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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

JEFF the Brotherhood Think Our Burritos Are Weird

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 11:44 AM


Garage rock is not a fad. It's been percolating for over half a century, in one form or another, and shows no sign of letting up. JEFF the Brotherhood is the kind of band that explains why. Nashville brothers Jamin and Jake Orrall are out to extract as much fun as possible from a growling guitar, stripped down drums, and antic-filled live show. Most of the nine tracks on their latest album, Heavy Days - the band's sixth full-length record - scorch by with huge fuzz, fiery tempos, chatty lyrics, and playing that's tighter than the jeans on Valencia. 

Like the best garage rock, the duo's simple, pop-aware songs force smiles even after dozens of listens. Despite years on the road playing barns, fields, beauty shops and women's bathrooms, the Orrall brothers are now on only their second West Coast tour, playing with Ty Segall and The Splinters at the Eagle tomorrow night. 

We spoke with singer/guitarist Jake about the band's unusual name, how rock lyrics don't matter, and why these hungry brothers from the South aren't excited for a Mission burrito.

How did you and Jamin begin playing together?

We grew up out in the country and there really weren't any other kids around, so it's what we'd do. We played in the woods with sticks until we got into music and then we started playing music.

What's the story behind the name?

We just wanted to name it like it's a person. It's a band -- why not name it like you're naming a baby or a pet or something? We used to be just "JEFF." But then we changed it to "JEFF the Brotherhood" because you couldn't search for "JEFF" on the Internet. It was like naming your band "dog" or something.

What were you guys listening to when you started playing?

Our dad always played stuff like Talking Heads and the Clash and Elvis Costello and Devo. When we really started we were listening to a lot of grunge. Somehow we got a hold of Half Japanese, and we got really into that because we didn't really know how to play instruments at all. They didn't really know how to play either, and just started making these recordings. That was a real inspiration for us, that you could just pick up instruments, and it was like, OK, the big strings make the lower sounds and the smaller strings make the higher sounds. And if you go up and down the neck you can make sound on the guitar, it doesn't matter if you can play or not. So I just started doing that. And Jamin was playing drums.

And you played intermittently in other bands, too?

Yeah. We've both played in countless [bands]. In middle school and high school... that was all we did. That's like pretty much all we've done since, is play in bands with our friends. The scene that we are from is really, really, really small but really intense. There's like 60 or 80 kids or something that just all have bands with each other. But this is the [band] that made it possible for us to do it full time, because we just started making money off of it.

Was your sound a conscious decision or just what came out?

It's just sort of what made sense. Just to get more tight and poppy. We're a lot less psychedelic now than we were a couple years ago. On our album two albums ago, the first song on the first side is this 14-minute, kind of Krautrock-y epic jam called "Ghostride the Whip to Berlin." But now we're really focusing on trying to fuse together early 70s hard rock and 80s pop punk. [It's] a weird sound but people really respond to it well and it's a lot of fun to play and write. 

To what extent do you plan things out, musically? Despite your stage silliness, you and Jamin are amazingly in sync. Has that just developed or is it something you work on in rehearsals?

It's just after playing so long. We actually don't rehearse. We're just on tour so much that we play every night anyway so we don't really need to. But I think a lot of it also has to do with sharing the same blood. And when it's just two people it's a lot easier to be really tight. You can just look at each other and know what's going on.

How long have you been on tour? 

Since March of last year. We quit our jobs and gave up our places. We've been touring for five years, but for the first four years we only did it in the summer. In March we kind of made the decision to do it full time. If you're touring in the summer it's tough to build up a following since you're not coming back to any cities for a year. So we kind of had to start from scratch in March, and we knew we were going to be poor as shit for a while.

What sorts of crazy places have you played?

We were always down to play anywhere because we were always booking our own tours. The only way to do that is to ... find the cool kids in the town and be like, 'book us a show with your band, we'll play anywhere, we don't care.' Because otherwise you're going to play in a bar to nobody. We'd always try to get some kids involved and other kids' bands, even if the only place we could play was like their parents' beauty salon.

How do you write lyrics? They seem very casual -- inspired by whatever is going on in your lives.

For a long time, Jamin wrote all the lyrics and they were mostly poems. I've been writing most of the lyrics recently. We don't really care about the lyrics, we just write whatever is on our minds, I guess. When I listen to music personally I don't really pay attention to the lyrics. Rock 'n' roll music -- it's about the beat. I don't think the lyrics really matter.

Looking at your blog, it looks like you've had a lot of fun checking out different foods on tour. What have been your favorites and what are you looking forward to in San Francisco?

I really like going up to Quebec and getting Poutine. It's french fries with gravy and cheese curds. Our favorite is probably going to Philadelphia and going to Pat's and getting cheese steaks. It's the best thing ever. We look forward to that for months at a time. I don't really know what I want to eat in San Francisco.

Pretty much the universally regarded things are Mexican and Asian. You can't really go wrong with a good Mission burrito.

We don't ever seek out Mexican food on tour because it's so good in Nashville and we're so used to that style. I had a burrito in San Francisco and I was like, 'This is weird.'

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Ian S. Port


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