Birdbrain (band)

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Birdbrain (Ammo, Benway) early performance at the Midway Cafe in JP, Boston, ca 1993.
Background information
OriginBoston, Mass., USA
GenresAlternative rock
Years active1992–1997
LabelsTVT Records
Associated actsG/Z/R
Powerman 5000
Spot Mary
MembersJoey Ammo
Mike Benway
Joe McCarthy jr.
James Dennis
Past membersFrancisco Barrientos
Lance Cole

Birdbrain was a Boston, MA post-grunge band that was founded by neighborhood friends in 1992 and dissolved in 1997. They had some success with their song "Youth of America" appearing in the hit film Scream (Wes Craven) as well as a contribution to The Last Supper” soundtrack with a cover of Paul McCartney’s "Jet".They were formed by guitarist/singer/songwriter Joey Ammo and drummer Mike Benway and signed to TVT Records in 1995. With two CD albums and two soundtrack contributions they broke up in 1997.


The Boston band was formed in the early 1990s after a chance meeting in a Roslindale, MA bar between Ammo and Benway. They rented a rehearsal studio, began funding some recording projects and started setting up bookings. Eventually they hired local manager Jeff Hudson.

Hudson successfully shopped the recordings to contacts at TVT Records in 1995 with their tape “Princess”, their contribution to “Boston Rock n' Roll Anthology Vol. 18” and especially the release of their self-produced, full-length CD, "Bliss" and soon they had a recording contract.

Founding bassist Frank Barrientos left the band, replaced by guitarist/bassist/backing vocalist Jim Dennis. They were joined shortly thereafter by bona fide bassist Joseph F. McCarthy Jr. and Dennis moved from bass to guitar, his forte. The new quartet went on tour in support of a TVT re-vamping of “Bliss”. Hudson was fired as manager and was replaced by the TVT nominee, Camille Barbone[1] (Madonna).

“Bliss” was not as successful as they had hoped. Jim Dennis left amid rising tension in the wake of his expanding creative influence over Birdbrain's sound. Thus Birdbrain returned to being a rock trio. Benway quickly covered backup vocals at a show that weekend at the Rathskellar in Boston, Ammo resurrected his original, jangly, three-piece sound heard on the original demo's, and McCarthy brought a good nature and sharp wit that helped to buoy the band personally through these tough times.

Benway had negotiated initial contract support from TVT to start a second album late in 1996. They had a slew of songs ready to choose from and the label poured over $200,000 into the production, well beyond the $30,000 required by the contract.

The trio spent weeks in pre-production and recording at the spa-like Long View Farm Studios (MA). They rented a good deal of choice vintage gear, hired producer Tim Patalan[2] and got mixing and post-production work from Jack Joseph Puig at Electric Lady Studios (NY), as well as mastering with Howie Weinberg. This plush treatment was largely due to the intense advocacy of A&R Tom Sarig (Sarig moved on to a very successful national A&R post the next year.)

By February 1997 “Let's Be Nice” was finished. With a disappointing performance from manager Barbone, and Ammo having problems with illness, and no record distribution in place Benway refused to tour. This disagreement over Benway's management decision created conflict. Barbone began working secretly to secure trademarks for Ammo and to develop a paper trail to create the appearance that Benway had resigned. This business maneuvering ran to artistic matters when Barbone recruited her former client for the tour, metal drummer Lance Cole, who can be seen "stick-synching" to Benway's tracks in the video for "Youth of America".[3] The band toured a year later. Cole never recorded with the band, and never truly gelled with Ammo and McCarthy.

The ensuing tour was cut short by low morale over Benway’s banishment and Ammo’s continuing problems with medical issues, as well as alcohol and drug addiction. Barbone resigned, and TVT dropped the band. Finally things had hit rock bottom and they disbanded in 1997.

The band had some success with “Let's Be Nice”, especially with the single "Youth of America" which Wes Craven chose to feature in his successful horror film “Scream” and TVT promoted the song as the single and lead track on the soundtrack album. (Sadly, although the song was heard by hundreds of millions worldwide Barbone failed to parlay this into national success for the band. The label had negotiated to have the band's logo included on all print advertising for the movie, but Barbone countermanded this, feeling it was risky.) One year later, the song was used also in the movie Masterminds.

“Let's Be Nice” was nominated for Best Indie Album in the 1997 Boston Music Awards. Barbone attended the ceremony representing another band that had also been nominated. Ammo had been naturally invited. Benway had harangued the organizers to get his ticket. Thus all three of them, Benway, Ammo and Barbone, sat in the audience while Paula Cole, who swept the awards that year, attributed her success to her drummers influence.

Years later TVT Records went on to be sold in its entirety to digital media outlet The Orchard.

Birdbrain’s TVT videos “Confession”[4] and “Youth of America”[3] can be viewed on YouTube and Yahoo! Music. “Bliss”[5] and “Let’s Be Nice”[6] can still be purchased many places on line such as Amazon.

Ammo and McCarthy both still keep a low-profile activity in the Boston music scene today. Benway lives a successful personal life.


  • Joey Ammo- Vocals/Guitar
  • Joe McCarthy Jr.- Bass
  • Mike Benway- Drums

Discography and videography[edit]

Demo tapes
  • Princess - 1993
Compilation appearances
  • Got TVT? 1997 (TVT Records)
  • Boston Rock n' Roll Anthology Vol. 18
Soundtrack appearances
Music videos

External links[edit]

Notes and references[edit]