Jeff the Brotherhood smash their heads on the punk rock.
Jake Orrall, 26-year-old guitarist for Nashville duo Jeff the Brotherhood, is multitasking. Catching him at home in early January, he's juggling interviews while pulling vinyl together for a DJ set later that evening. His younger drummer brother, Jamin, is hanging out with him. And really, catching them in Nashville is a rarity.
"It's been pretty much incessant touring since 2009, when we put everything in storage and quit our jobs," Orrall declares.
The business of music is something they've known their whole lives. Their father, Robert Orrall, is a successful Nashville musician, songwriter and producer. Although a recording artist in his own right, in recent years he's been mostly making a living as a songwriter for country musicians like Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift and, er, Lindsay Lohan. Orrall recalls hearing a lot of '70s punk like The Clash when he was growing up, and the brothers definitely have music in their DNA.
"Where we grew up, there was only maybe one kid our age, and he had shot me with a BB gun, so we weren't friends," he laughs. "My brother was always there, so that's how the two-piece format started."
They moved to Nashville in their early teens and immersed themselves in the city's punk scene. While still in high school, both brothers played in Be Your Own Pet, a young group that gained international notoriety during its brief existence, and whose record their father produced.
Today they remain a two-piece for touring purposes, but the form is not dogma. "Not at all, in fact we just did an EP as a five-piece," Orrall says. "It's economic necessity for touring. It's really all we can afford."
As you might expect from a guy who DJs in the little "spare" time he has, Orrall is a self-professed "record nerd." His tastes range from the obvious ("my DJ set tonight will be mainly grunge and '90s pop") to modern disco and boogie funk ("I'm listening to a lot of stuff on the People's Potential Unlimited label, which reissues early '80s funk"). He laughs when he adds that "John Entwistle's first album, Smash Your Head Against the Wall, is also really kicking my ass right now."
Some of those influences are obvious on last year's full length We Are the Champions. It was summarized by a critic in The Onion's AV Club as "the best Weezer album in 15 years," but '90s pop and '70s hard rock like Iron Maiden are better touchstones for their primitive sound.
The brothers are also taking advantage of the week in Nashville before the Kills tour to start work on their next album, which will be co-produced by recent Nashville transplant Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, a guy who knows a thing or two about the guitar-drums setup.
"If I had to choose between being in the studio or playing live, I'd have to choose the studio," Orrall declares.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.