And no, don’t expect any tales of Kinks- or Oasis-style dustups. These kids have their game down.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
The album Hypnotic Nights represented a lot of first for the sibling garage rockers in JEFF The Brotherhood: It was their first effort for a major label; their first time working with an outside producer and more importantly, their first time spending more than a few days putting their latest effort to wax. This time around they took a whopping seven days.
The DIY Nashville group, comprised of brothers Jamin (drums) and Jake (vocals, guitar) Orrall, had already put out six albums prior to Hypnotic Nights, all on their own label Infinity Cat. So most didn’t expect their latest to sound much different despite the fact that they were now on the Warner roster. And thankfully there wasn’t much change at all, aside from a slightly cleaner sound and a decent promotional campaign backing the release.
Hypnotic Nights, co-produced by Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, continued to garner plenty of critical praise for a band that has become a favorite of rock journalists over the past decade and has kept the brothers on the road for most of the year. And life on tour doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.
Jamin spoke with Blurt recently about working with Auerbach, the luxury have having a whole week to record and the disappointingly low number of Kinks’-worthy brotherly fistfights.
BLURT: You guys have been on the road for quite a while now. How’d the tour going so far?
JAMIN ORRALL: It’s going good; it’s… its fine.
You guys have obviously been doing this thing for a few years now. Does being on the road that long get old.
(Laughs) Oh yeah. Sometimes I get really sick of it.
So what do you do to stay sane?
Um, there’s not really much you can do as far as not getting sick of it. Sometimes you get sick of it and you just have to deal with it. And deal with the fact that a lot of times, nothing happens. It helps to hang out with friends in cities. That kind of takes your mind off the fact that you’re touring.
So any good stories from this recent tour yet?
Pretty much the same old thing, so no.
This was your first record for Warner. Was it any different at all going into the studio knowing you were being backed by a major label this time around versus having to do it alone?
We were definitely more excited because we knew we had someone to help us once we finished and we wouldn’t have to do it all ourselves.
So was it the help with publicity and distribution you were looking for?
Oh yeah, totally. It was never a goal to be a band that did everything ourselves, it just ended up that way because we wanted to get out music out there. We’ve always wanted help from others. It just didn’t happen until now.
Is that why you guys first started Infinity Cat – just to put out your own releases?
Yeah, totally. No one else was going to do it, so we did and then eventually people started hearing about us and then Warner Bros came to check us out and we were super excited about it.
Has it been nicer this time around having someone else take care of the tour and the publicity and all the extras?
Yeah, it’s been totally awesome.
So Dan (Auerbach) from The Black Keys helped produce this one. This is your first time using an outside producer as well right?
Yeah, uh huh. It was fun.
Did you know all along you wanted to go with him or was he just one on a list of producers you wanted to try?
No, we hadn’t even talked about working with anybody. I guess he knew our manager, was friends with her, and said that he had heard us, liked us and wanted to have us come check out his studio and maybe do a song or two. We went to check out the studio and said “why don’t we just do the record here.” It’s an awesome studio. So we asked, “so do you want to do the record?” and he said yeah. It wasn’t like we really went after it hard. It just kind of worked out. It’s weird how it all came together.
Was it hard to get used to having someone else in the studio with you making suggestions and telling you to try other stuff?
Yeah, it was definitely different, but it was awesome having a third perspective; having someone who really knows how to get good sound.
So did he ever play the role of tie breaker between you and your brother?
Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s why it was great to have a third person. When we were totally 180 and pissed at each other, it’s just really nice to have another opinion in the room.
That actually brings up a good point. The music world is filled with examples of brothers who are great musicians, but end up getting in to big fights with each other over it all the time. How is it with you and Jake?
We work ok together. We fight sometimes but it never gets nasty.
So no onstage fist fights yet?
No, no, no. We just yell at each other, but we are both willing to just stop and walk away.
So have you and your brother played in bands apart from each other or have you pretty much always played together?
Before JEFF, we were in another band together but we were really, really young, so we’ve played separately in a lot of different bands. In fact, we just put out a record of a band we first played in together a long time ago. It’s called Skyblazer; we were in it about five or six years ago. It was like a psychedelic hard rock band.
Does it help to be involved in other projects on the side?
Oh yeah, definitely, just because this is our job, so we do a lot more work than if we were just fooling around, so it’s good to have projects on the side where we can just mess around and make music. We are both in bands on the side at home where we just have fun.
I used to live in Nashville years ago and am impressed by how many groups, outside of country music, have set down stakes there over the past few years. Have you seen a big change in the music scene, having lived in Nashville for so long?
Yeah, the music scene is doing really well now. There’s a lot of different stuff.
Are there still a lot of groups that haven’t been discovered yet?
I don’t know, I’m actually not there that much lately. All I know if that I have tons of friends there and they all play in bands. There’s a lot of really cool tunes and cool shit coming out of that city.
So who put the seven-day time structure around this record?
That was us (laughs).
Do you guys just work better under tight deadline?
I think we booked like two weeks to see how long it would take. The first records we took like three days to make. We went into the studio at odd hours when it was really cheap and we would practice and practice beforehand, so this is the first time we had money to buy a studio for longer (than three days). It took five or six days to do all the tracking and then the mixing. We play and move really fast. All of the songs were done before we even went into the studio.
So it must blow your mind to read about bands that take six months to record an album.
Yeah, it’s ridiculous.
So in the brief amount of time you worked with Dan, did he offer any advice to you guys?
Not really. To be honest I think he’s just as flabbergasted by the amount of success he has had with his band as we are with ours and we have only had a tiny bit of success compared to (The Black Keys). No one really expects to be as big as they are.
Can we talk about Infinity Cat for a minute? When you and your brother started the label, did you do it with the intention of someday putting out other bands?
No, that just happened over time. We just started it for fun. It’s not like we expected it to go anywhere. I don’t run it anymore; it’s just Jake and my dad now. They have some interns as well, but I don’t think any of us expected it to be as big as it is now.
How did you start finding bands to put out?
It was just really our friends’ bands at first. We never really signed bands that sent us demoes. We had enough to do just with all of our friends.
So you guys are playing New York, then what’s next?
We wrap up this tour and have the rest of December off, which is really cool, and then we head to Australia in January to tour there. And then after that probably hit the road in the U.S. again.