A Rappahannock son rises on Richmond’s musical landscape 

You may not have heard of Girls With Depression, the one-man, self-proclaimed “indie pop” band fronted by former Rappahannock County resident Cy Brazanthr — but if he has his way, you soon will have.

“I’ll be perfectly straight about it: I think I have maybe 20 fans,” Cy admits. “I know the maximum number of possible fans is higher; it could be as high as 1,000 but that’s unlikely. The minimum number is like six confirmed fans who’ve heard my stuff and actually listen to it on a regular basis. It’s an insanely crowded marketplace.”

Cy Brazanthr, the one-man band known as Girls With Depression, originally had no plans to study music — let alone make his own.
Cy Brazanthr, the one-man band known as Girls With Depression, originally had no plans to study music — let alone make his own. Photo by Emily Hasselman

Formerly known as Brian Ross II, Cy adopted his new name during his college years at Virginia Commonwealth University after taking a restaurant job. “They had four or five Brians and I was flagrantly horrified at the idea of being ‘fifth or sixth Brian,’ so I asked people to call me something else. And that was Cy, and it just came to fit.”

As for “Brazanthr,” its origins are a little more eccentric: “I came up with that for a fantasy thing I was working on where there was a god who would be invented on computers . . . and he had a hard to spell name. It came, etymologically, from combining ‘brazen’ with ‘anthro’ so it’d mean ‘bold person.’ ”

The band itself, which features the 23-year-old Cy as the sole writer, recorder, producer (usually), singer and member, began in 2010 as a way for him to work through a breakup. “I just downloaded a DAW (digital audio workstation software) and sort of went at it.”

The name stemmed from that same break-up, he says, and isn’t meant as a condemnation or jest toward those who actually suffer from depression. “It came from dating and heartbreak and when I decided it was a name, I couldn’t see myself wanting to write about anything other than dating and heartbreak.

“I was also frustrated about my dating habits, having dated and broken up with a few girls who had the clinical depressive disorder. And it was sort of overwhelmingly heartbreaking to want to make people happy but you can’t because there’s a thing wrong with their brains [that prevents it].”

“And also it wasn’t taken,” he adds with a small laugh, “so I get to own GirlsWithDepression.com.”

Cy’s work is completely self-taught, he confesses. “I taught myself the recording and mixing and everything. Because if you don’t start from an actual instrument, you sort of go backwards. You learn how to mix before anything else and then you back up into actually playing keyboards and singing.”

That’s How I Maintain Power

Despite what many would-be artists would consider a daunting workload, Cy admits working alone does have it benefits. “Working alone lets you work crazy fast . . . it’s not hard to get a song about 80 percent done — from nothing to recorded lyrics — in two hours.”

And while he normally produces all his own stuff, Cy has invited other people to help him recently. “I’ve got a bit of stuff that I’ve done with producers in Texas and California. And sometimes, I work with a lyricist in Australia and sing his stuff.”

“The internet’s cool that way,” he adds.

A 2008 graduate of Rappahannock County High School, with a bachelor in fine arts “coming soon” from VCU, Cy originally had no plans to record music.

His original plan was to to do commercial illustration, “but I spent a year fruitlessly in the sculpture department and finally graduated from the ‘painting and printmaking’ department” before deciding it just wasn’t for him.

Citing Kanye West, The Killers, the Mountain Goats and the Mezingers among his influences, Cy says his recording process allows him to continue to tweak songs long after he’s written them. “During the recording, it’s just you, and your tastes in an excited moment so you don’t really know how it sounds.”

“I make a lot of stuff that gets to that point and I show it to a few people and then to no one else because it basically didn’t make that cut. And then if it makes it past that point, I hold on to it, and keep listening to it and making changes for a few weeks — or forever.” Cy does eventually settle on a finished product, however. “When I release something, I kind of consider it done, no matter how much I might regret it later. I feel like there’s something off-putting when another artist keeps redoing the same thing.”

“Like George Lucas,” he laughs.

Cy is the son of Sperryville resident Brian Ross, who plays the keyboard and guitar in the church band at Reynolds Memorial Baptist Church, and Rae Gaedke Jr., who together ran Sperryville’s late lamented Mountainside Market. Gaedke, who now lives in Sun City Center, Fla., later ran Rae’s (and Rae’s Place & Deli), as well as working at Sunnyside Farms.

Having spent his formative years in Rappahannock — he attended Wakefield Country Day School for several years before moving to RCHS — Cy says some of his music has been influenced by the area — and the isolation that can accompany it.

“There are no traffic lights . . . and if you actually grow up in Rappahannock, you’re isolated from other people except by long car drives . . . There’s a lot more isolation except in the schools and there’s no corporate presence. I don’t always, but I write about that experience from time to time. I want to eventually write some magnum opus concept album about the experience of growing up there in the ’90s”

Cy has released two albums, “and a lot of change,” so far, both of which can be found online at GirlsWithDepression.com, as well as in the iTunes store, Google Play and Spotify. Several tracks from Cy’s first two albums — “I Think I’m Funny But I Totally Am” and “Songs for Celebrities to Listen To” — can also be found on rappnews.com.

“I want to pursue it as long as I can,” Cy says. “I’m working on a way to take the act live and I want to get playing in some local places around Richmond by January. The thing I keep in my head is that when [indie band] Arcade Fire put out their first album [in 2004], they were struggling and small and that first album is one of the best things I’ve ever heard.”