Trip to Saigon leads to musical Corruption

A one-way ticket to Asia became a creative turning point for Brett Newski.

“In 2011, my old band broke up, I left my job and bought a one-way ticket to Asia,” he said. “I traveled around with a guitar and recorded a bunch of folk songs while playing shows in mostly makeshift venues such as hotels and rooftops. It was a bizarre time in limbo, and I was trying to figure out the next move.”

That next move became a decision to move to Ho Chi Minh City, (formerly Saigon) in Vietnam.

“I was not ready to come home and had always wanted to live in a weird third-world country. I got lucky, found a few jobs and met some amazing band mates,” Newski said.

That band became Brett Newski and The Corruption, which features Newski on vocals and guitars, Matt Green on drums and Jeffrey Gantner on bass. The band is currently on tour in support of their 2012 full-length debut, “Tiny Victories,” and it will perform Saturday at Cedars West End in Youngstown as part of its Midwest tour.

Newski said that drummer Matt Green came to his first solo show in Saigon. Before teaming up with Newski, Green was playing in two bands with Les Nemes (called Real and Starfly), bass player with the 1980s British band Haircut 100, which hit the U.S. charts in the early days of MTV with songs like “Love Plus One” and “Favorite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl).”

“(Nemes) is a good friend of mine and hasn’t played a lot lately, but is about to start a covers act soon. Les Nemes is really is an amazing player and one of the best. Brett and I were also in a covers band in Saigon,” Green said.

Newski and Green were doing a lot of impromptu jamming on a cajon, a Peruvian percussion instrument, and acoustic guitar.

“Things evolved from there,” Newski said. “It takes a mind-blowing level of commitment to pursue a project such as this and I am grateful that my band mates have pushed each other so hard. Green and Gantner are a bit older than me, so I learn from their wisdom.”

Bassist Jeffrey Gantner was originally playing in bands in Canada including Van Driver, Shining Hour and Duplex Mod.

“My wife and I moved to Saigon because we wanted to live in the tropics. The band then formed in 2012 after we settled in Saigon. The new album, ‘Tiny Victories’ was recorded in Saigon in a studio next to a meat market,” Gantner said.

Sound-wise, the band plays a brand of charming post-punk and indie pop influenced by acts like Violent Femmes.

“I always loved music with flaws,” Newski said. “Violent Femmes are a classic example. Singers who cannot sing by ‘conventional’ standards are often the most unique. I would not make it past the first security guard on ‘American Idol.’ You don’t have to be the best guitar player or bassist as long as you bring your own sound to the table. I feel that we do that well. None of us are prodigy musicians, but we work together, and ‘Tiny Victories’ is an album for the underdog.”

“Tiny Victories” chronicles Newski’s emotional journey and transition as a musician. The album paints an experience that begins with a modern-day troubadour and continues with the excitement as well as loneliness of being a touring band.

“Some of the songs on Tiny Victories were being formed while I was traveling solo in Asia,” Newski said. “The freedom was epic, but the loneliness could get wicked. I guess you could say it was a cliche ‘soul-searching’ mission, but completely necessary. There were soaring highs and crushing lows. Everyone on the road is a ghost. You fall in love with people and they disappear within a few days. If you’re willing to eat street food and stay in a few rat holes, music can take you to mind-blowing corners of the globe. I can’t recommend Vietnam enough for travelers on a budget.”