Brainiac: New book details Dayton band’s rise, tragic end, surprise return

Jeff Gomez may live in California, but he’ll be forever linked to the Gem City. He wrote the Guided By Voices book, “Zeppelin Over Dayton” (2020). Now, as publisher of J-Card Press, he’s sharing the story of another beloved band with local roots.

“Brainiac,” written by Pittsburgh-based journalist Justin Vellucci, is the first book from Gomez’s new imprint. It was released on May 16 and effectively recounts Brainiac’s rise from local upstarts to indie darlings, from the tragic death of frontman Tim Taylor to the group’s unexpected return in recent years.

Vellucci, a reporter in Pittsburgh covering crime and public safety for “TribLive,” recently discussed his first book.

First contact: “Jeff reached out in early 2023 and asked if there were any bands that had interesting runs that were still relevant. I suggested Brainiac. Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison said Timmy Taylor’s death was like a Greek tragedy but there’s more to Brainiac’s story than the car crash. I haven’t seen any of the reunion shows but I knew something was percolating.”

A relatable tale: “I started my interviews in March 2023. The band was terrific. They couldn’t have been more cooperative, friendly or welcoming. It’s a very rustbelt, Ohio city sort of story. I’m no expert on outsider art but there was definitely an underdog thing about people coming from Dayton. Brainiac really embraced that spirit of being from a place off the radar.”

Instant connection: “I first heard about Brainiac in the early ‘90s when I was in high school. Like so many Gen-Xers, I was a huge Touch and Go Records fan. I was on the phone all the time with their people mailing records going, ‘What’s coming? What’s coming?’ At some point they told me about Brainiac, and I ordered ‘Internationale’ when it came out. I remember hearing ‘Go Freaks Go’ and going, ‘What is this? This is awesome.’ It had all that post-grunge alienation, but it sounded like they were having a good time.”

Conversation starter: “I never knew if I had a book in me, but this really wrote itself. The music was so intensely original. Their sense of identity both as individuals and as a band was so pronounced. A lot of these 20-years-later books traffic in lurid details of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I wasn’t interested in that. I’m hoping people who either heard their music back in the day or are discovering them now will be able to pick this up and get a sense of where the conversation goes from here.”

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