Music Profile: Drew Ailes, Vocalist for Brain Tumors


By Sarah Stanley-Ayre


Drew Ailes, Liberal Arts.

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You are the vocalist of local punk band Brain Tumors. Please describe Brain Tumors- your sound and aesthetic.

Brain Tumors is a noisy, hardcore punk band. I think a lot of people get the wrong impression when they hear the term “hardcore” or the term “punk”- we don’t have mohawks or wear intentionally torn up clothes. And we aren’t some sort of macho dudes with brass knuckle tattoos on our necks. Our music pays tribute to a lot of Japanese hardcore like Gauze/Lipcream while blending in a lot of Midwestern stuff from the early 80s like Negative Approach and Void.


Our aesthetic is a little more complicated. I believe people should have an emotional reaction to art, so all of the deep-seated emotional problems that each member of this band brings to the table lends itself to the chaotic spectacle that is our live show. At this point, having an impact on someone is the purpose – whether they hate me and we get banned from playing a club or they’re blown away by the disregard we have for ourselves during a show….whatever it is, as long as I’m getting a reaction from someone, I’m happy. Truthfully, we’re really nice and caring people.


What is the most appropriate environment/situation to be in while listening to Brain Tumors?

Jared from the bands Total Trash and Myotis sent us this message recently: “I had my #14 molar extracted today. They said to bring headphones, because the sounds I’d hear otherwise would probably make me ralph in despair. I made a playlist of your entire discography.”


What was the band like when you first started, and how have you grown or changed over the years?

Well, the mission has always been to instigate some sort of conflict and insert a dangerous reality into rock music while playing music we enjoy, I suppose. I can’t say anything has changed too profoundly but I think we’re being forced to adapt to the harsh toll that getting beaten up by a dozen people over and over again can put on a person. I’ve been hurt pretty bad by doing this stuff and I don’t have a lot of money to put towards medical care. So maybe we’re getting into that boring phase that bands get into when they focus more on the quality of music than the cathartic effect of playing it in front of people.



Describe your most memorable performance moment.

Maybe when our bassist bit me in the cheek as we were playing in Denver, or when I smashed a bottle over my head in Olympia. Ripping my arm open on a rusty nail in a basement in Chicago. Or when some guy in Cleveland started punching me in the face for spilling his beer. Or cussing out a group of people in Iowa City who were upstairs reading magazines instead of watching us play. Losing our guitar cables at the same awful bar in Bozeman, Montana – twice. Yelling at the people in the First Avenue office and supposedly getting banned for virtually nothing. Playing with a band called Overdoser in St. Louis that throws boat chains around. Breaking some candles in Seattle and not getting paid. Throwing a trash can at some dude who walked out of our show in Birmingham, Alabama. Wearing a trash can during our set in St. Louis. Kicking a trashcan without knowing a cinder block was at the bottom of it at the Memory Lanes block party. Getting my pinky finger caught in the mouth of a beer can, tearing it open and when I was washing it out, talking to a guy who had the exact thing happen as he tried to throw one back at me.



What are some other local music acts that you enjoy?

There’s a lot of good music here. Bands that I like that are still active: The Funeral and the Twilight, Condominium, Agitate, Temple, Cognitive Dissonance, Kontrasekt, The Drug Budget, Kitten Forever, Myotis, Hyperslob, Dishpit, Prostate, Gnawed, Transitional Species, Much Worse, Blue Ox, Serenghetto, Indulge, a billion others I’m forgetting.



What about the Twin Cities music scene do you wish you could change, and how would you change it?

People willingly giving more money to bands. More attention paid to weird underground music. Pretty simple things.


You are also a music critic for City Pages and several other news outlets. Does this impact your own music-making process? How would you review your own band?

It doesn’t impact us in the least aside from probably dumb banter in between songs. I would say we are an awful band of idiots trying too hard to get attention.


What do you hope to achieve from your time spent enrolled at MCTC?

I’ve weaseled my way into a lot of things that I’m totally unqualified for. I’d like to get a start in some sort of hard science as that’s really the kind of education you can’t just pick up from being around. I think MCTC is an excellent school and I’ve liked every single teacher I’ve had.


Describe a typical day in the life of Drew Ailes.

I wake up, I make coffee and breakfast. I try to eat a lot of eggs and avocados, I wear the same jeans I’ve been wearing for the last two weeks and go to work or school. If I’m at work, I’m mostly scouring the internet for weird content to write about or post on the social media sites I manage for FrightProps (


I go home and I write inflammatory articles about how I hate Red Hot Chili Peppers or work on homework while watching Netflix. Or I stare at my saltwater aquarium.



What Brain Tumors song do you most want us to listen to?

None, unless you have some sort of active or budding interest in hardcore punk. Sometimes I’m around people and when the topic of music comes up, people make some sort of comment about how what they listen to isn’t “underground” or “cool” or something. I feel like I’m the real dummy – spending so much time getting into this weird subgenre that most people think is obsolete. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying what’s on the radio. It probably means you’re a reasonably healthy and happy person with an open mind.


Any upcoming performances or projects we should know about?

We’re playing a show with the former singer of the Misfits, Michale Graves, on February 15 at the VFW in Uptown. It should be horrible.

Photos courtesy of Adam DeGross

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