The punk-rock kid is growing up and finding his voice
Brad Finney plays his guitar on the sidewalk at the corner of Second and Broadway streets on most sunny days. Clad in black pants, black T-shirt and black-frame glasses and with black hair, he’s the front man—the only man, in fact—for the Chico punk “band” Nothing Left.
His arms are covered with tattoos, and he wears a hounds-tooth checked cabbie hat that has been repaired with black electrical tape. Sitting on the sidewalk, he sends acoustic punk rock guitar ringing into the Chico air with the energy of a full-on punk band.
But wait, punk music on an acoustic guitar, you ask? Indeed. Finney, who wears a wry smile when he’s talking about music, said, “Most of my writing was done on an acoustic guitar. Everyone had told me that it sounds good on the acoustic anyway.” So he just decided to keep it that way.
“I never really saw a separation between, like, Johnny Cash, who plays … I mean it’s just him and his acoustic guitar, and he’s probably the punkest guy that ever lived on the planet, that guy. He’s about as hardcore as it gets.”
Finney, who is 25, has been playing guitar since 1995, when he got his first “real” guitar. He’s got a powerful voice, enough chords to get by, and the attitude—it’s all about the attitude. “I go and play shows and then hang out with my friends. … That’s rock and roll.” What more does a one-man punk band really need?
Finney came to Chico two years ago and was initially involved in pro wrestling. When he quit the wrestling business and started playing gigs around town, he kept his Mexican wrestling mask, wearing it for his live performances.
His sophomore CD, bury the past…, has just been released by local label Idlevinyl Records. It’s a personal and introspective work. This isn’t surprising; listening to Finney talk about his life thus far, one gets a sense of him overcoming soul crippling experiences.
His mom died when he was 15, and before he hit the road to Chico he spent much of the previous five years homeless in Los Angeles.
The first track on bury the past…, “Set My Sails,” explores leaving his home. With a set of hard-driving acoustic-guitar chords, Finney sings out, “I woke up to find I’ve changed/ I’m not the person you wanted me to be/ I had to pack my bags and go/ leave this place that I call home.”
His previous CD, Live at Fulcrum, was recorded during what sounds like a high-energy show at the local record store and contains a lot of cover songs and audience interaction, with Finney talking in between songs and forgetting lyrics. bury the past…features all original songs, written over a span of 10 years, and serves up a more focused and polished offering. The songs were almost entirely recorded in a studio setting, which had its drawbacks, Finney says. “It is more nerve wracking being in the studio than playing in front of people. … It’s a little too structured for me. And it is tiring,” he said. “Sometimes we’d have five or six takes of the very same song.”
When he was 12 or 13 years old, he said, he just knew he wanted to play music. He begged his parents for a guitar for a year, and they finally gave in. From there he didn’t look back. Finney said he stayed true to his passion, despite receiving negative feedback from people. He said he was often asked, “Why would you want to play music? Where’s the money in that?”
Rene Stephens, owner of Fulcrum Records, was the first person Finney met in Chico. True to her encouraging nature, she asked him what he played: “Well, it is acoustic, it is kinda punk, and I wear a wrestling mask,” Finney remembers saying, “She said, ‘Cool. When do you want to play?’”