Rose for Bohdan

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It isn't always the case that someone forms a band and formally releases some music before they've graduated from high school; even less so when it happens twice! But LA-area denizen Brian Miller did…
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It isn't always the case that someone forms a band and formally releases some music before they've graduated from high school; even less so when it happens twice! But LA-area denizen Brian Miller did just that, following up his experience with Blue Sonoco with the intriguingly titled Rose for Bodhan. The band's initial growth out of a small private-school setting has turned the group into an ever more ambitious outfit, with Miller one of many like-minded outfits in Southern California referencing everything from hip-hop and obscure IDM to a slew of indie inspirations.

The band itself came together in late 1995, as Miller and two Asian-American friends in the school, all self-described outcasts, filled out college applications; in an effort to justify a claim of musical interests for extracurricular activity, they decided to form a hip-hop group. Drummer Allen Sung (who had only played violin and saxophone); keyboardist/singer James Yum (who had never played anything); and Miller on guitar, bass, and "normal" vocals formed the initial lineup. Sung and Yum in particular were the hip-hop freaks, seeing it in part as a way to separate themselves from their parents' background (and going so far as to hang around with real weapon-wielding gangsters). This sense of violent disconnection helped fuel Rose for Bodhan even more, resulting in a definitely wigged-out and weird combination of frustration and odd unfamiliarity from a band in many ways still learning their way around things. Among other features from the early days was an odd cover of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," while the band name itself comes from William Faulkner's story A Rose for Emily; Bodhan being a friend of the band's. When the group played a spot in place of the then-recently collapsed Blue Sonoco, Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club label head Mike Landucci immediately offered to put out a debut single, beginning a long and continuing relationship between Landucci and Miller.

After high school wrapped up (topped off with a crazed talent show appearance where the band played until thrown off the stage, all while the stage lights were aimed at the audience and a "beefcake" friend danced about in front of the band), Yum and Miller kept working and pranking together while attending Berkeley. With Sung participating on spring-break recordings, the end result was the hilariously titled debut album It's Nice to Know That One of Us Is Gonna Die and the Rest Are Gonna Make Mad Cash. However, after their freshman year, both dropped out from college, with Miller playing with another band, the Snow Queen. Miller also recruited another guitarist Miguel Mendez; when the Snow Queen itself collapsed, Mendez then joined Rose for Bodhan, which carried on as a quartet in the summer of 1996.

When Sung returned to college in Arizona and Yum dropped away entirely, Miller and Mendez decided to return to Berkeley, as well as keeping Rose for Bodhan going together. Mendez eventually found his own pursuits of more importance (later projects included the Gay Lions and session work for Jimi Shields), leaving Miller -- then going through a generally depressed state -- to record some solo tracks. Together with some earlier songs done with Mendez and Yum, they made up the bulk of the next full Rose for Bodhan release, Best Thesis for a Suicide Note, one of the first releases on Miller's label Deathbomb Arc. Miller's music took an often darker, moodier turn on this album, while initial hints of a future direction could be heard with the use of drum machines and electronics, all intentionally trashed or chopped up.

This new interest, inspired by Aphex Twin and other noted avant-garde techno musicians, suggested a new path via his then-girlfriend, Miller met Figurine's lead figure David, while elsewhere he met Kid 606 associate Lesser via an interview. Collaborations and conversations help inspire Miller to take computer music courses and to create a combination solo release and remix collection, Major Label Drugs, which surfaced in 1999 and found Miller in rude creative health.

After taking some time away from music to get his personal affairs in order, Miller started a new pop/rock group called Persian Empire, returning to Rose for Bodhan in 2001 when he recalled that another album recorded under that moniker/mindset had yet to be released. The result was a new flurry of activity in the Rose for Bodhan camp, and in mid-2002 the band once again became active going concern. The new incarnation of the group consists of Miller, Kerri Kerrang (from the band Dewey Decimator) on drums, and Grace Lee on electronics, playing songs old and new. In a link with the past, both Yum and Sung are back, contributing beats, production, and remix work along with Todd from the band Books on Tape. A new album recorded with Lee, Decoration Monster, emerged soon after, while in general the future looks plenty bright for Miller and wherever his creative impulses take him.