'My Brain Exploded' is Bernie Griffen and The Thin Men’s (Kirsten Warner) first single release from Bernie’s third album, Doors Wide Open, a self-portrait, he says: “I’ve given up the H, now just struggling with the ADD, it drives me crazy!." 'My Brain Exploded' is a jaunty exploration of scrambled thinking and relationship negotiation, set to a Latin rhythm. It’s a testament to both his own sense of imperfection and to his long-standing relationship with Kirsten Warner, emerging member of his band The Thin Men.
The video features one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed dancers and choreographers, Arts Laureate Michael Parmenter in a new role – dancing tango with partner Diana Bain.
Diana is a life-time model - one of the eternally beautiful women.
The little dancer is Ava Mauger, the daughter of DOP Chris Mauger who showed up on the day of shooting in her pretty dress and was an extraordinary dancer, gymnast and screen presence!
The drummer boy is an AC/DC fan who plays drums himself and is son of the Thin Men drummer drummer Chris Kemp.
"The crew are our lifetime friends, they did it for nothing" - says Bernie. "They made it look cinematic with just a smoke machine, some overhead spotlights and a stage. We dressed up in tuxedos and that was that!"
Doors Wide Open may be overall light, brighter and less melancholic than his first two albums. But mortality is sometimes on Bernie Griffen’s mind. 'When I Die' is a love song honouring a lifetime with Kirsten Warner. The ‘sweet sorrow’ of the song is an enduring quality of both their voices and music.
Dubbed Southern Gothic, Bernie Griffen mines a terrain of his own that could also be described as swamp folk or psychedelic country and shows his understanding and feel for his American and Kiwi music roots. It travels from the classic driving blues 'Truck Song' to the whimsical country swing of 'Wedding Waltz', the classic folk 'Emigrants Song' to the Latin-feel of Bernie’s ADHD exploration 'My Brain Exploded'.
'Doors Wide Open', the title track, is another love song and a pop-ier offering full of Beatles harmonies and lyrics that describe his wandering, Sagittarian leanings.
Griffen and Warner recorded the 10 songs during an emergency stopover in Australia when Bernie Griffen got sick en route to a European tour. The album’s big ballad 'I Fell Out of the Sky' draws on that life-and-death experience. In Melbourne they joined the Brunswick Old Time String Orchestra and a network of community musicians. They were lucky enough to be introduced to virtuoso mandolin player Luke Plumb from Celtic superband Shooglenifty.
Luke Plumb produced and played various strings on the album. It was recorded in a day and a half at Echidna Studio in the Yarra Valley with New Zealander Rob Mahoney (bass) klezmer specialist Judy Gunson (piano) and Ben McAtamney on drums, with vocals laid down in a day in Luke Plumb’s home studio in Footscray.
It’s the first time the couple have recorded an album together, although Kirsten Warner contributed backing vocals on Griffen’s previous albums Salvation (2014) and Everything so Far (2012) with Bernie Griffen and The Grifters.