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Sibling Mastery 

The Rondo Brothers move from indie producers to a powerful pop force

Wednesday, Jul 11 2007
Since their inception a mere four years ago, the Bay Area-based Rondo Brothers have gone from unknown bedroom producers to a pair of go-to industry veterans. These days they busily tour the globe, working with the likes of Dan the Automator, Parliament keyboardist Bernie Worrell, and Gorillaz. The duo of "Diamond" Jim Greer and Brandon "the Bastard Prince" Arnovick have remixed the New York Dolls and Ella Fitzgerald, produced alongside Prince Paul for Handsome Boy Modeling School, and done commercial work for McDonald's, Chevrolet, and the NFL. This summer, they drop their second Rondo Brothers full-length, Seven Minutes to Midnight, an unclassifiable blend of funky hip-hop beats and indie-pop melodies.

Seven Minutes could almost be the soundtrack to a road trip with Portishead and Stevie Wonder — with a little Digital Underground in the back seat — a ride that's both celebratory and a bit sinister. From the graceful melancholy of "Dune Stalker" or "Hooked On Hookers" to the soaring vocals of "Come Down To Me," featuring the stunning Kelly Atkins, it's obvious Seven Minutes is no ordinary album. Crooner Bing Ji Ling belts out "Until We All Fall Down," backed by piano and strings like some forgotten soul classic. "In the Valley" uses Dirty Little Pedro to encourage listeners to "Love the feeling — you've got nothing to hide!" but things take a turn toward the foreboding on "I Fell In Love," drums and guitars plodding along to Atkins' breathy vocals. Overall, Seven Minutes isn't simply hip-hop, or rock, or something in between. It's a deep amalgamation of the music that shaped these guys, and that they've in turn used to help shape others.

Musicians from a young age, Greer and Arnovick gradually turned toward recording and production, dubbing themselves the Rondo Brothers in 2003. After Dan the Automator's managers heard the Brothers' remix of Dean Martin's "Jingle Bells" that same year, Dan teamed up with the duo for work on Galactic's Ruckus. Greer says the Galactic connection simply came from "a little luck and a lot of hours put in." From that fertile collaboration, though, their résumé has continued to grow.

With their foot in the door, the Rondos gave 110 percent on every job and started attracting more attention. "When we have a chance to work on something as cool as a Patti Page or Horace Silver remix or what have you, we get very competitive and will basically stop at nothing to make it undeniably good," says Greer. "That energy tends to translate along to the next person, and even if for whatever reason they don't choose it, they definitely want you in the mix for the next time."

Between producing a new album for San Francisco pop act Loquat and the next two Rondo albums for '08 (one strictly hip hop and another "bizarre, quirky dance album"), the duo keeps busy with a steady stream of commercial work. "It's actually a lot of fun - and it's good to get assignments on a regular basis," says Greer. "We are constantly doing demos and things and the styles are all over the map, so it really gets your chops up. And these commercial gigs have been leading to all kinds of film and TV gigs, which is nice as well."

What it all comes down to for these Brothers, though, is solid pop music. They like to craft "good songs, feel-good songs, danceable songs, songs you want to listen to a lot." "We are also kind of genre-benders, maybe to a fault," Greer admits, "and we like to experiment, [but] we don't like overproduction. We try to let the song produce itself, and let the people who are in the room at the time be excited about it and feel like it's done. Then we leave it alone."

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Toph One


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