There’s a chance that JEFF The Brotherhood may have escaped your radar. The Nashville-based duo, consisting of brothers Jake on vocals/guitar and Jamin Orrall on drums, are quite possibly one of the hardest working bands in rock; their fifteen years in the game showing them both the good and bad sides of this fickle industry, which has left them “pretty jaded”, according to Jake.
“[The] Warners deal kinda really killed us,” Jamin explains. “The height of our trajectory was right as we signed to Warner Bros and then they basically kept us from releasing or touring an album for two years.” Their eventual parting of ways gave the Brotherhood back their spark, allowing them to push through the hard times – as shown in a Facebook message posted back in February 2015:
“We, JEFF The Brotherhood, are SO FUCKING PLEASED to announce that we have been DROPPED from the clutches of the demented vulture that is Warner Bros! We feel as though a heavy weight has been lifted from our shoulders, and could not be more excited.”
Why sign to a major in the first place? “We weren’t signing with Warner Bros looking for artistic freedom that’s for sure,” they laugh. “Mostly money.” The duo are more than aware of the first rule of business: “A lot of it’s just whoever the really rich people in the music industry have a crush on at the time,” Jake laments. If given the chance to go back, they’d have done the same thing. “We knew what we were getting into, we also don’t plan on doing this forever… we wouldn’t have done it a different way.”
Speaking about the band’s life and career, Jake opens up about their musical output thus far – a smorgasbord of the weird and alternative. “We used to try and do like a punk album, then a weird psyche album, then a grunge album.” He continues on to the first release after the Warner ordeal. “We did ‘Wasted On A Dream’, which was like our big radio rock album.”
This year saw them release their eleventh record, ‘Zone’, which is a collective favourite. The brothers both attribute this to the fact that it’s “kind of a summary in a lot of ways”, that saw them get into “a lot of different areas that we’ve explored in-depth,” Jamin reasons, as Jake continues: “It was unintentional, but it felt really good to make.”
‘Zone’ certainly covers all of the bases if you’re new to JEFF The Brotherhood. Their back catalogue ranges from expansive psychedelia, power pop and garage. With such an expansive and lengthy discography, they’re wary of trying to repeat glories of past – a trap that Jake is more than aware of. “Creatively we’ll probably never really peak,” he says, “I think maybe we’ve plateaued? That’s the thing about being in a band, though!”
These guys know exactly what they’re doing, and even have an idea of when they’d like to wrap things up – though admittedly “it’s not anytime soon, it’ll be a while. We have a time but we can’t really talk about it because it could affect business relations.” Jamin continues: “We’ve been able to live off [the band] since 2010 or 11, but we did spend thirteen months living in the van, if you can call that living off it!”
“Bands that keep putting albums out forever, like Melvins, they always get popular, then they’re not so popular,” Jake muses. “Our career has always been like that. And I don’t even really know, I guess we’re in a bit of truth right now. Maybe there’s another crest in sight? We’re not the kind of band that makes one album and then blows up and then makes a second album and everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, fuck that’ and then break up.”
“As far as being in like a cool/hip band that has buzz and stuff, we peaked a long time ago,” Jamin laughs.
“We played less than a year ago in London and we sold more tickets than this venue can hold,” Jake continues, referencing that evening’s gig at the Borderline. “We wouldn’t be surprised if there were 50 people at the show.”
“It could be nobody at the show tonight, or it could be sold out,” adds Jamin. “That’s kind of how we operate.”
On stage however, the brothers charm every member of the audience. It’s testament to the longevity of the band through extensive touring and seducing a hardcore set of fans; the key part of The Brotherhood’s ethos is simple, as Jamin reveals with more laughter: “We just have low expectations.” No rock star dispositions or false identities, they come as they are and have done so for fifteen-plus years.
The band who came, saw, and nearly conquered, JEFF The Brotherhood are a hidden gem if ever there were one. From starting their own label, Infinity Cat Recordings, with which they release not only their own singles and albums but also support the burgeoning scene in Nashville with the likes of Diarrhea Planet and Music Band; they’ve even had the chance to play on a floating barge in Hawaii.
The Brothers Orrall may certainly have a blunt view of the industry, but as Jamin explains: “[It’s] not that we’re not grateful, it’s just been so long, it feels totally… normal.”
JEFF The Brotherhood’s album ‘Zone’ is out now.