So if you’re not interested in me rambling about Brann Dailor you might as well not read this.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a bit of a sucker for Brann. There are a million reasons for that; he’s a remarkably talented musician in a remarkably talented band. He’s good looking. He’s funny, he’s humble, he’s charmingly weird. But I think what is most endearing about him is his story. He’s come a long, long way. He inspires me to be better, to look at the silver lining no matter how bad things may be.
Brann grew up in Rochester, New York. He began playing drums when he was only a few years old. Here, he is pictured with his younger sister, Skye:
Over the course of his childhood, Brann and Skye lacked stability; their parents were not together. Throughout the years, their mother dated several men. Drugs played an early role in both Brann and Skye’s lives; their mother and first stepfather had drug problems (his stepfather was even a dealer). “I was coming home from school, and my mom was doubled over on the fucking carpet looking for coke,” Brann mentioned in an interview. The role of drugs in his family life greatly affected Brann; he started doing drugs in his early teens. Additionally, his mother suffered from arthritis - meaning that prescription pills were readily available at home.
His mother was not the only one living with an illness; Skye had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). At the time, this disease was unheard of. Skye was brought to countless doctors, where she was misdiagnosed and/or told that it was all in her head. Skye spent much of her time bedridden, often times too sick to attend school. When Skye was healthy enough for school, she faced bullying and isolation; often times, kids refused to sit with her at lunch and accused her of having AIDS.
To make life even more difficult, the same drug-addicted stepfather also abused Brann, Skye, and their mother. “She [Skye] was always getting the real brunt of the stuff because she would just be up in the dude’s face like, ‘Fuck you!’” Brann recalled. As an escape, Brann turned to all he had - drugs and drumming.
Brann was fifteen years old when perhaps the greatest tragedy in his life happened. By this time, the Dailors had found Dr. David Bell, the first doctor who agreed that Skye was indeed suffering from an illness. Dr. Bell teamed up with researchers Elaine DeFreitas and Paul Cheney to investigate what exactly Skye (and several other patients) were suffering from. The trio was about to leave for Japan to announce their findings - that the illness Skye Dailor and others were suffering from was a disease of the immune system. However, while in the airport, Dr. Bell received a call from an emergency room doctor in Rochester. It had been a particularly humiliating day of school during which several classmates suggested that Skye go kill herself. When she arrived at home, Skye went straight to her mother’s dresser and overdosed on the prescription painkillers. Dr. Bell listened over the phone as a medical team desperately tried to revive Skye. They were not successful. Meanwhile, Brann was tripping on acid at a friend’s house. His friend was the one who had to break the news of Skye’s death. “I let out this giant scream, my knees buckled, and I fell down,” Brann said about that moment.
Things only went downhill for Brann. His family grew even more distant from each other and he hit new lows with his drug use. Shortly after Skye’s suicide, Brann dropped acid and visited her grave late at night. He tried to dig up her tomb, and while pausing to rest he looked up at the night sky. One of the lyrics from Mastodon’s song The Czar says, “I see your face in constellations”. “That’s from me laying in the dirt and staring up at the stars and seeing her face,” Brann said. “She was telling me to stop.” After this incident, Brann spent about a month in a mental hospital.
Brann continued to struggle after losing his sister. In her memory, he got a tattoo:
Her name is inscribed on a flaming heart, along with 76 and 90 (her year of birth and death, respectively), the Virgin Mary, and yellow roses (Brann has said that those were Skye’s favorite flowers). Brann continued to play in several bands; he co-founded Lethargy, pictured below (Bill Kelliher also played in Lethargy):
After Lethargy, Brann and Bill played in Today Is The Day. Brann then moved to Atlanta, Georgia. He worked at a sex shop for a time before co-founding Mastodon. Since Mastodon, Brann’s life has dramatically improved - his drug use has subsided, he married Susanne Gibboney, and he’s been able to financially support himself through music. Though the burden of losing Skye still weighs heavily on him (the entire album Crack the Skye was dedicated to her memory, and as the chief lyricist, Brann has infused lyrics about Skye in all of Mastodon’s albums), Brann has said, “I am really happy. I have everything I could ever want. I have an awesome life; I have a wife, a house with a cat and a car…I have an awesome band with three awesome guys that I love to death…A lot of people don’t ever get to have that kind of opportunity, so I just feel very lucky to be where I am right now.”
And I am so proud of him. I admittedly have a major soft spot for people who have had to fight, who have come from nothing and made a good life for themselves. My own father grew up in an abusive household, and his older sister was kicked out of the house as a teenager - only recently have they been able to reconnect. For me to see a good human being go through so much shit, to see them survive and make the best out of whatever is thrown their way, it inspires me endlessly. There are times when I think about Brann and wonder how he’s even alive, how it is humanly possible for someone to go through so much and still be able to smile and laugh. To me, he’s living proof that you can create your own happiness.
So happy birthday, Brann. You are a truly beautiful and inspiring human being, and you deserve nothing but happiness. I love you.
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