"Why do pipers march?" It's an age-old question that many will answer-- "To get away from that confounded noise!" But another reason may be a pounding back beat and lyrical melodies that capture the imagination and suddenly without notice consume you. The band BROTHER has put the question to rest. Hamish, Angus, Steve and Roel recently opened their latest tour with an all out romp at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, California. A couple of hours before the show I was lucky enough to meet the band and sit and discuss the "Brotherhood" of BROTHER. As we were escorted to the dressing room, the telltale signs of life on the road were abundant. A busy crew milling around, guitarist Steve Luxenberg on the floor entombed in a mummy sleeping bag and trying to steal every available moment of sleep and, finally, the sound of a crowd growing ever more anxious in anticipation of the band hitting the stage. In a few hours we would all get our wishes.
As BROTHER's manager, Leslie Clark, goes about the room introducing everyone, Angus greets us with an interesting observation, "There's a full moon tonight, it's a beautiful night for a show."
I hadn't noticed as I raced down the rain-soaked 5 Freeway to The Couch House. But with that tone in his voice, I knew he was right.
Let's begin with life in Australia, I start, your bio tells of the Richardson brothers growing up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, constantly surrounded by music. Music must have been a very important of your family.
As Angus settles into the couch he chuckles at my question, "Um, well it's not exactly like the middle of nowhere. The people of Bathurst would like to think it's not the middle of nowhere! We grew up about three hours west of Sydney over the Blue Mountains. And we had a strange musical upbringing. The family was musical and we all played different instruments growing up. I think that we were really musically isolated on the farm as well. We had no radio or anything so we just did our own thing. We learnt to be very stubborn in that regard."
"It was good for learning the bagpipes," Hamish jokes. "We could go out to the back and not bother anybody except for the cows."
So at some point you left the ranch for the big city, I suspect you left to find your way through your music. What was the music scene like 10 or 12 years back in the "Aussie country pubs"? Did you go into Sydney as well?
"We lived in Sydney for a few years," Angus explains. "We did the pub scene there. Right where Midnight Oil, Men at Work and INXS all cut their teeth. When we started, the scene was kind of drying up. Venues were closing and that was part of the reason we came to America. We wanted to give it a shot. Our manager at the time had an office over here and an apartment so he said, 'Come bunk up in my spare room' and so we decided to give it a go."
With a laugh Hamish interjects, "And plus we knew that Steve and Roel were waiting for us over here so."
"The boys were waiting?" Angus smirks.
"It was time to go!" Hamish replies.
Like most bands, I know that BROTHER has had its share of line-up changes. How long have the four of you been together?
"Roel is sort of the latest hitchhiker that we have picked up along the way. It's just sort of been an evolving process," says Hamish.
Angus adds, "This is certainly the most kick-ass solid lineup that I think we have had."
Hamish agrees, "Yeah, we had another brother in the band when we first came out. We have sort of lost a few people along the way. People got married and we lost a brother in Kansas. It's been very interesting evolution over the years. We're looking forward to getting out on the road and doing a lot of dates this year."
So tell me about the new tour, you're going out for the summer in support of your latest CD, how many dates are you going to do?
With a hint of nervous anticipation in his voice Angus replies, "A lot! A lot actually. Early summer all the way through October."
DaBelly became aware of BROTHER through one of our music critics, Xavienne. She reviewed your CD and was very impressed. She's one of our Canadian contributors and is very excited that your tour will take you all the way over to her hometown in Nova Scotia.
"Yeah, we haven't been back there since 1997. When we first went to Nova Scotia, we street performed as well," says Hamish.
BROTHERr's touring resume is impressive. They have amassed extensive mileage throughout North America playing most of the major festivals. Brother management has also acknowledged that they are interested in putting together a tour of Japan, as well as dates in Europe. This is good news for both the band and our international readers.
I really enjoy the way you incorporate ethnic instruments in your music-- your use of the didgeridoo rocks, are you incorporating traditional styles and techniques or is this your own thing?
"This is just something that we've done," Hamish explains. "It's as much, you know. Well you don't know and that's why you're asking. When we started playing it here in the streets it was because the pipes are rather loud and the didge attracts attention, but that's not just it. It's the overall approach. I mean with Roel and Steve. It's more of just a merging of sensibilities. It has really evolved."
When we first heard BROTHER, the combination of the instruments seemed unusual, but in listening to the CD, it's obvious that it all blends so well.
"Yes, it has definitely evolved over the years into something that is truly us, and increasingly so," Angus agrees.
I was impressed with the explanation offered by Angus. Not as much in the context of response given, but impressed by the realization that their use of ethnic instruments was something completely natural or without thought. They didn't choose the pipes and didgeridoo because they believed it offered them an edge or a point of recognition, in as much as they play these instruments because it's a part of their soul.
I am very aware of the history of Australia and it's involvement with Britain. Nonetheless a Celtic influence, especially one this strong, is not something that most Americans would expect to find in an Australian band. Can you explain your use of the pipes and Celtic melodies in your music?
"We started playing in pipes bands in high school," Angus responds. "We competed pretty vigorously in high school, so we have the traditional sensibility and as I said, it is similar to Canada. There are a lot of pipe bands there also, or more so than here. Although since we have been here, we have seen a real increase, not only in the number of people going to the clubs and festivals, but also with the standards of the pipers. I think what sets us apart from other Celtic rock bands is that we started as a rock band."
Hamish chimes in with his perspective, "We're just a rock band with Celtic influences. We don't really think of ourselves as a Celtic band. I think with our stuff you could take the pipes away and it would still translate; still work."
You are, in a sense, a true Indie band-- you're not signed to any label, but rather self-promoted, this is obviously your choice, have you considered looking for a deal?
"We have always been open to anything. We do what works best for us. At the moment, the independent route is closest to where we're going. But it's never say never for us. A deal would really have to enhance what we're doing." With a smile Angus admits, "The trouble with that is that none of the four of us really like being told what to do."
Angus posed the question to the rest of the band, "That would be kind of awkward wouldn't it? If we were offered a million dollar record deal, would we take it?"
"It would have to be the right kind of deal with the right label," Steve replies. "The people would really have to believe in the band. It couldn't just be another label that wants to suck you in and leave you hanging. It's more about the right deal for this band than it is about just finding a deal."
Roel elaborates, "I think we are in a position to be able to negotiate. I've had several record deals in the past and they have all ended in an ugly way. It's the nature of music and at the same time, the amounts of money that you're talking about you find yourself beholden to outside forces."
Once again, that band independence that Angus has hinted to has shown through.
For most bands the use of the Internet is very important, I would imagine that it has really benefited you being an independent band.
"I think that it's just about to benefit us," Angus says. "We haven't done a huge push towards it but we are certainly gearing up to it this year. The whole mp3 download thing is going to turn over. Like every band, we certainly feel we should be paid for our songs, but we would rather that corporations pay for it rather than our fans."
As I have mentioned, one of our music critics did a review of your latest CD, to put it modestly, she fell in love with you. Her enthusiasm is what led us to this interview tonight. From that review and my research for this interview I have notice two "trends" -- A. Completely dedicated almost ravenous fans and B. A lot of women. How did that come about?
Hamish laughs, "I don't know, but bless them."
With that the interview concluded. I was left with a better understanding of what this band is all about and a view of where they are going. Later that night as we were leaving The Coach House, I noticed that the rain had stopped and there was a full moon in the night sky. As Angus had mentioned, it was a beautiful night for a show. His wish came true. And our wishes came true too-- a kick-ass show and the beginning of another BROTHER tour.
Return to DaBelly