Bucking Broncho

Trying to fit the band Broncho into a neat musical box is an exercise in futility. Since their debut in 2011 with the raunchy, raucous Can’t Get Past the Lips, this Oklahoma-born quartet has been shape-shifting constantly, avoiding categorization every time it seems easy.

Yes, two singles from the 2014 sophomore album Just Enough to Be Women were featured in TV commercials and on an episode of HBO’s millennial smash Girls. But just when everyone was thinking they could pin the catchy indie-pop tail on Broncho, band members Ryan Lindsey, Nathan Price, Ben King and Penny Pitchlynn slithered away again, producing dense, cinematic rock for 2016’s Double Vanity.

This year, the Broncho boys and girls have blessed us with Bad Behavior, a slinky, beat-driven set that maintains the band’s trademark intrigue, while parting the curtain on the darker side of human frailty.

“The process of making Bad Behavior was pretty much like any record we’ve done,” Ryan Lindsey tells Folio Weekly. “A lot of stuff is up in the air, floating a few feet off the ground until, at the last possible moment, everything settles. And then we turn in the record.”

Laughing, he adds, “It’s always a wild ride, but it’s a bed we’ve made and we know where we gotta sleep. It sure is great to finish a record, though. I can finally sleep again after that.”

That album’s anchor track “Sandman” speaks to Broncho’s restless energy. Riding an insistent bass riff, it pulls from boogie rock, glam pop and psychedelic R&B. The band members toggle among genres at will.

Live shows are notoriously riotous, but the sense of control exhibited on Bad Behavior–no song runs more than three-and-a-half minutes, for instance–speaks to Broncho’s years on the road and its own particular brand of self-discipline.

“In some sense, this record feels very submissive,” lead singer Lindsey says. “I don’t know why I keep returning to that word, but it feels like we’re keeping things in line in a sense.”

That is applicable to their current tour, as well. The whole thing received an unusual amount of preparation–at least by Broncho’s usual standards. “We actually got together and rehearsed, which made us feel like pros,” Lindsey laughs.

Stringing out an in-depth football metaphor, he adds, “We played the equivalent of a preseason: six songs off the new record at a festival in Hot Springs, Arkansas, followed by eight of the new songs opening for Father John Misty. Then, at a festival in Mexico City, we played all of ’em. We went through our two-a-days, we’re prepped mentally, and we’re ready for the regular season to start.”

For a band whose debut album came out just seven years ago, Broncho exudes the confidence onstage and off of a veteran outfit. At home in Oklahoma, they’ve served as mentors and boosters, opening their warehouse/recording studio/performance space to rising bands like Planet What and Sports. On the road, they’ve played the same cities and same venues so many times that their presence feels akin to the cool cousin who comes through town every few months.

When asked what the career trajectory for Broncho looks like, Lindsey says human connections are more important than objective measures of success. “The whole thing has seemed like a pretty smooth process,” he says, referencing those aforementioned TV placements–along with arena shows opening for the bands Queens of the Stone Age and Cage the Elephant–as mere stepping stones. “Nothing ever seemed like it happened too fast. Part of that is where we live in Tulsa and the way we grew up in Norman, with a chill pace of life.”

Extending another expert metaphor, Lindsey likens Broncho’s success to a plane that has  to circle an airport a few times before landing.

“We’re gonna take another lap and wait for the runway to clear,” he says. “We like spending as much time in the air as we can.” Then, shifting from airplanes to cars, he says, “The idea of things speeding up sounds like a lot of fun, too. That’s the fun part of starting a new record cycle: we can put it sport mode and cruise. I just found out about sport mode–and it really works!”