JEFF the Brotherhood is another example of a minor trend over the past dozen years or so: the emergence of kick-ass 2-piece bands. Ghostland Observatory, Lightning Bolt, and Death from above 1979 are just a few of the long list of dynamite duos. JEFF the Brotherhood has been one band that has come through and torn its own path. They’re a guitar/drum kit brother-band who know how to rock your face off, but neither of them carry the name Jeff.
Already 6 albums deep, the punk/pop/grunge/rock amalgamation throw out their latest effort with Hypnotic Nights. The album marks the band’s first foray into big production having been produced by fellow 2-piece legend, The Black Keys‘ Dan Auerbach. With Auerbach at the board and brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall heading the charge, this heavy front of “rawk” songs shows off its stripes in short time. Here’s my Song by Song Review of the album.
The album opens with “Country Life,” a sludgy guitar movement backed by loose drum work and lackadaisical lyricism. Keys in the chorus and synths during the verse give the track some unexpected color that sets a nice tone for album’s intro.
“Sixpack” follows and is the album’s first single. More detached lyricism centered in a youthful vein explores common slop-rock themes like partying, young adult socializing, drinking, and not giving a fuck. The song perfectly doubles as the album’s manifesto in its messy, seemingly thrown together, yet the piece still has an ear worm of a melody buried in between the broken chords that smacks you in the face and leaves you wanting to come back for more.
Coming off the summer heat of “Sixpack,” “Mystic Portal II” delivers a softer rock/pop cut that is still cluttered with the duo’s preference for grit around the edges. Major chords and optimistic harmonies roll over fuzzed out guitar and a straightforward 4/4 beat. After a verse and a chorus and a verse and a chorus the track escapes into another world with well placed sitar work that holds the frame of the piece for a satiating 30 seconds before handing the reigns back to guitar which closes the song.Then the punk starts. “Hypnotic Mind” is a dark yet Pop-y song that references melodies and themes often carried by 90′s alternative rock. The song’s bridge adds the first flair of dissonance to the messy but still inoffensive collection of raw songs. The return to the chorus brings the album’s charm into full view by exposing the yin and yang the duo balances between a punk attitude and a pop aesthetic.
“Wood Ox” starts slow and low before bringing in a solid beat and layered acoustic instrumentation. The guitar’s harmonies grow in complexity and touch on minor keys bringing to mind prog rock melodies of years past. Vocals come in and the fuzz kicks off. JTB employ their use of dirt paired with a memorable melody yet again. Catchy strings of notes cover the track riding on top of over-driven chords and a solid straightforward beat.
A personal favorite was found with “Staring At The Wall.” Where as “Mystic Portal II” or “Wood Ox” are slower paced and show more of the artistic vibes of the band, “Staring at The Wall” is a thrash punk anthem holding the center of the album ably. Loose angst is delivered haphazardly in between well-timed guitar slides and an echo-y, spacious bridge.
“Leave Me Out” bathes in the grunge flourishes of yesteryear. The track opens with Jake sing talking over angsty chords immediately bringing to mind Nirvana classics like “Polly” or “All Apologies.” After a very JTB verse/chorus, the bridge breaks out with harmonic guitar work and another helping of dissonance. Another verse follows before dissolving into guitar feedback to close the song.
Next in line is “Region of Fire,” another cut of slower pace that features the sitar as well. ”Region of Fire” is a great exposition of the bands charm; they know their music theory and how to expertly reference music of the past, But the real kicker is their bank of knowledge backed by their less-than-delivered musicianship. Each song has vocal inconsistencies or a drum hit or two that isn’t timed perfectly and the juxtaposition of the concept to their delivery makes for a sense of I-Know-My-Music-Could-Be-Great-But-I-Really-Don’t-Care vibe that seems to epitomize punk art.
“Hypnotic Winter” is a drone-y pop track that follows in the footsteps of half a dozen cuts already heard on the release. Catchy melodies lie on thick guitars with the occasional synth line popping in to break the monotony. Its short and pleasant, gives you enough to hold onto, and ends before it gets boring.
Although “Dark Energy” sounds like the album closer, it only teases towards the actual last cut. Down-trodden and dense, the four on the floor beat is complemented by organ work and what has fastly become familiar vocal and axe exercises for singer/guitarist Jake Orrall.
Jeff The Brotherhood closes their 7th album with their own rendition of Ozzie Osborne’s “Changes.” The throwback cover opens with some sexy detuned analog synth work and vocals presented through echoing filters. Arpeggiated square waves lightly tap through the back of the track which eventually explodes into a bridge of Mellotron/vocalese texture. Eventually the final chorus returns before the track closes atop layered vocal decorations. It’s sad that the album’s most experimental cut is a cover and could come across as a joke, but its nice to find some excuse for the brothers Orrall to stretch their legs and get weird.
Hypnotic Nights may not be groundbreaking or absolutely necessary to any record collection, but the charm that hides in between the cracks left from the broken beats and messy guitar is the perfect amount to indulge in if you are enamoured with the musical aesthetic from the 90′s. Pick this one up if you like punk, grunge, alternative rock, or drinking. the album will be released tomorrow July 17th, until then check out the Hypnotic Nights EP
The best rock ’n’ roll, the kind that gets under your skin and makes all your senses heighten, is simple and comprised of hard work and unrelenting passion—all of which JEFF The Brotherhood. JEFF The Brotherhood embody and exemplify on their Warner Bros. Records debut LP, Hypnotic Nights. Brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall have been playing together since they were little kids and formed the group when they were in high school. The boys grew up with a voracious appetite for any music they could get their hands on.
The band incorporates a DIY ethos in everything they do, including their raucous live shows. JEFF have been touring tirelessly for the past 10 years, playing any and all conceivable venues—from basements and backyard sheds to Bonnaroo and The Bowery Ballroom. The duo clocked in over 400 shows in the past two years alone and have shared bills with Best Coast, Fucked Up, Pentagram, The Kills, The Greenhornes and more.
When it comes to creating their desired sound, JEFF believes that less is more. This idea is reflected in Jake’s decision to play a guitar with only three strings. Jake explains, “When we started the band, I didn’t know how to play guitar,” he remembers, “I thought, in order to teach myself, it would be easier to play if I simplified it. I started with two strings, but you can’t really play any chords that way, so I added a third string [which added] this interesting limitation that forced me to create my own style and approach to the instrument.”
These musical intricacies all come together on Hypnotic Nights, which was co-produced by Jake, Jamin and musician/producer Dan Auerbach (Dr. John, The Ettes). The album was recorded in Nashville at Dan’s Easy Eye Sound Studio in early 2012. JEFF entered the studio focused and prepared with a clear vision for the album they wanted to make, completing Hypnotic Nights in only one week. For any other band, completing an album in seven days would seem like a challenging feat, but for JEFF those seven days felt like a luxury when compared to the amount of time spent on making 2009’s Heavy Days and 2011’s We are The Champions, which were released on the band’s own label Infinity Cat Recordings. Each took only three days to make.
“We’ve never worked with a producer before, so this was the first time we’d ever had any outside input,” says Jamin. “It was Dan’s first co-production, too, and it really worked. He just hung out, let us do our thing and helped when we needed it.” Adds Jake, “We write songs without anyone else in mind, so Dan brought in this idea of, ‘Well, you guys do what you do and I’ll present it so everyone else will understand.’”
The result is Hypnotic Nights, an album that uniquely blends elements of indie, punk, garage, and psychedelic rock. The first single, “Sixpack,” is a fuzzed-out rocker driven by reverb-heavy riffs and propulsive drumbeats. Songs like “Leave Me Out” and “Dark Energy” venture into new musical territory for JEFF, but the band isn’t afraid of experimentation. After all, it’s this imagination and ingenuity that makes Dan Auerbach plainly say, “JEFF The Brotherhood are the next big name in showbiz.”
In the end, Jake and Jamin just want to write great songs, play great shows and inspire fans to rock along with them. For JEFF The Brotherhood, blood is thicker than water—and music runs through the band’s veins.