Akron rocker Brian Lisik juggles writing, music

Brian Lisik, an award-winning journalist, also used to perform with State College bar band favorite The Giants of Science.
Brian Lisik, an award-winning journalist, also used to perform with State College bar band favorite The Giants of Science. Photo provided

It may seem like a contradiction — seeking recognition and fame while running away from it as fast as possible. This dichotomy has defined rocker Brian Lisik’s work since his days as founder and front man of the self-proclaimed “slop rock” band The Giants of Science in the late 1990s.

Lisik grew up in a family in Akron, Ohio, that was always filled with music. There was always a huge collection of records in Lisik’s home; Glen Campbell and Olivia Newton John, to Bobby Rydell and Bobby Vinton, to Merle Haggard and The Music Machine.

“My parents weren’t too discerning, but that was probably good,” Lisik said. “But all my friends’ houses seemed to have collections like that in them, too. Looking back, there seemed to be fewer labels on music. The soundtrack of my youth was a pretty wild, freewheeling format.”

Lisik describes the basic sound of his music, a testament to his diverse musical background. But he doesn’t really look at it as him experimenting with different styles necessarily, but more about what the music dictates.

“It’s become sort of a folky, power-pop sound — like a young Tom Waits doing ’60s bubblegum music or something,” he said. “I just really like loud guitars, pretty chords and a rhythm section that swings I guess. And if the music calls for it, I try not to be afraid to try different instrumentations and structures and sonic elements. Usually when I’m writing or performing or recording a song, I feel more like it’s experimenting with me.”

Throughout 2004 and 2005 Lisik and his band toured behind “Baggage,” sharing stages with acts such as Jesse Malin, Tim Easton, and Byrds co-founder Roger McGuinn. In 2005, Lisik had a cameo role in the film “Circle Track Summer” from Fools Gold Entertainment, and began work on the follow-up to “Baggage.”

Lisik’s debut solo album, “Baggage,” was released on Cherokee Queen Records in 2004. In 2012, Lisik’s third solo album, “The Mess That Money Could Buy,” was released by Cherokee Queen Records, with Lisik kicking off a Midwest and East Coast tour in support of the album.

“Over the past couple of years, it’s actually become one of my favorite albums I’ve done — and I’ve released five, including two EPs with The Giants of Science,” he said. “But the songs on that record, and the end result overall, is some of my best work I think. It has been a very successful release for us.”

Lisik absolutely loves getting out on the road and playing different places, bringing the music to a live audience, particularly one that is paying attention and participating in the give-and-take that can make a good performance great. It is this part of the music business that made Lisik become a musician in the first place.

“Making a record is fun, and listening back to the finished work is fulfilling, but then what do you do?” Lisik said. “I’m a very private person — almost a loner — but on stage, it’s a whole different thing. I get to play dress up, literally and figuratively. There really is something inescapably romantic about coming into a town with a guitar, serenading an audience, then disappearing down the road again.”

Also an award-winning newspaper reporter and columnist, Lisik said he likes to tell stories and sees himself as a writer first and foremost. But the balance with music, for now at least, seems sort of natural for him.

“Writing, like recording, can be very insular and private and kind of limiting in that way,” he said. “Music sort of lets me use the other half of my brain or something. But I do usually have a guitar on a stand, at the ready, in the room while I’m writing, just in case something hits me.”

Personally for Lisik, it is gratifying for him to know that this musical endeavor, one that he has always been interested in, has been able to be sustained over the years. For him, it is simply the recognition that people appreciate and like his work. “This can be a blunt and humorless business, so I hope my professional growth leads to enough financial growth to allow me to keep doing this a while longer,” he said. “My primary goal is, and always has been, to make the best music anyone has ever heard me make.”