like a lot of independent bands these days, The Brook Lee Catastrophe’s breadth of influences can prove a bit vexing when it comes to trying to provide a quick sonic pen-portrait. Their latest album, American Hotel, contains plenty of the strong folk-influenced rock that serves as the band’s bread and butter, and then takes a couple of surprisingly good stabs at whatever’s left of mainstream chart singledom before ultimately veering into darker, more introspective territory toward the end of the disc.

The Catastrophe’s songs tend to concern themselves with broken relationships, half-lived dreams, notions of identity filtered by expectation or derailed by revelation or defiantly picked up and carried on. They’re narratives in miniature, operating in the same basic territory as Wilco or The Decemberists or Elliott Smith while carving out a sonic territory distinctly their own.

What surprises, though, is how well these tunes can get a crowd up and moving. A plaintively hopeful track like “Buried, Like a Dream” is beautifully rendered on the album, but becomes undeniably muscular – even downright danceable – when played live.

”Buried, Like a Dream”

There were technical issues with the venue, of course. The vocals were mixed way down. No monitors for the band. Paul Mitchell’s soaring violin, a crucial component of the Catastrophe’s sound, dropped out of the mix entirely for a song and a half. Well, no matter. The band expects to have to deal with these sorts of things. It’s right there in their name.

But the plus side of the bar-gig experience is audience interaction. Come time for the encore, and a small woman up front ran to the stage and shouted a request into the titular Brook Lee’s ear. A few seconds later, and the band started in on the unexpectedly down tempo “The Truth Unties.”

The best song off their first album, “Unties” is a haunting track, fragile and spartan, about the effects of long-kept family secrets inevitably rising to the surface. “The truth unties from all that it’s not,” repeats the final line with unexpected beauty.

Hardly the end-on-a-high-note show capper you’d expect for a bar-band encore. But no less appropriate for that.

“The Truth Unties”

Afterward there were pleas for a second encore, maybe a bit of an up-tempo number so all the dancers in the crowd could get one last groove on, but the decision wasn’t one for the band to make. The bar lights were pointedly returned to their full levels, the room’s stereo system kicked back in with an incongruous blend of 80s new wave hits, and the front doors were opened wide in unsubtle invitation. And that, of course, was that.

Well. You know how it goes.

- Barefoot Music News

"Amalgamation of press"

"Wordy tunes of love and life and truth and death and being naked at all the wrong moments...45 minutes of music as inspiration" OCWEEKLY

"a storyteller atmosphere, with a backdrop of music reminiscent of Van Morrison and Wilco" - Long Beach Magazine

"(Lee's) songs testify that sparse and well-arranged material can resonate as powerfully as rock's loudest proponents" - OC Register

"a rare treasure that listeners should hunt down" - Daily Titan, Cal State Fullerton

"a beautiful collection of songs packaged with clarity and vision"- OC Metro

"Teeters on the brink of sadness and wit" - New Times, San Luis Obispo

"four Stars...the ultimate modern folk"- Nevada Sagebrush - Lots of folks...see below...

"A Truly American Noise"

American Hotel, the latest release from The Brook Lee Catastrophe, is the first of two companion-piece albums that the band describes as “the soundtrack to the night of your life … and the cold morning after.” Hailing from Long Beach, Calif., The Brook Lee Catastrophe makes a truly American noise, mixing the exhilaration of a cross-country drive with the loneliness of America’s wide-open spaces.
Vocalist and primary songwriter Lee is backed by a band that can create lush, romantic backdrops or reach epic heights on fist-pumping anthems that evoke U2 at times. Lee mixes Ryan Adam’s homespun drawl with the earnest sincerity of ‘90s bands like the Counting Crows or the Gin Blossoms, and adds a touch of the Boss’s blue-collar storytelling.
In “Come on Strong,” Lee sings of coming on strong “like a freight train” over an infectiously chugging beat, while guitars and violins soar. He laments, “It’s a sin to be sincere” on “It’s a Sin,” a song about a girl who doesn’t “care anymore.” But Lee knows she does. He writes songs about the things “we’ll never say,” and he’s got them “boiling up inside” of him.
The Brook Lee Catastrophe plays twice on Thursday, July 29: at 5:30 pm at CD World in Eugene (all ages) and at 8 pm at the Axe & Fiddle in Cottage Grove (21+). Free. — William Kennedy
- Eugene Weekly

"The Brook Lee Catastrophe-American Hotel"

I know, I know, you can’t buy or grab any album i’m writing about. So if you’ve missed the last Brook Lee Catastrophe, here’s a new chance to discover this bright californian band ! They offer you for free and for a limited time their brand new album : American Hotel.
I’m just discovering this 11 tracks collection… And with no doubt – i’m listening to track 7 – I can tell you that the band keep digging their atypical explorations mixing an undefinable but addictive sound between rock, folk and americana. It’s brilliant, it’s simply gorgeous !
According to the band, this new album is the first of a two companion-pieces set to released summer and fall 2010 (woot woot hooray ) !

If “American Hotel” is designed to keep the intensity burning all the way to last call, “Motel Americana” (Fall 2010) is the hair of the dog—the cold comfort of the morning after, the soundtrack of the battered and the bruised. Squarely rooted in the folk tradition, “Motel Americana” also incorporates textures of country, bluegrass, and gospel in service of a song cycle that is at once melancholy and celebratory, the perfect antidote to a cold and cynical world.

Voilà de quoi nous mettre l’eau à la bouche ! In the meantime, let me tease you with the first track, then go and grab your album and please tweet about it as loud as you can, facebook it, myspace it, well spread the word, this band is huge !

- You Crazy Dreamers Blogspot

"A Wonderful Catastrophe..."

Although 2007 is less than a week old, the first memorable album of the year will be released today when the Brook Lee Catastrophe performs at the quintet's record-release party for "The Weight of Waiting" at the legendary Troubadour in Hollywood. Although the quality and scope of songs across the 11-song disc is dazzling, it is just as impressive that "The Weight of Waiting" comes only a year after the Brook Lee Catastrophe released its wonderful debut, "Mistakes Pt. 1."

The group's sophomore effort features pop-tinged folk rock ("Everybody's Asking"), folk ("Big Nothing"), alt-country ("Compressed Black Carbon & A Digital Divide"), and a sparse sonic sketch that segues into a hypnotic rocker ("Constellations (I)" and "Constellations (II)").

Both beautiful and experimental, "The Weight of Waiting" was produced and engineered by Rick Parker (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Dandy Warhols). In addition to singer-songwriter-guitarist Brook Lee, the band includes Paul Mitchell (violin), George Madrid (guitar), Ryan Nakata (bass) and Mike Duncan (drums).

Earlier this week, Lee responded to several e-mailed questions to discuss "The Weight of Waiting."

Orange Pop: Talk a little bit about some of your favorite songs on the new CD.

Lee: We look at the record as a whole, not just a package of songs. It's a road, with dips and curves, and if every corner looked the same, the ride would get boring really fast. So there are surprises along the way.

There are sparse recordings with bare guitar such as 'Constellations (I),' that are contrasted by the driving crescendo of a full-on rock song like 'Constellations (II).' Together this is a song that is over five minutes long with no chorus that somehow still manages to stay memorable and catchy. A song like 'Everybody's Asking' has an upbeat, almost singalong chorus about the transitory nature of life and death. Which is immediately followed by a two-minute character sketch called 'Big Nothing,' in which we follow someone through a self-induced downward spiral.

There are other stylistic nods from alt-country to psychedelic rock. However, they are all anchored with a songwriter's craft toward lyricism and delivery to properly allow the listener to transition with it."

Orange Pop: It sounds like 'The Weight of Waiting' is the second full-length CD you completed within a year's time. How difficult was it to write, and then record and release an album over the course of a year?

Lee: The hard part of any independent band, I think, is finding a way to do all of this yourself. In the last year we released 'Mistakes Pt.1,' promoted and toured as much as possible.

However, as a songwriter I am always writing. And so even from the previous album's recording sessions there were 20 or so songs that did not make the final record. The downside is that I never really feel that people are hearing the newest songs. So already by our first 'Mistakes' tour the band had progressed beyond the scope of the album. So the live show represented something slightly different.

When we got a chance to head into the studio in August we first thought we would only had time to do a five-song EP. However, having worked the songs out on the road already it quickly became apparent that we could just keep going until time wore out.

Three of the songs that are on the record the band had barely heard before we laid (down) the basic tracks. We then built outward until the song was done. By the time the five days we had allotted for the EP were done we were fortunate enough to be sitting on an album that we all felt good about.

Even the title, 'The Weight of Waiting,' is about that same idea of how heavy it is to be waiting for something to happen. Waiting as a band to break, waiting for a song to get heard, and waiting for life to start. So logistically it was a bit tricky to get another record done, but musically it was a relief and fulfilling to get this collection of songs out.

The Brook Lee Catastrophe will perform at the group's record-release party at The Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, tonight at midnight. Admission is $12 at the door. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The lineup of artists opening for the Brook Lee Catastrophe includes Blue Sky Reality, Souls a Fuse and Offvibe. - Orange County Register

"Top 5 Indie Records this year..."

Press: Associated
Writer: David Carr
Band/CD Review: The Brook Lee Catastrophe - "Mistakes Pt. 1"
Date: Saturday, January 6th, 2007

5). The Brook lee Catastrophe - If you need a true indie rock "headphone" record then get a hold of the Brooklee Catastrophe disc, "Mistakes Pt. 1". The Catastrophe combine indie rock sensibilities with a folk rock style of storytelling. The result is a mature body of work done by a young collective of serious musicians. The Brooklee Catastrophe is indeed a very fine mess, not to be missed! - Associated Content

"A Fine Mess Indeed"

A Fine Mess Indeed

If you get a chance to meet and talk to Brook Lee and Paul Mitchell (The co-founding members of the Brook Lee Catastrophe) you can’t help but feel like you are talking to a couple of veterans in the Long Beach local music scene. While Lee and Mitchell appear to be young, both have logged a serious amount of time in the local scene. Lee and Mitchell met at the Orange County Music Awards after Lee had already released two independent discs on his own. The duo became fast friends and before you could blink Mitchell started producing Brooks 3rd disc which led to Mitchell becoming a full member of the “Catastrophe”. “We literally ended up recording 35 songs”, Paul states. “We were looking for the best 11 tunes and a huge amalgamation of musicians from different Long Beach bands came through to work on the 3rd disc……some folks just started showing up more than others and they became the core members of what was to become the band, The Brook Lee Catastrophe and their debut disc Mistakes PT. 1.”

One listen to the bands disc and you are immediately drawn into their “low-fi” approach to music making. The song structure and melodies are reminiscent of everything from Bob Dylan and Lou Reed to Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash. “We really set out to make a kind of headphone record,” explains Brook. “I have always been influenced by the singer-song writer vibe and Paul brought the experimental rock edge to the disc…..that is where the mashing of the styles comes from.” Mashing of styles is one way to describe the mix of music on Mistakes PT 1. It is truly an ambitious, original set of songs. There is a story teller styled atmosphere that the band creates with a back drop of music that will at once remind listeners of Van Morrison and Wilco without being derivative. When it came time to record their debut disc the band found themselves recording in an apartment in Long Beach relying on their collective experiences in former bands and side projects. Lee pontificates that while recording their disc the band was simultaneously looking for a record deal. “We actually tried to get a record deal in order to release the disc. We talked to someone at a major record label and they told us to try and write something that was a little more pop oriented….something that they could sell. We tried and that experience helped us to see that, that was NOT the direction we wanted to go in”. After this experience, the boys settled into the mindset of making a disc full of songs they could honestly be proud of.

Instead of knocking down the doors of major labels, The Brook Lee Catastrophe is using technology and their live shows to help spread their low-fi, indie gospel. The band’s disc can be purchased on their website, Tower, it can be downloaded on I-tunes and it can also be found locally at Fingerprints in Belmont Shore. Upon its release, Mistakes PT. 1 became the highest selling cd in Fingerprints in its first two weeks outselling local bands as well as established artists such as Bob Dylan and Fiona Apple!! “The more we align ourselves with independent record stores and play shows up and down the west coast, Mitchell states, the more we can get the disc out and put this music in people’s ears”. Another goal Brook and Paul have for the band is to hopefully display their talents at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music showcase in Austin Texas.

The group enjoys being a part of the Long Beach music scene and they hope to see the scene here get bigger. For now The Brook Lee Catastrophe is gearing up to play as many shows as possible to establish themselves as a premier act in the Long Beach/OC scene. With a singer/songwriter feel and a stripped down musical sound, The Brook Lee Catastrophe is indeed the type of mess that is not to be missed!

For more information, log on to - Long Beach Magazine

"Everybodys Asking"

Everybody's asking…
The Brook Lee Catastrophe exudes pure poetry "with one foot in the '60s, and the other in the experimental."
OC Weekly describes the band's sound as "wordy tunes of love and life and truth and death and being naked at all the wrong moments…45-minutes of music as inspiration."
Long Beach Magazine raves of "a storyteller atmosphere with a backdrop of music reminiscent of Van Morrison and Wilco."
This classic folk-rock band, led by So Cal singer-songwriter Brook Lee, has been together for two years with the collaborative efforts of violinist Paul Mitchell, guitarist George Madrid, bassist Ryan Nakata and drummer Mike Duncan.
Having two full-length albums already out in under one year, Brook and the boys have built up a strong and sensitive fan base.
With shows lined up all along the west coast, as far reaching as Oregon and Nevada, the band has a beyond busy schedule of balancing tours, school and "real" jobs.
For music and lyrics you can truly connect to, visit for upcoming events that you surely shouldn't miss out on.

- DigMagOnline (LB Campus Mag)

"Beautiful Catastrophe"

Beautiful Catastrophe
OC musician Brook Lee creates powerful synergy with eclectic band.

Orange County's own Brook Lee has released a beautiful catastrophe. Make no mistake, this is the same Brook Lee who won Best Male Acoustic Act at the 2004 Orange County Music Awards, and the same Brook Lee who croons and charms the ladies throughout OC coffeehouses and nightclubs while strumming his six-string. The “catastrophe” is what Lee fondly calls the hodgepodge of Orange County musicians who accidentally converged in the studio and emerged with some beautiful results on his third release, Mistakes Pt. 1. Thus the group Brook Lee Catastrophe was born.

It was while Lee was on a West Coast tour that he met Paul Mitchell, who was fronting his own band, Calico Days, at the time. The two discussed their dreams and ambitions and found they had a common goal ­ to make a great record. The chance encounter gelled into repeated meetings and discussions until the two decided to begin working together. With Brook Lee's talent as a songwriter and front man, and Mitchell's ideas and talent in the studio, the two formed a great team.

Lee says that as the recording sessions progressed, “I began to realize that the songs and ideas were getting bigger than just me. It became an amalgamation of all these players coming through, and I wanted to acknowledge that.”

Mistakes Pt. 1 opens a new chapter in Lee's career, and catapults him into the big leagues. It's a very professional production and a beautiful collection of songs packaged with clarity and vision. All 11 tracks are impressively engineered, produced and mixed by Mitchell, a wiz in the studio and a real talent on the strings.

Lee spent almost two years recording over 30 songs inside Mitchell's tiny Long Beach apartment, playing guitar and singing on all the tracks after which Mitchell brought in an arsenal of local musicians to create the flowing melodic undercurrent beneath Lee's signature guitar compositions. With one foot in the '60s and the other in the experimental now, Mistakes Pt. 1 is a very real and unaffected vocal presentation surrounded by some fresh and unusual sounds ­ there's even a cheese grater and a heater grill! The Simon & Garfunkel-like “Details” has an angelic jangly guitar and clever words, while “The Long Haul” features some great slide guitar work.

The disc has elements of Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Tom Waitts and Coldplay, while Lee's deep baritone evokes Johnny Cash. Perhaps most impressive is that the lyrics are both intelligent and poignant, politically and emotionally fueled without being overstated. “Buy the Way” comments on American greed and asks “who how where what when why am I…” while in “Tomorrow's A Sickness” Lee cleverly states “…it's a pretty pretty pretty ugly world.” “The Truth Unties” is another gem, closing the CD with Lee's sweet hypnotic guitar groove upon which Mitchell layers additional instruments into a climactic chorus of trumpets and a vocal choir.

With Lee and Mitchell at the nucleus, live shows range from a sparse duo to a full-bodied five-piece band. Lee's striking stage presence and the band member’s obvious rapport with one another creates a highly engaging performance. - OC Metro

"Heartache and Hardship..."

The Brook Lee Catastrophe is a kind of sound that gets the attention of all those within ear-shot.

Brook Lee, who is based out of Long Beach, released his third studio endeavor, Mistakes PT. 1 Tuesday, an eclectic mix of talent offering a new sound and feel. The Brook Lee Catastrophe has a sound all its own and isn’t a slave to established genres. Each song offers a different feel than the one before.

“Lover Come, Lover Go” and “Details” open the album with mellow sounds that could be compared to Jack Johnson, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.

“Buy The Way” completely shatters that notion. Bizarre electronic sounds are accompanied with the soft strumming of a guitar, which surprisingly complement one another.

The album has a soulful vibe. Heartache and hardship ooze from the words and the interjection of the harmonica harmonizes it all together.

Odd instrumentals make the album unique. In “She’s An Anchor” the integration of beats made by a cake mixer, cheesegrater, cutlery and a wall heater. The untraditional instruments are juxtaposed against beautifully played string instruments.

The simple sound exuded is a rare treasure that listeners should hunt down. Visit for information and embark on an unusual but fun musical journey. - The Daily Titan


Motel Americana (Summer-2011)
American Hotel (Summer-2010)
The Weight Of Waiting (2007)
Mistakes Pt. 1 (2006)
Losing Esperanza (2005)
Live At The Kung Fu Cafe (2001)
Sorry Im late-Distort-o-Sound Records (2000)



The Brook Lee Catastrophe

Brook Lee- lead vocal, acoustic & electric guitar, banjo
Paul Mitchell- violin, keyboards, backing vocals
George Madrid- lead electric guitar, backing vocals
Ryan Nakata- bass, saxophone, backing vocals
Mike Duncan- drums, backing vocals

Over the past six years, The Brook Lee Catastrophe has built a growing base of friends and fans one show at a time through touring and good old fashioned word of mouth. With a sound steeped in American tradition but uniquely its own, the band weaves strands of folk, rock, pop, and country through a lush sonic backdrop bound together by singer-songwriter Brook Lee's insightful lyrics.

Though rooted in folk and crafted with a troubadour's ear for storytelling, the band will often counterpunch Lee's wicked wit with a wall of sound response. This approach was first captured on, The Weight Of Waiting (2007), when the guys turned to veteran producer Rick Parker (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Dandy Warhols) for a restless five day recording session. After a successful launch party at The Troubadour in Hollywood, The Brook Lee Catastrophe hit the road again this time incorporating a six week national tour hitting distinctly different landscapes such as Seattle, Boston, Nashville, and Austin to name just a few.

In late 2008, they returned to the studio armed with nearly three dozen new songs. With Rick Parker again handling the lion's share of the production duties, these sessions produced a set of songs that cover the full breadth of The Catastrophe's formidable arsenal; everything from sweeping rockers to intimate sketches. The result is The Brook Lee Catastrophe's most ambitious offering to date. Two companion piece albums encompassing different sides of the band's musical personality which are linked by common themes. Released in the summer of 2010, the first album, American Hotel features the Catastrophe at full throttle embracing a rock sound that takes advantage of it's thick rhythm section and infectious guitar hooks. It's a whirlwind ride full of sing-along choruses and foot stomping beats, though still anchored by the sharp lyricism that is one of the band's trademarks.

If American Hotel is designed to keep the intensity burning all the way to last call, Motel Americana (summer 2011) is the hair of the dog; the cold comfort of the morning after; the soundtrack of the battered and the bruised. Squarely rooted in the folk tradition, the album also incorporates textures of country, bluegrass, and gospel in service of a song cycle that is at once melancholy and celebratory-the perfect antidote to a cold and cynical world. Backed by the power and passion of world class musicianship, Motel Americana is a reflection of a family that's just getting started.