Interview: Viva Brother – ‘It’s Our Time Now!’

By Live4ever - Posted on 30 Mar 2011 at 10:08pm

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Brother (photo © Live4ever Media)

We’re Going To Bring Guitar Music Back!

If timing is everything in music, Viva Brother might just be on to something. At a time when any young music fan usually needs to trawl down somewhere far below the Top 40 to find traces of where the latest band trying to make an impact can be found, and needs to delve back at least a decade to find the last group of musicians who dared to suggest they could change your life, these four young dreamers, who initially longed simply to break free of the industrial clutches of their hometown Slough, now have a bored generation wondering if they might just be the band to re-awaken rock n roll from its prolonged slumber.

‘We’re going to bring guitar music back’, frontman Lee Newell told Live4ever during our first encounter back in November, immediately demonstrating the self-assurance and confidence which has played a big part in helping Brother to stand out from the crowd, and which was on full beam during their first ever US gig at the recent SXSW Festival, when the band confidently told a venue packed full of crossed-armed industry types almost screaming ‘come on then, impress me’ that they had ‘definitely made the right choice’.

A week on from that first gig, we sat down with Lee, Josh, Sam and Frank shortly before their gig at New Jersey’s famous Maxwell’s venue to discuss both their past and hopes for the future, the ‘song of the next 20 years’ which might just light up their hotly-anticipated debut album, and their surprisingly understated dream rider.

It’s a 30 minute exclusive chat which shows that if Brother go on to attain even half of what they feel destined to achieve, rock n roll won’t just be awoken, it’ll be dragged out of bed kicking and screaming, strapped to the nearest sports car, and taken on a pretty eventful journey. Is everyone ready for the ride?

L4E: We’re here (in the legendary Maxwells in Hoboken) with Brother!

Brother: Hellooo!

L4E: We’ve seen you mention in a number of gigs over the last week that you’re from Slough?

Brother (Lee): Yeah we are.

L4E: Everyone apart from Josh…. who’s from Portsmouth?

Brother (Josh): Indeed I am, yes!

L4E: Tell us a little bit about Slough. You kind of speak of it in derogatory terms, kind of somewhat negative, is that right?

Brother: (Lee) Umh, I don’t always. I mean it’s my hometown you know? And so, I wanted to get out of it because it wasn’t for me. You know I couldn’t spend my life there. It’s an industrial town you know, west of London.

L4E: Mars Bars are from there?!

Brother: (Lee) Yeah Yeah! I used to work just opposite of there. In fact, when Josh used to stay with me we worked, not at the Mars factory but, at an office just next to it. Yeah, so you know there’s a lot of smoke, a lot of factories, one of the biggest industrial cities in Europe. So it’s quite… there’s a lot of small-minded people there. There’s also a lot of nice people there, you know?

L4E: So it’s working class?

Brother (Lee): Yeah, but it’s not like yeah I came the slums or that sort of thing. You know? I wasn’t poor but I was by no means wealthy.

L4E: So where does Liam Gallagher get his thing about ‘posh boys with tattoos’ from?

Brother (Sam): ‘Cos we’re southerners. That’s it. Sounds posh! The Queens English – to him anyway.

(Josh): And we do have tattoos, yeah.

(Sam): And if that constitutes of being a posh boy with tattoos, then fair play mate! (band laughs)

(Lee): I don’t know, that’s him isn’t it? That’s fine. Umh, I always said I don’t want to carry on an argument with him (Liam) because, I grew up with his music – he’s got a great voice; he’s been part of some great songs. I don’t agree with what he says most of the time but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him. I don’t agree with what Morrissey says sometimes but he’s like my hero, my idol.

L4E: Let’s talk a bit about some previous bands you were involved with: Wolf Am I, Kill the Arcade and Twice Upon a Time.

Brother (Lee): You got it, that’s amazing! (laughs)

L4E: So, in the context of Brother and what you are now as a unit and a band, what makes this different? Why do you have so much confidence in this?

Brother (Josh): It’s just our time now. I think we’re just ready!

(Lee): Yeah, they were never really serious, I mean at that point. It wasn’t all of us, by the way.

(Frank): Every one of those bands had different members. This just seemed to be the combination of members that just instantly worked. At the time, I was thirteen when I was in that band (Twice Upon a Time) if that’s even worth commenting on – That was 8 years ago! You’re playing in it because you enjoy playing music. I always thought this isn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, but then from the first time the four of us played together I think we all knew this is the perfect like… lineup, you know? We’ve found it. I’ve found three more people that are on exactly the same wavelength as I am.

(Josh): We’re confident now because we are confident in our music, aren‘t we? We’re confident in our songs. (Lee): Yeah we are. We believe in it and we’re very ambitious, as you’ve seen. But umh, I’m not embarrassed about it. I’m as embarrassed as you would be looking at yourself with a silly haircut when you were sixteen.

I don’t think it like stops us from being truthful and a good band.

L4E: So, where does the name Brother come from?

Brother (Josh): We always knew we wanted a name that looked good on a festival bill didn’t we? We wanted a short sharp name that people would remember.

(Frank): It has kind of come into its own now.

(Lee): I think, sub-consciously, it came from our togetherness and the fact that we just spent, a lot of our time together… not even with anyone else really. So, I think maybe it was from that sort of gang like mentality.

(Frank): The name has become more appropriate the more time we‘ve been a band.

L4E: So it doesn’t come from the Manchester City jersey? Just for the record.

Brother: (everyone laughs… ) (Lee): No! Quite the opposite and actually I think they’ve got in contact with us, that company. So I don’t know what’s going on there but, watch this space!

L4E: Let’s talk about your writing process now. Who writes your lyrics, who writes music? Is it a collective thing?

Brother (Lee): It’s collective. I mean I wrote most of the lyrics but there’s points where everybody will have input on everyone else’s stuff. It’s quite good actually because it keeps everything quite varied. As you know some songs sound completely different from others. But, I’ve written entire songs. Josh has written entire songs. Sam has. Even Frank has written guitar. Yeah, it’s quite collective. It works well.

L4E: So rehearsal room jamming about?

Brother (Lee): Yeah, yeah, very much so. We spend a lot of time working on our songs. We don’t really often go back to them. We have done a couple of times. But generally, we just do it all at once. Do we all like it… Yeah? Or no? It‘s toilet!

(Josh): Yeah we need to go all the way through and we’re like we’re not kidding anyone, fuck it let’s just scrap it or we keep it and it’s done.

(Sam): There were a few times when were writing and we would literally finish the song and we’d be like: OK, that’s done. And then we’d go: actually that’s really shit and we’d throw it away and just write another one and then that would be the one. You have to write a lot of bad songs before you find the good ones. It’s just having the confidence to say: That’s not right. And get rid of it. There’s no point in forcing songs out. They have to be perfect. Doesn’t matter how long it takes.

L4E: Lee, can we ask you about a quote we read that said you had written a song that is better than the all time classic Brit pop anthem Live Forever? We guess some blogs must have misquoted you?

Brother: (Lee) Oh my God! We have a song that’s called Electric Daydream and I just said that it could be as big if not bigger than the song Live Forever. It was just like, you know… We say things in jest, you know you’ve seen us live, you know what we’re like. You print that and it looks like something else. So…

Look, that’s one of the best songs of the last twenty years, but …I think ours is maybe one of the best songs of the next twenty years (grins) How about that? I’ll

play it for you after the interview.

L4E: Looking forward to hearing it, thanks! Before we get to the rapid-fire questions we had another serious one for you. Back when Oasis were touring the US the Gallagher’s were quoted in the press saying that they really didn’t care if the band broke the US or not. That was sort of hard to believe that they were happy being #1 everywhere else in the world but not here. How important is this for Brother as a band to gain US fans and to make it over here?

Brother (Frank): As important as in the UK I reckon. If not more.

(Lee) Yeah, you know when we started this band we didn’t just see ourselves in the UK or in like Asia or wherever. We saw ourselves in America as well. And we’re coming back to the States about six or seven times this year. You know, we’re touring the middle of it, playing to no one, we’re going to the west coast in a couple of weeks. It’s important.

(Frank): We want to put the work in because we want to reap the benefits, you know, of really doing it properly over here.

(Lee) Yeah we’re not gonna be egotistical and not play because were not as big as in the UK. We‘re gonna do it.

(Frank): It’s kind of cool for us coming over here because it’s literally like.. it’s kind of novelty like really genuinely starting over again because nobody knows who you are.

Not to say that we feel like we’ve made it in the UK because we’re only just beginning but it is quite refreshing to come back here and definitely have to start again. It really gives you a good sort of kick in the back to say like you know it’s hard work. It’s such hard work. You can see the top from the bottom and it’s definitely something we want to get to.

(Lee adds): And we’ll do it! We work our asses off.

L4E: What’s wrong with the music being played on British and American radio right now? Anything?

Brother (Lee) Umh, there’s nothing wrong with it. Actually, it does not speak to me. Although saying that it’s changing, especially in England, Radio 1 is playing some good stuff. It’s getting there.

(Frank): We never try to say that sort of like Electro and Pop music shouldn’t exist. I just personally think there is no reason it shouldn’t coexist with guitar music equally, as kind of dominant in the charts.

(Sam): We’d like to see more guitar bands back in the charts all over the world on a regular basis.

(Lee) It seems to be getting that way. Over here (US) the alternative stations seem to be pretty good.

L4E: And college stations

Brother (Lee): Yeah, yeah…

L4E: Do you get good support from DJ’s and stations over in the UK?

Brother (Lee): XFM is all over us. They’ve been really cool with us. Radio 1, pretty much.

(Sam): We met Dave Berry at one of our shows, very nice bloke. Very well dressed! He owns his own suit company, makes his own suits.

We are getting a lot of good stuff now. Zane Lowe, so yeah. Good stuff. Lovely and jubbly!

(Sam): Huw Stephens as well.

L4E: So, a little change of pace here. We’re going to name a few bands and we would like your thoughts in one word! Ok, Ready?

Mumford & Sons

Brother (Lee): Parody

L4E: Lady Gaga

Brother (Sam) Genius. (Lee) Important.

Laura Marling:

Brother (Lee): Nice!

L4E: The Vaccines

Brother: (A collective…) Fine.

L4E: Beady Eye

Brother (Lee): Interesting

L4E: Last One. Radiohead

Brother (Sam) Stellar. (Lee): Stellar is good. I’m happy with that! That was really good by the way! What we just did there was really good. I liked that!

L4E: Coming back to the album, which is out mid-July…

Brother (Lee): Yeah July 4th in the UK, July 5th over here, cos they come out on a Tuesday over here, don’t they?

L4E: Do we know most of the songs already; Time Machine, Darling Buds Of May, New Year’s Day, False Alarm, Still Here, Electric Daydream…

Brother (Frank): That’s most of them, yeah.

(Lee) The other side: Fly By Nights, High Street Low Lifes, that’s it, cos it’s a ten-track album. We kept it clean and short because we want to keep people’s attention, you know, get it down their throats.

(Josh): For a debut I’d want a short, direct album, I don’t want a long album.

(Frank): When I see an album with 17 tracks on, personally I’m a little bit put off. I think ‘surely these can’t all be good?’ Whereas if I pick up an album of 10 songs straight away I’m more attracted to it.

(Sam): I’d hate to be one of those bands where you find yourself like skipping to the next track before it’s finished.

L4E: How do you feel about The Vaccines having fourteen-minute sets at Austin?

Brother (Josh): I saw that actually, I didn’t see it in Austin. I saw it in London.

They’ve got some good songs I think; I just think it’s a bit too short. If I was paying eight or nine pounds to see a band I’d want to see them play at least over twenty minutes – it pisses people off though! I like that, cos they’re doing what they want, which is quite cool. It’s fucking territorial pissings isn’t it?!

(Lee): But you know, we play for fifteen, so it’s alright! Our set’s short, but we like that. We’re working on a set for the next tour, and it’s gonna be about 45 minutes, so it’s a bit better.

L4E: Speak to us a bit about these foreign films and these books that have started revolutions?

Brother (Lee): (Laughs) That’s just nonsense, it’s pure tongue-in-cheek. Yeah, if you heard me say it on stage you would get what we meant. We were just sick

of these people that pretend or try so hard to be someone different. Don’t bother, if that’s you fine, but don’t fake it. Like, people are weird enough anyway. You don’t need to try to be weird. You know like people from East London, like Shoreditch people, hipsters – people who are weird for the sake of being weird.

L4E: People just taking the piss basically?

Brother: Yeah, taking the piss, taking the piss out of ourselves. We’ve done it before.

L4E: Tell us about your paper, your broadsheet Acid Love. Have any fans got it yet?

Brother (Josh): We only printed a hundred of the first one. I think we just gave it to random people and labels and press and stuff. It’s just supposed to be basically a printed blog update, so to speak, on us.

We just wanted something a bit more personal – they can keep it can’t they, and have our thoughts and what we’ve been up to, different pictures.

(Frank): It’s like a collector’s item, something you can hold and look at.

(Lee): It’s out with Still Here – I think we’re giving it away with Still Here.

L4E: So the idea is not to get it with a single or with the album?

Brother (Frank): Not necessarily. We’ll probably give some away with the ‘Still Here’ single because we’re ready to give one away but it’s not like a monthly thing. When we have enough to fill one, we’ll give another one out. I think that’s always been the plan.

L4E: What’s the ultimate goal? What do you want to accomplish here, what are you here to do?

Brother (Lee): That’s a good question. The initial goal was to get out of Slough! But, I think what we seem to be doing is rather than working towards one big goal, is just setting ourselves small ones and just achieving them, because that way it never ends. There is no ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is we’re gonna be dead, you know, that’s the goal!

(Josh): Prove ourselves, We wanna live forever!! There you go!(laughs).

(Sam): No seriously, we all have it in the back of our minds that we wanna be one of those bands that goes down as ‘they were one of the best bands ever’.

(Lee): We’re not saying we’re innovators, we’re not saying we’re necessarily doing anything different, we’re just doing it for real reasons and writing good songs for ourselves.

(Frank): That is it, good songs, it’s not necessarily about ‘they were the greatest band of all time’, it’s more the songs take on a life of their own, cos we’ll all die, but I’d like our songs to last.

L4E: So if you make it big, huge…

Brother (Lee): …we will, I promise. I promise.

L4E: …OK. When. What will be on your riders? What’s your dream rider?

Brother: Well we’ve still got to ask for fresh pants and socks on every rider. Midgets, erm just a couple of Crunchies really…few beers, smoothies, a Lamborghini. (Frank): We’re gonna say four pairs of socks and three pairs of pants, I’ll leave that for you to work out!

L4E: Who is your biggest fan?

Brother (Josh): Probably Morrissey (laughs).

(Lee): Well he’s the most successful fan I think.

(Josh): Our biggest fan? I saw a bloke in the crowd. He was about eight foot tall!

(Lee): No, I tell you who it is. It’s this woman called Junko, and she’s Japanese. She flies all over, and she’s been to pretty much every gig…

L4E: …from Japan?

Brother: No, she lives in England. She’s originally from Japan, but she’s living in England at the moment. (Sam): We just turn up, and she’s already there before we get there. She just hangs around, watches the show, hangs around, buys us drinks, and she’s wonderful, really lovely. Yeah, she’s just like a friend now, she’s just become a friend.

L4E: So who gets the most tail?

Brother (Lee): Him (points to Sam…). Sam: I’ve recently become single…

L4E: Did that work out good in Texas?

Brother: Erm, no! There was a lot of wonderfully creative human beings in Texas on the female agenda.

L4E: Football fans?

Brother (Lee): Yeah! QPR. (Sam): QPR also. (Frank): Chelsea. (Josh): Portsmouth.

L4E: That’s all we have lads!

Brother: Thank you. That was fun. We really enjoyed that!

Check back with Live4ever  shortly for details on some exclusive Brother autographed giveaways!!

Brother @ SXSW 2011 Gallery

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All photos © Live4ever Media
Additional Photography: Liz Lomax

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