The Lucky 13: Brad Bynum, vocalist/pianist for Elephant Rifle, former ‘RN&R’ editor

Brad Bynum is no stranger to readers of the RN&R. He’s been contributing to the publication since 2002. He was the paper’s arts and culture editor from 2008-2016, and the editor from 2016-2020. On top of some stellar journalism, Bynum has contributed heavily to Reno’s music scene with his band Elephant Rifle, which combines elements of post-punk, noise rock, hardcore and metal into one insane combination. The band’s latest album, Broken Water, just dropped and is the band’s first release in five years. For more, visit

What was the first concert you attended?

Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Urge Overkill at the Lawlor Events Center on Dec. 2, 1993.

What was the first album you owned?

Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction, Metallica’s Black Album, and Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I and II. That was kind of the starter pack for 11-year-old rockers in 1992, and then the next phase was Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Our tour is centered around playing this amazing festival in Minneapolis called the Caterwaul Music Festival. It’s all noise rock, or at least noise-rock-adjacent bands. Some of the bigger bands on the bill include Cherubs, Chat Pile and Flipper, but I’ve been enjoying checking out all the bands on the bill. I like Rid of Me and Moon Pussy. The new Djunah record is great. I dig Nerver from Kansas City, and I’m pumped they (were slated to play) our record-release show. DJ Faster Than You has been playing Caterwaul bands on his KWNK show, Left of the Dial, and has done a nice job curating choice cuts. I’ve also been exploring the King Crimson discography. I love diving into a band with a deep, weird, eclectic oeuvre, and King Crimson delivers that. The Cure, the Grateful Dead, Osees and Roxy Music have been other staples lately, and, of course, the new Spitting Image album rules and is essential listening for anyone who cares about Reno music.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I get sad about the commercial decline of rock music. I love hip hop, and I understand the appeal of EDM and other contemporary genres, but I think rock music can do certain things better than any other genre. (The reverse is also true: There are other things that are easier accomplished in other genres.) Good rock music can provide incredible moments of musical catharsis, and do that within the context of powerful songwriting. Some other genres can provide musical catharsis, and some other genres can deliver great songs, but to do both at the exact same time? That’s a magical combination. I wish more listeners, especially younger listeners, would recognize that. I think part of the problem is that the musical-industrial complex spent too many years promoting shitty rock bands, but I think there’s still a healthy underground, and that makes me happy.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

The Grateful Dead, sometime early on, maybe 1972. Some show with fantastic drugs and a lot of naked hippies.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

As I age, it gets harder and harder for me to separate art from artists. For example, I can’t listen to Kanye West’s stuff anymore, or Michael Jackson’s, but both of those guys have written undeniable songs. It’s tough when you hear one of their great songs, and you can’t help but feel amazing things, but you know they’re horrible people. It’s a little heartbreaking. I love the Smiths but have been annoyed by every public statement Morrissey has made for the last 25 years or so. It’s the same as when I’m watching old movies, and the Miramax or Weinstein Company logo pops up. I can’t help but cringe—like, what did these poor women have to do to be in this movie?

What’s your favorite music venue?

I saw the Osees at Red Rocks in Colorado a couple of years ago, and it lived up to the hype. Locally, I’m really proud to have been a secondary or tertiary part of what the Holland Project has accomplished, and I’m so glad our record-release/tour-kickoff show was there on May 20.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

There’s more than one, more like thousands. There are plenty of recurring snippets from great lyricists, like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and David Berman, that pop up in my brain on an hourly, sometimes minute-ly, basis.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I’m in my 40s now, so my life has changed many times, and many different bands and artists have been part of that. A key early one for me was Nirvana. I think In Utero is probably still the foundation of my musical aesthetic. When people ask me what Elephant Rifle sounds like, and they’ve never heard of “noise rock” or “post-punk,” I usually just say “sorta like Nirvana.”

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Stevie Nicks in the 1970s, and I’m asking her to dinner.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

More than one song would seem in order. I think a three-day festival would be appropriate.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

I don’t negotiate with terrorists. It’s like a 40-way tie, but two that come immediately to mind are Sticky Fingers by the Stones, and Pink Flag by Wire.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Well, I’m here to promote Broken Water, the new Elephant Rifle album, so I’ll say that.