Brighton, MA
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Brighton, MA

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"Chicago Sun-Times"

The six-track release plays like a soundtrack of Bob Dylan and Bright Eyes traveling through time to shake hands with members of My Bloody Valentine. - Kyle Koster, Chicago Sun-Times (May 15, 2008) - Chicago Sun-Times

"NPR Second Stage"

"Bet You Never Thought" sounds like a shoegaze cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" with majestic guitar feedback and lyrics about making the most of a dysfunctional world. - NPR

"Chord Magazine"

There's a gentleness and yearning to Matthew Kerstein's vocals. The songs are a quiet rebellion, a celebration of nostalgia, and a calling for novelty. I will call this an appetizer, I am still hungry for more. -Chord Magazine (August '07) - Chord Magazine

"New City Chicago"

Every once in a great while you’ll hear a new band that, in some way or another, reaffirms your love of music, your adoration for history and your admiration for artists who find splendor in the simplest of notes, phrases or progressions. Brighton, MA does just that. -Tom Lynch (New City Chicago, 6/7/07) - New City Chicago


Kerstein has one of the most engaging voices and lyrical minds anywhere and
Brighton, MA has already made an album that should be recognized, not
necessarily alongside other albums that are marveled over, but sharing quarters
with prized literature, the pleasure and pain of solitude and mankind's
corrupt beauty. (Sean Moeller - - Daytrotter

"Chicago Redeye"

There goes the neighborhood
Local folk-rockers Brighton, MA’s recording style incites a front-yard battle
By Matt Pais
October 7, 2008

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Conflict just seems to follow Matt Kerstein.

Consider this: The Boston-raised singer of Brighton, MA once found himself in the thick of a war between competing coffee shops (including his place of employment, Lakeview’s Cafe Avanti). His band’s van had its tires slashed before the group even played a show. And when questioned if being a long-suffering Red Sox fan helped him connect with the Cubs, Kerstein (a former member
of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir who now lives in Lincoln Square) says, “I felt a kinship but then when [the Red Sox] started winning World Series, I was like, ‘Ah, forget that!’”

In person, though, Kerstein, 28, demonstrates an easygoing calm that can be heard all over Brighton, MA’s full-length debut, “Amateur Lovers,” a warm yet melancholy folk-rock record—recorded partly at the house in which several band members have lived at one point or another—that the group understandably wanted to wait until fall to release (it comes out Oct. 28).
Outside Cafe Avanti, we spoke with Kerstein and guitarist Jim Tuerk, 26, about recording at home, fighting with neighbors and the art of reconciliation.

Why do you like recording in your house?

Jim Tuerk: It’s {about} comfort, but it’s also making it sound like comfort. We wanted to keep an aspect of that homey … seriously, we’re four guys and we play music in our living room almost every night, and it’s not a pretentious thing at all.

How did the neighbors feel about that?

Matt Kerstein: It’s frigging hilarious, dude. I’m going to tell you all about this. These neighbors moved in on [one] side and they are amazing. They’re great. On the other side is the most uptight … I think he’s got serious anger problems. Crazy couple with a young kid.

JT: He’s like four though. That’s young, but it’s not like we’re waking up an infant.

He’s old enough to rock!

JT: He’s old enough to rock.

MK: So we have rules. We’ve talked to both of our neighbors. We did sound proofing and we gave them our cell phone numbers, and we’re like, “We’ll be done by 10 p.m., if there’s ever a problem … .” We were totally cool about it, right? So these guys, they called us up and complained a couple times, but we made it cool and we hadn’t heard from them in awhile. So one time we’re finishing up rehearsal—we’re playing pretty loud—and this knocking keeps happening, and no one realizes until after a while. I go outside and this dude is in our house, and his wife is on their front porch, like, “I don’t think you should be going in there!” He’s red in the face, and he is screaming at the top of his lungs, “What the f*** are you doing? You’re making so much f***ing noise! I’m going to f***ing kill you!”

JT: Mind you, we were playing pretty loud.

What time was it?

JT: I think it was like 10:05 p.m. or something like that. Which is why he came over. We had gone over five minutes.

So is the song “Let’s Be Friends Again” an ode to your neighbor, trying to make peace?

MK: No! I am never trying to make peace. I’m thinking about going to war with him actually. In a “Rushmore” type way. We gotta set some bees loose in his yard or something like that.

Then what are your tips for reconciliation?

JT: I have to say you’re asking the wrong guy over here.

MK: Me or you?

JT: You.

MK: Why?!

JT: Because I’ve never seen you go through a good breakup before.

MK: I don’t really reconcile. That lyric is kinda sarcastic.

JT: {Matt’s} really good at not fighting. At stopping a fight from happening.

MK: I reconcile others! That’s what that song’s about. ... I’m thinking about going to the Middle East and using all my expertise in reconciliation to put out some fires over there. I feel like I could ease some tension.

I’m sure if you soundproof everything ...

JT: That’s what we need to do. We need to soundproof Iran.

Brighton, MA’s Chicago personality test

Cubs or Sox? Cubs
Favorite bar: Galway Bay
Favorite live music venue: Auditorium Theatre
Deep dish or thin crust? Deep dish
Best pizza? Pequod’s
Field Museum or Art Institute? Art Institute
Best street fest? Hideout Block Party

- Matt Pais

"The Capital Times (madison)"

Brighton, MA brings Midwestern rock to Montmartre
Katjusa Cisar — 11/06/2008 5:49 am

What makes a band Midwestern? For some, being from flyover country is something to wear as a badge -- just check out the slick two-page ad that Appleton singer-songwriter Cory Chisel did with Lucky Brand in the Nov. 13 issue of Rolling Stone. The text reads, "Is fate tied to a pizzeria in Wisconsin? Cory Chisel ... inspired by his Midwestern roots to make music."

Indie rock band Brighton, MA, on the other hand, is in a somewhat strange position when it comes to roots. They don't have that proverbial pizzeria to call home (though they recently did a gig in a tiny family pizza joint in Rock Island, Ill.).

Brighton, MA is named after lead singer/lyricist Matt Kerstein's hometown (a Boston suburb) but the band is firmly planted in Chicago. It recently released its second album, "Amateur Lovers," recorded at two different studios and at Kerstein's house on the north side -- incorporating the sounds of his clanging radiators into the songs.

The band will be in Madison at Cafe Montmartre this Friday, Nov. 7, hot on the heels of its performance in late October at the Chicago Showcase during the College Music Journal's annual Music Marathon in New York City.

Brighton, MA's lyrics tend to focus around the loss of time and place (and sometimes finding it again). Take the lyrics of "Eskimos," a soaring tale about traveling to the North Pole where the protagonist takes "medicine of old" from the Eskimos: "I knew I was long gone / Cause I started contemplating love / And you know there's a sense of time / That whispers in the back of your holy Roman mind / Of all the places left behind / To begin something new."

In the grounded reality of geography and sensibility, Brighton, MA is a Midwest band. The way drummer Sam Koentopp sees it, rock bands on the coasts tend to be aggressive and mainstream, keeping within predefined boxes in order to survive in a more competitive environment. Without that industry pressure to succeed, Midwest musicians are freer to "do their own thing."

"When you go to places like Chicago, Iowa City and Madison, the local bands from around there are more creative. People aren't trying to fit into something that already exists. They're just playing the music that comes to them," he said.

Koentopp, 28, takes that approach in his drumming. He trained as a jazz percussionist and often draws on percussive ideas from music around the world, especially Brazil and Africa. He's always keeping his eyes peeled for unusual ways to make beats and sounds in unlikely styles.

"I've been known just to bang on whatever's around, for sure," he said. "Whatever my ear is telling me to incorporate, I'll put it in. That shapes the rhythmic feel of the band. It's not necessarily always just a cut-and-dried rock. There's some interesting colors that I put into the rhythm."

At Clava, a studio on the south side of Chicago where the band recorded some songs for "Amateur Lovers," he came across a giant crate full of random percussion gear -- chains, plastic toys, cowbells.

"Everyone thought I was insane. I walk out from the back room, and at the end of the song, I started just dropping everything and picking it up and dropping it," he said. "The way it all sounded was like a clatter. It was very musical."

Though they're open to experimentation, Brighton, MA was formed out of a desire for more structure and a tighter operation. Koentopp, Kerstein and bassist Devon Bryant started the band three years ago after leaving Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, another Chicago ensemble. They were unhappy with the Choir's "haphazard and disorganized" approach to music and quit. Undeterred, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir has continued playing together and performed in Madison at the Forward Music Festival in September.

"We couldn't really compromise on anything. They still kind of have that roving, disorganized feel, which, you know, I think it works sometimes. They're more rove-y, we're more rock-y," said Koentopp.

Brighton, MA already has about half the songs composed for the next album, and the members are now talking about how they'd like to get it recorded. They dried up their financial resources on "Amateur Lovers," so they're looking for creative ways to record. Koentopp said ideally he'd like to try it again in a rural home in Michigan that belongs to one of their parents.

"We just set up for a week where the drums were in the basement, guitar was in the living room, the keyboards were in another bedroom and the recording board in the kitchen," he said. "There's this remote country kind of feel where we could disappear and not talk to anyone for a week."

Brighton, MA enjoys playing in Madison, he said, especially on the Memorial Union Terrace. He remembers one show there two years ago when a thunderstorm rolled in while the band was playing.

"At the end of one of our songs, it gets this really big wall o - Katjusa Cisar

"Hip 2 Be square"

Fans of The Walkmen will fall in love with Brighton, Ma, a four piece from Chicago. They represent the next generation of nostalgic indie pop. The lead man, Matt Kerstein, was a co-founder of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, which was a band I first heard about during the 2005 CMJ festival. The hype around the band sounded as if they were well positioned to take off. They landed opening gigs for Spoon, Arcade Fire and The Walkmen. We’re not exactly sure what drove Matt to leave the band. Perhaps the band was stuck creatively. Either way, Matt and other SYGC members, Sam Koentopp (drums) and Devon Bryant (guitar,bass,vocals and production) have added Jim Tuerk (guitar, keys and arrangements) and are making waves with Brighton, MA.

“Sunblinded”, is in my opinion one of their best tracks off of their debut album, “Amateur Lovers”, which was released this past October on Loose Tooth Records. Based on their Daytrotter session, this song was recorded just after their tour with Elvis Perkins in the winter of 2007. The song was inspired by Elvis’s songwriting and helped drive the direction of the album.
- Hip 2 Be Square

"skope Magazine"

Brighton, MA is a band from Chicago, IL with a sound that could have come from Athens, GA. Named after frontman Matthew Kerstein’s hometown, Brighton, MA’s Amateur Lovers marks their first full length album. But Amateur Lovers also marks a remarkable leap in the sophistication of the band’s song craft. Their debut self-titled EP displayed a group tinkering with great ideas; however those ideas have congealed and developed into something quite impressive on this new release.

Falling somewhere between a drunken Bob Dylan and The Flaming Lips, the band cultivates a crossbreed of psychdelia and folk music that is utterly dynamic. Amateur Lovers contains a sound that evolves throughout the course of the entire disc. The album kicks off with the slow and staggering ballad “Let’s Be Friends Again” and each proceeding track continues to build in complexity and intensity until culminating on the fever-pitched “Underground”. Signaling the cool down, “Underground” begins to shift back to a mournful southern-styled folk with choruses of “Glory, glory halleluiah, to the Lord and Savior.” The effect is what you might imagine a country gospel concert would sound like at a UFO landing site.

Adding to the spacey motifs, track like “Not Our Fault” and “Hold On” gives an idea of what Christmas might sound like on the moon, combining cymbals and sleigh bells with ambient psychedelic background coloring. Influences of Pink Floyd and David Bowie are pretty transparent, but honestly admitted in referential lyrics.

For a group that’s been around for only two years, Brighton, MA has created something surprisingly intricate with Amateur Lovers. This is not merely a great set of songs; this is a meticulously built album with each track functioning within the greater whole. A CD like this generally requires several years and many sophomoric albums before getting all the right pieces together, but Brighton, MA has managed it in a fraction of the time.

Words By: David Feltman

- Skope Magazine

"Daily Iowan"

Bright and moody

BY DAN WATSON | MARCH 31, 2009 7:30 AM

The Mission Creek Music Festival kicks off with the worldly lyrics of Matt and his harmoniously melancholic band Brighton, MA.

A chorus of insistent voices swirl in the background of Matt Kerstein’s cell phone when his band is takes an intermission at Chicago’s Swedish-themed Simon’s Tavern.

“Things are going really good for the band, man,” he shouted into his phone on March 28. “Our new bassist seriously has like eight girls hanging on him right now.”

The statement’s cynical tone was established, but as the idiom says, “There is truth in sarcasm.” Kerstein along with the rest of his band, Brighton, MA, bring good vibes to the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., today at 9 p.m. The free show kicks off the Mission Creek Music Festival, and complimentary pizza adds to all the goodness.

Guitarist and lead vocalist Kerstein formed Brighton, MA nearly two years ago. He wanted the band’s name to have a personal touch, so he named it after his birthplace, but the band’s roots lie nearly 1,000 miles away in Chicago.

Along with drummer Sam Koentopp, Kerstein gained respect in the Windy City indie-rock scene with the band Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. The duo formed Brighton, MA and recorded an EP with guitarist Jim Tuerk and Joe Darnaby while still in Scotland Yard.

“I believe we have some of the best musicians in the Chicago area,” Kerstein said. “We all originally started playing together while in different projects, but we got really excited about our prospects in this band, so we are all focusing on that now.”

Over the winter, Brighton, MA gained a fifth member with John Ogaksut on bass, and it typically tours as a quintet but often adds an organist and saxophonist when playing gigs in its hometown.
In October, Brighton, MA released its first CD, *Amateur Lovers*, through Loose Tooth Records to favorable reviews, and the band’s music has been featured on television shows such as “Castle,” “Harper’s Island,” and “Eli Stone.”

Brighton, MA’s début CD brings a poppy edge to traditional folk music. Kerstein’s low and somber voice fills out moody anthems, including “Bet You Never Thought” and “Good Kind of Crazy.” A tear would come to Tom Petty’s eye if he were to hear Brighton, MA’s intricate and catchy instrumental movements.

Kerstein is known as a songwriter as much as a musician in the Chicago indie scene, with lyrics such as “So you abandon your dreams / For a city of screams and a necktie / And you sit and you think / Of the tears you would shed if you let yourself cry,” and his reputation holds up. In fact, the he isn’t confined to songwriting; he is finishing up a screenplay and hopes to publish several of his short stories.

To promote *Amateur Lovers*, Brighton, MA toured the Midwest, New York City, and Boston relentlessly through the winter.

“Our goal is to make campus towns like Iowa City, Madison, and Minneapolis like second homes to us,” Kerstein said. “Having people enjoying our stuff in the college circuit is a big goal for us.”

- Daily Iowan


LTR - 002 - Brighton MA (EP) - June 2007
LTR - 004 - Amateur Lovers (LP) - October 2008
RWIM - 002 - Brighton, MA Live at Schubas
(EP) - September 2009



Brighton MA is a five-piece rock band from Chicago. Named for lead singer/songwriter Matt Kerstein's hometown, Brighton MA has existed in various forms since 2006. In the past year, founding members Kerstein, Sam Koentopp, and Jim Tuerk have been joined by Joe Darnaby and Jon Ozaksut to develop their most cohesive sound to date. BMA has built a reputation throughout the Midwest on a series of blistering live performances and a catalog of undeniably tuneful and well-crafted songs, heard on such prime-time television shows such as Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill and Castle. The diversity of songs has led them to share the stage with a number of noteworthy and disparate sounding performers, from Old 97s, Elvis Perkins, and Mason Jennings, to Man Man, The Essex Green, and Appleseed Cast to name a few. With an ever-expanding catalog and a quickly building fanbase, Brighton MA are a band on the rise and poised to break through.

BMA is currently working on their as of yet untitled third LP, a followup to Amateur Lovers [2008] and the self-titled debut EP [2006].