Brodie Rush can come off like a madman or a genius, depending on the night.
He's probably a bit of both, but one thing is certain: The dude takes care of business. From fronting a Led Zeppelin tribute band to hosting karaoke nights to freaking out kids at the Coterie Theatre, the brain behind Be/Non has never been short on ideas.
That's why it comes as no surprise to walk into Rush's midtown house and find the walls plastered with storyboards. He admits that he doesn't know much about writing stories or making movies, but he's doing both as he embarks on a film to accompany his band Be/Non's latest album, A Mountain of Yeses.
"It's real moody," Rush says of the film, which takes place approximately 100 years in the future.
"Earth is pretty fucked-up. There are constant green skies, and it's kind of nuclear-looking," he explains. "Basically this guy goes from planet to planet, trying to find some love and a new place to fit in."
Rush must have felt a bit like that character during the last decade as he weathered a divorce and kept Be/Non afloat with a rotating cast of 20-plus musicians. Not coincidentally, Be/Non hasn't put out a proper record for 11 years.
A Mountain of Yeses is, in many ways, a redemption story for Rush. He made a record called Freedom Palace a couple of years ago, only to have it fizzle out in contractual disputes with local label Anodyne Records. After Anodyne spent $10,000 to produce the record, negotiations went into a stalemate. The finished album has yet to see the light of day.
"It was an unnecessarily dramatic and slow-moving process," Rush says. "Right now if they would put it out, I'd be like, awesome."
The silver lining to the whole debacle was a fresh start for Be/Non. Somewhere between pulling his hair out over Freedom Palace and rebounding from his divorce, Rush convinced longtime KC rock vets Jeremiah James (guitar) and Ryan Shank (drums) to join him and bassist Ben Ruth. The combo has proved to be Be/Non's most locked-in to date, purveying a sound that balances Rush's prog-rock leanings with more accessible grooves.
"It's the first time that Be/Non's been danceable," Rush says. "A lot of songs are real ass-shakers, whereas the older Be/Non stuff was kind of herky-jerky."
With their color-coordinated jumpsuits and space helmets, Be/Non is a hoot in a live setting. They're hoping that audiences will be equally enthused about this week's vinyl release of Mountain, which comes with a digital download card.
"Hearing it on vinyl is like, Whaaaaat?! Awesome!" Rush says. "I don't want a damn CD. I want something that I won't throw in the trash or use as a damn window scraper."
The group made the decision to release the album posthaste, knowing that it would be a couple of years before the film would be finished.
Rush and Ruth began working on Mountain before James and Shank joined the fold. Ruth wasn't initially sold on the idea.
"At first he was like, 'You're fucking nuts,'" Rush recalls.
But the emerging theme — a mountain of yeses — behind the project sounded like something Ruth could get behind. Rush used the phrase to describe his ideal creative environment, where his collaborators answered his whims with a mountain of yeses as opposed to a valley of nos.
With a rough outline of a science-fiction story intact, Rush began working on the record with help from Devon Brown of Onemilliontinytinyjesuses. The two immersed themselves in sampling and sequencing, trading files and building tracks from the ground up.
"Since there wasn't a band, I didn't do typical band things," Rush says. "A lot of it was literally [recorded with] a mic into a laptop."
One of Rush's inspirations throughout the project was Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, though he saw room for improvement.
"It just kind of takes a dive at the end," Rush says. "It pisses me off. The last words are, It's only rock and roll, but I like it. Where the fuck is that coming from?"
Hence Rush set out to fashion a story with a proper denouement. After exploring the galaxies and encountering a dark character who leads him to the Valley of Nos, the lead character — to be portrayed in the film by Steve Tulipana — meets the woman of his dreams and ... well, you'll just have to see the movie.
"Because of his actions on Earth, it costs him later on down the line," Rush says. "Basically, you carry your shit with you wherever you go."
Or, if you're as mad as Rush, you make a concept album and a film about it.