by James Hendicott
Already stood staunchly at the head of a scene dubbed ‘Brit Pop revival’ (well, they do say music is cyclical), Slough four-piece Brother have yet to release an album, but you wouldn’t know it. Already – somewhat ironically – slammed for their arrogance by NME and blooded into that traditional Brit Pop pastime of a spat with Liam Gallagher, the Slough natives have no doubt in their own minds that the only way is up. A long, long way up. They’re not afraid to tell us about it, either.
“We recorded the album back in January”, front man Lee tells us, “and it went amazingly well, we’re really proud of it. It was a fantastic effort from me, the boys and Stephen (Street, producer)”.
Street was a particularly spectacular catch for the band, having already notched up The Smiths, Blur, Pete Doherty, The Cranberries and Kaiser Chiefs on his impressive production résumé. He might be the best thing to happen to Brither’s career. In typical cocksure style, though, the band is keen to emphasize their allure to Street:
“He actually came to us. He heard us on the radio and got in touch. It’s not bad is it? In fact it’s ludicrous, amazing. But yeah, the album’s a lot like the singles, except a bit more out there, a bit more extreme. It’s a lot about where we come from, Slough, which is just west of London. It’s a small industrial town that we felt held us back. The album’s about breaking out and making something of ourselves. It’s got The Arctic Monkey’s regional elements, but musically it’s a bit more sonically varied, more like Blur. At times, though, the album sounds like anything from The Chemical Brothers to The Smiths. It’s quite extraordinary”.
The cracks in bands like Brother often appear fairly early on. Oasis were notorious for their infighting, and the members of Blur weren’t exactly renowned for their behind-the-scenes harmony. Brother, though “are incredibly close. We write everything mutually, I don’t think we can exist if even one of us left. We’re volatile, but we’re also very good friends. Maybe watch this space. Maybe we’ll break up tomorrow, maybe we’ll keep going for the next ten years. If we fell apart, I’d be a tattoo artist. I have loads, and it’s something I’ve started doing over the last few years. Some very generous friends let me try it on them”.
The ‘Brit Pop revival’ tag is something the band is keen to avoid, at least to an extent. “I find it hilarious”, Lee explains, “that’s why we invented our own genre, ‘Gritpop’, it’s a bit of a middle finger to those people. But I don’t really care that much what people call it, as long as they listen to it. It’s something the charts need; there’s not enough guitar music in the charts right now. I can’t deal with all that trash like Jessie J. It’s just total trash; horrible, horrible faceless music. Some bloke writes it in a room somewhere, and some weird puppet sings it, dressed in meat, or whatever it is they wear these days”.
Lee is inarguably outspoken, but the arrogance tag is something he’s not all that concerned about. Still, he does feel he’s a touch misunderstood: “I think people get the wrong end of the stick with me a little bit. Our music is much more serious than we are. We’re a serious band but that doesn’t mean we’re serious people. And I do think we’re a great band, I think we’re going to do some amazing things. That doesn’t make me a bad person. There should be a color-coded part of the English language, where when people get angry it turns red, or when people are being sarcastic it turns gray.”
“We’re not just like that, though. Really, we’ve only been around in public for a few months. We’ve been writing and recording for a few years in private. But it’s gone from nothing to everything all at once. I haven’t had a chance to sit back and think how lucky I am. It’s been a wild ride. We’ve already done everything a big band should do, except sell records. Let’s see what happens when we put the album out. Top five. Top one, we hope.”
Living up to another of those great of Brit Pop traditions they’re so keen to evade, Brother aren’t exactly known for their sobriety. Numerous old interviews reference the band’s hungover state. Lee describes their tours as “getting on it, pretty much every night”, and argues that “I can hardly claim that we’re not a party band. We’ve been at it for three months, and right now I feel rotten. We literally can’t resist. We’re like kids in a candy shop. I scarred my head in an absinthe bar the other day. All in the name of rock and roll”
One of Lee’s most notable interview quotes is a rant against download culture. “It’s talked about so much that I don’t really see the point anymore” the singer tells us. “On the plus side, people are seeing more live shows now. But there’s no money in records anymore. All of our shows minus a couple have been sold out, and ten years ago that wouldn’t have happened to a new band, so the Internet’s a bit of a double-edged sword, but I hate downloading. Even legally. I do it, but I’d much rather have a vinyl or a CD. The album is a piece of art in itself. It’s important in the age we live in that every song stands up in its own right, because unfortunately that’s how people listen to them. The album as a flowing idea is far less important than it used to be.”
It’s not only the album image that’s important, but that of the band, too: “We don’t really think about it that much, we take it as it comes. But yeah, we like to look good, and look like a band. Who knows, the next album we might grow long beards and play sitar music. Nothing like Mumford and Sons, though, more like John Lennon. Maybe.”
Put the best and worst case scenarios to Lee, and for once, he’s stumped. After a moment’s contemplation, he says “failure for us is literally not an option. We just don’t think about it fucking up. I guess the worst thing that could happen is I lose my arms, and QPR don’t get promoted. We prefer the best-case scenario: stadium headliners come the end of the year”. The reality, in all probability, will fall somewhere in between: there’s rarely been a band that’s more divisive, especially one that’s yet to put an album out. Lee, you’re a brave man.
Love it or hate it? Brother’s outlook on the world:
Pete Doherty: “We’ll go love him. Well I don’t hate him. He’s a classic rock star. And a junkie, but a classic rock star.”
Lady Gaga: “Yep, love her. Genius. I think her music is absolutely bollocks, but I love everything she’s about. She’s a natural pop star, who does things her own way. That’s completely what we’re about, as well. The music’s the only downfall”.
Oasis and Blur: “Always Blur. Liam Gallagher slagged us a bit, but I didn’t want to get involved. There’s just no point. I couldn’t deal with all his little fan boys having a go at me, I’ve got better things to do with my time. But he’s written… well, not written, but sung on some great songs, and I respect him, no matter what he says. But they ain’t his words, I can tell you that. Blur, though, are our heroes.”
Music journalists: “Love ‘em. They’re equally as snide and as vicious as I am. In that respect, I love ‘em. For a band like us, they’re integral. We’re a band that has an opinion and aren’t afraid to put our heads on the chopping block, which I feel like we do, constantly. They’re really important. If someone gives me a copy of a magazine, I’ll read it, cringe and then put it back on the table”.
The Internet and music: “It’s really important to us. Wow, there’s hardly any hate in there. That’s a change!”
Brother play The Academy 2 on the 19th of April 2011. Lee has one message for the crowd: “take me out”. Time to get the Guinness ready…