Bushwick’s Most Wanted: Broken Glow & The FBI

A few weeks ago, Broken Glow went to see Chris Carr and Keith Lay of Brooklyn Wildlife with acoustic guitars, a djembe, a dutch and a 12-rack in hand. After playing a few tunes, we all got to talking about the band’s origins and swapping stories. As is typically the case in these situations, the topic of the Federal Bureau of Investigation came up, and we realized we’d never really told the story in a format where people can read what ACTUALLY happened. SO, here it is, boys and girls, the official story of Broken Glow and the FBI…

CONTEXT

Having moved the previous summer from Hartford, CT into Bushwick’s famed McKibbin lofts in Brooklyn, NY, the boys found themselves in a strange spot. The band had spent a year crammed ass-to-elbow in a tiny loft space, using it as their headquarters and hosting infrequent open mics. They were frequent performers and attendees at Potion Open Mics and at such DIY venues as The Cloud and Good Friend Electric, but began to notice a shift in the tide. The spring of 2011 saw what felt like a mass exodus as landlord pressures forced the louder tenants of the building out and by June Garrett, Brenner & Paul had one month left on their lease with few prospects of finding a new home. Andrew, still in living in the Upper East Side, had solidified his role in the group as Broken Glow started putting the finishing touches on their soon to be released EP “Watercolors,” set for release that July. With a month to find a new apartment, finish producing the record and orchestrate their massive CD release party with Live Astro, gigging and rehearsals never slowed and time was not on their side. In the last days of the month, after running nonstop for weeks, they finally secured an apartment in Bed Stuy and spent the waning hours of the morning packing, unpacking, sweeping, saying goodbyes, and adjusting to their new home.

STRANGE BREW

The release party (shot by Chris Carr) was a success – old friends and new friends gathered to bring music to the Brooklyn air as I AM THE THIRD, CALL 2 CONSCIOUSNESS and BACKWORDS joined Broken Glow on the stage at Live Astro, a custom clothing store in Williamsburg. The store’s backyard hosted a BBQ and free drinks, DJ Gordon Gartrell spinning tunes all day, and rock music on the open air stage, built by members of Broken Glow and Mr. Astro himself. It was a huge success for the band, putting a stamp on their new sound and bringing a hell of a time to all who were there.

The following week was quiet enough – the boys resumed their normal routines, continued to rehearse, and played a show in Boston the following weekend. That Tuesday, however, there were whisperings about some strange happenings on McKibbin street. As the group now lived in a different neighborhood, they could only guess at the cryptic Facebook posts from their friends, hinting at federal agents’ presence and reporters combing the buildings asking questions. Finally, a friend from Bushwick sent Brenner a text message saying something about the FBI knocking on the door of the old Broken Glow apartment. While this was puzzling, the boys took the news in stride and posted to their Twitter page in typical fashion: “so what would you do if you heard the FBI was knockin’ on your door?”

IMPLICATED

The following morning, Garrett arose early to prepare for work. As he opened his Facebook account he noticed many strange posts that seemed to be talking about the band. In particular, a post by Mr. William Bartholomew in the Potion Collective page caught his eye. After finally checking out the link, Garrett was directed to THIS article in the New York Post.

In short, the article reported that the FBI had just undergone a massive sting operation nationwide in search of members of internet activist group Anonymous. The group had claimed responsibility for an attack on PayPal the previous December, flooding the site’s servers with activity and shutting the service down, reportedly in response to their lack of support for Wikileaks. For whatever reason, the feds had targeted Broken Glow’s previous apartment in the McKibbin lofts as a site of internet espionage, and on the morning of July 19th they kicked down the door of 255 McKibbin St #510 hoping to find the boys in all their hacking glory. Instead, they found the new tenants, a few college age girls who’d just moved in, scared stiff by armed agents barging down their door at the crack of dawn.

The tone of the article, given the typical sensationalist bent of the Post, seemed to project Broken Glow as a band of vigilante criminal masterminds with the feds hot on their trail, skating out of harm’s way at the last second and leaving filth in their wake. The truth is, though, that the members of the band had no knowledge of wrongdoing, and in fact have no affiliation with either computer hackers OR active political groups. The Post reports “empty beer bottles and dirty clothes” as having been left behind, though the boys stayed up into the wee hours of their last morning as tenants scrubbing and readying the unit for the new tenants. As far as the boys were concerned they’d done nothing to warrant any kind of government surveillance, and to hear about being a national target by reading it in the paper is not the most settling way to hear such news. Thus, with no other options at their disposal, the boys did the only thing they knew how: roll with it.

IT HITS THE FAN

Over the coming days, Broken Glow saw a firestorm of press the likes of which they’d never known. Gawker, Minyanville, L Magazine, Brooklyn Daily, Brooklyn Wildlife and others began re-posting the original article, each with their own bent on the story. Some wrote about The Post’s inaccuracies and sensationalism, others about the FBI and their intentions/methods. Some wrote about music, others simply reposted. Whatever the angle, the story was hot, and it wasn’t long before the doorbell rang at the boys’ actual home.

FBI agents came to interview members of the band on two separate occasions that week. On the morning after the press got ahold of the story, Paul answered the door in gym shorts to see two armed and badged officers requesting entry. When asked by the agents why he didn’t seem surprised to see federal officers at his door, he promptly showed them the previous day’s Post. After some routine questioning and scanning of apartment, it became clear to the officers that the band was not comprised of tech savvy criminal masterminds, and before leaving the agents quipped that Paul seemed “like a nice guy, except for all the weed and pipes around.” The agents returned the following day to speak with Garrett, making sure the stories lined up, and they struck up a conversation about rock music after an officer noticed the massive “London Calling” poster behind Garrett’s Marshall stack in the basement. With the feds off their trail, Broken Glow continued to field questions and do follow-ups in the wake of such a strange few days. The boys have yet to hear back from the bureau since that week, but every black Lincoln cab that rolls slowly by is sure to get a long stare down.

AFTERMATH

Yes, the truth is that Broken Glow did nothing wrong, had no involvement in illegal activity, and were once again put through the ringer as a result of others’ misdoings. But you’d think the boys would’ve gotten used to that scenario – since then they’ve had their power shut off for an entire August week due to misdeeds on the part of the previous tenants of their new home, been forcefully evicted the day before Thanksgiving because of their landlord’s crooked practices, and continue to generally be on the bad graces of the fates. You’re wrong, though, if you think this could stand in the way of Brenner, Garrett, Paul, and Andrew. In fact, the boys continue to use their typical measure for dealing with adversity – say “fuck it,” hit the road, and keep rocking. So when you hear “Won’t Be Sold” on Broken Glow’s new full length record, due out this spring, you’ll know what the band means when they say they didn’t fit the mold.

One response to “Bushwick’s Most Wanted: Broken Glow & The FBI

  1. Pingback: Rockers We’ve Lost In 2012: Brenner Eugenides

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