As growing boys with healthy appetites for rock, Nashville siblings Jake and Jamin Orrall formed Jeff the Brotherhood in their early teens. Schooled by classic rock and psych, but mostly interested in punk, they messed around with instruments after class and on weekends.
Nonplussed by day jobs they drove off into the night, landing gigs in “basements and backyard sheds,” then later, The Bowery Ballroom. After several self-released LPs, a live record, and a few stray singles, finally — at long last — Warner Records came calling.
Teaming with golden-touch producer Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Jeff’s Hypnotic Nights EP is fuzzy, feel-good and overall, pretty fine. And though it’s true it’s a record that will “heighten your senses,” our chat with Jamin had us craning our ears. Despite being a musician used to rocking out loud, it seems that when it comes to talking, he prefers to keep things quiet.
So, you’re Jamin, your brother is Jake…Who’s Jeff?
Oh, that’s just a name we pulled out of a hat.
You and your brother grew up with music, is that right?
Yeah, we started playing together when we were pretty young.We kinda just messed around.
What were the first songs you played?
Hmmm, let me think…The Doctor Pepper Blues Band. I wanted to learn a couple of their songs.
And you officially formed the band in high school?
Before high school actually. But nothing really ever happened with it until maybe a couple years ago.
And what finally made things happen, do you think?
We started actually trying…
(laughs) That’s it, huh?
Well…no. But things just didn’t start happening. We had to make a conscious decision to work at it and work to get people to know who we were.
And by trying, you mean taking the ‘all or nothing approach,’ right?
Yep. We quit our jobs and hit the road.
Was it scary for you to take that leap of faith?
It wasn’t too scary. We were pretty young and knew we could always find another job.
Tell me how you came to work with Dan Auerbach on Hypnotic Nights.
He mentioned to our manager that he liked our stuff and wanted to know if we’d come and do a song or two at his studio. We went, and it just all worked out.
How did that impact the two of you to finally work with a producer this time around?
It does change things, for sure, but not as much as I thought it would. We produced all our other records so having a third person involved made us see things from a perspective we never would’ve before. He’s fun to hang out with.
I’ve talked with a couple bands now that have worked with Dan, including Hacienda, and they say that he’s there to help them along but he’s not putting anyone through a ‘Dan Auerbach’ machine.
No, not at all. He was all about letting us do our thing and only stepped in when we needed him.
So you’d made several albums before Hypnotic Nights and toured like mad. On the verge of signing to Warner and hooking up with someone renowned like Dan, did the two of you have ‘the conversation’ about what you would and would not be willing to change about yourselves?
We’ve always taken things as they comes; one thing at a time. The concept of a band ‘selling out’ isn’t really relevant anymore – at least not for us — because we’ve never had any rules or guidelines for the band. We never set out to be ‘DIY’, it was just our only option.
I just watched an interview on Noisy with you and Jake and Dan. What I found most compelling was the text message Jake read from your Dad about the desk set at your Nana and Baba’s…
(laughs) Yeah, that was funny…
What I want to know is, what’s behind the name, ‘Baba?’ My daughter has also recently started calling her granddad that.
I don’t know why I started calling him that…Maybe its just baby talk? That’s what it sounds like when you say it.
So what do Nana and Baba and your Mom and Dad think of Jeff the Brotherhood?
They’re very proud of us because we’re doing something that makes us happy and something that what we wanted to do.
It must be pretty great to work with your brother.
Yeah, it is. We work really well together.
What’s a Jeff the Brotherhood live show like?
It’s usually Jake and I playing our songs louder and faster and more freaked-out than when we’re jamming…and drinking a lot.
And how do you motivate yourself to play the same stuff night after night?
We change stuff up every night. Sometimes we do set lists but then we end up not following them. If it starts feeling old sometimes, we just try something else.
Do you ever do covers or alternate versions of your own songs?
Definitely; we try to make the live show sound different than the records.
And when you’re not on stage, and you’re at home, hanging out with a few beers, what songs do you like to listen to?
We don’t hang out very much when we’re back in town. We listen to pretty different music.
Well, let me say that I loved the Sixpack video. Have you worked on any others since?
Yeah, we finished working on one pretty recently for Leave Me Out with our friend, Jenn Uman.
And now what? What’s on the agenda in the next few months?
More touring.We’re in Europe for a few weeks then we have a bunch of stuff back over here in the Fall.
Hypnotic Nights is available now via the band’s official website.
Jeff the Brotherhood Fall 2012 Tour Dates
10/05 Albuquerque, NM
10/06 Tempe, AZ
10/07 San Diego, CA
10/09 Los Angeles, CA
10/10 Visalia, CA
10/11 San Francisco, CA
10/13 Portland, OR
10/14 Seattle, WA
10/16 San Jose, CA
10/17 Santa Barbara, CA
10/19 Long Beach, CA
10/22 Austin, TX
10/23 Dallas, TX
10/24 Little Rock, AR
11/15 St. Louis, MO
11/16 Cincinnati, OH
11/17 Detroit, MI
11/19 Chicago, IL
11/21 Cleveland, OH
11/23 Philadelphia, PA
11/24 Washington, DC
11/28 Boston, MA