Name: JEFF The Brotherhood
Progress Report: Jamin Orrall talks about Hypnotic Nights, major labels, and the tour that never ends.
JEFF The Brotherhood — AKA the two-man party machine consisting of brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall — just released their seventh album (Hypnotic Nights) and embarked on what will basically be an endless tour of the world. Though the endless touring is nothing new for the Orrall brothers, who have basically built a career out of playing nonstop shows for the past decade, things have definitely changed. For their new album, the duo enlisted the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach as a producer and will release the album in partnership with Warner Bros, two moves that should help them expand their fanbase dramatically. Longtime fans of the bands of the Brotherhood needn’t worry too much about the band getting too fancy though. According to Jamin Orrall, the business of making records and playing shows is still mostly just an excuse to hang out and drink beer. When it stops being fun, they’ll quit.
STEREOGUM: Hypnotic Nights is the first record you guys worked on with an outside producer. Why now? And how was the experience of working with Dan?
ORRALL: I don’t think we were waiting for a right time to work with a producer. It’s the first time someone has come to us and offered, as a producer, so I think that was a big part of it. We’ve never been like “Let’s get a producer” and gone after and found someone. But Dan came to us and said he’d be into working with us, and wanted us to come to a studio and record. So we were like “Well, if he’s excited about it, might as well try it out, cause it could be fun.” And it was really fun. I thought it was going to be a lot different but it wasn’t really.
STEREOGUM: The actual role that a producer plays with a band can be very ambiguous, depending on the producer and what the band wants/needs.
ORRALL: I was kind of anxious up until the recording sessions because when he told us he wanted to work with us we went by his studio to check it out … and half the reason we did it was because we liked his studio so much. We didn’t really know him when we went in — we’d just met him a couple of times. I was just worried, “Oh it’s going to be awful” cause I’d heard so many horror stories about producers. But it was totally enjoyable and productive and fun. It didn’t really feel that different than when Jake and I just go in. It was just one more head there. Just someone there that would give us ideas and help us if we wanted it.
STEREOGUM: Production-wise, does he have a fancy studio?
ORRALL: Define fancy.
STEREOGUM: I just assume from what I know about him that he would have a bunch of amazing old gear.
ORRALL: Yes, if you mean old and amazing, then yes. He has a lot of old and amazing gear and it’s just a really great room. We got really cool sounds out of there.
STEREOGUM: How long did it take?
ORRALL: I think it took seven or eight days. Which was really cool because we’ve never been in a studio for more than three or four days.
STEREOGUM: Really? For a lot of bands, seven or eight days is nothing.
ORRALL: I think bands going into the studio for a month at a time is too long. Unless they’re writing in the studio but I think that’s a waste of money.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, that is a waste of time, I think. If you have your own studio it’s one thing.
ORRALL: Just have your shit ready to go before you get there, you know?
STEREOGUM: Well how did you guys work in the past? You would just have the songs and go in and bang em out as fast as possible?
ORRALL: Pretty much. We would just have the songs and then be like “Alright, this person said we could come in the studio really cheap for like two days or three days.” This was a lot more comfortable than that. I mean it’s exciting too to go in just for three days but it creates some limitations. It’s really nice to be able to hang out for a week and have time to just try things.
STEREOGUM: You are on the road now. I get the impression that you guys tour constantly.
ORRALL: Yeah, we tour constantly. Lately we’ve been having like one or two weeks off at a time between tours. Obviously we haven’t been going into the studio since we just made a record. With this record, we kind of realized that we’d been touring too much on our last one. We didn’t have any new songs because we’d been touring constantly. We just started going over to Jake’s house two or three times a week until we had a bunch of songs. When we went in I think we were doing the same thing we normally do –the first two days we were just like banging through it. I think we had all of the guitar and drum instrumental tracks — all the tracks without vocals — in the first two days, because that was the way we were used to working. I think we asked him, like, “Should we maybe work on some of these before we finish recording all the tracks?” He was just like “if you’re comfortable with it, keep banging it out and we’ll work on them later.”
STEREOGUM: If it’s what works then why fuck with it?
ORRALL: Exactly. And then we had all those extras days to put other shit on em and try other stuff and mess with things and grill out and drink beer.
STEREOGUM: How do you guys normally write songs? Do the songs come out of jamming together or do you write separately?
ORRALL: Both. A lot of stuff starts from just getting them together and riffing and playing. This record had a couple more songs that Jake wrote by himself and we arranged it and flushed it out together. In the past there’ve been songs where I’ve written the whole thing but lately I haven’t done that. We don’t have any rules or methods that we go by.
STEREOGUM: That’s probably for the best.
ORRALL: We don’t have any rules in the band, period.
STEREOGUM: Hypnotic Nights came out on a major label. How did that come to be?
ORRALL: Right before We Are The Champions came out we were getting a lot of interest from different labels, which was exciting, but at the same time we were doing everything ourselves. We were putting out a record and making money off of it and getting attention and even though there were a lot of indie labels coming to us and it didn’t seem like any of them were offering anything much more than what we were doing on our own. Then all of a sudden Warner Brothers came to us and sort of followed us around for a year and kept trying to get us to talk to them. Eventually Jake and I talked about where we wanted to go with the band and how we wanted to get there. The other thing was that they were the only label that was offering something more than what we were already doing ourselves, mostly because their team is so big and they have so much money behind them. And they were also the only label out of all those labels that still wanted to involve Infinity Cat, our label. They were really into what we were already doing, so they let us put out 7″ releases and let us put out tapes and stuff. It seemed like the best idea at the time. It’s working out so far. If it doesn’t work out we’ll just stop or break up or something.
STEREOGUM: You’ve been doing this for a while — longer than a lot of people probably realize. Are you surprised at the success of the band?
ORRALL: it’s totally surprising. Many times it’s shocking.
STEREOGUM: Did you and your brother always think that you’d play music together or was it one of those things that just sort of happened and you decided to keep running with it?
ORRALL: We’ve always done it. We’ve always felt really comfortable doing it. I just never really thought I’d be living off of it or that we’d get success. Thing is, we’ve been doing it for a really long time but we only tried to get people to hear our band in the last four years. Before that it was just something we did for fun all the time. We’d been doing it for so long that it was just something we did. And four years ago was when we decided we were going to really try to make this something bigger and start putting more work into it and make it be our jobs.
STEREOGUM: So when you make that decision, what do you do differently? Do you try to get a booking agent?
ORRALL: When we made that decision we both quit our jobs and moved out of our houses, put our stuff in storage, and just started booking shows through friends, and booking as many shows as possible in New York until we got a booking agent. And after four or five months, we got a booking agent, and then we just told him to keep us on tour indefinitely. And then we did that for the next two years, and after two years we were making enough money to get places to live again.
STEREOGUM: I feel like that’s a more natural way of doing it. It’s not like you put out one single and everybody loved it. I feel like a lot of bands really suffer for that sort of thing. When you put in the time of booking your own tours and playing your own shows, you sort of organically make a fan base of people who like you.
ORRALL: Also I think if you really really want to play music and make it into something bigger than just playing music, you have to push everything else in your life aside and really just focus it. I think most people don’t do that.
STEREOGUM: It does really require a leap at some point. Like, you do have to quit your job at some point if you’re going to really make it happen. Are you currently on a tour that will last forever?
ORRALL: Yes. USA, Europe, Australia. We have a lot of stuff.
STEREOGUM: That’s cool. I wanted to mention that I love the video for “Sixpack.” Did you guys make it somewhere around where you live, around Nashville?
ORRALL: It was kind of funny. It was really easy to make. Where we shot it in Piney River — just us and all of our friends — it’s a place we go to all of the time. It’s just what a lot of people here do, we go canoeing in the Piney. We’ve always done it, so all we did was just call up friends and say “Hey, we’re going canoeing in the Piney this weekend and we’re going to film it.” Our friends brought a camera and shot the whole thing.
STEREOGUM: I grew up in Oklahoma. We didn’t have rivers but we went to the lake in the summer. Same thing.
ORRALL: Same kinda thing. It’s funny because I remember thinking about it when we were talking about what we wanted to do for the video for the song. That’s what the song’s about, it’s about going canoeing, and I was like well maybe we should just everyone together and go canoeing and hang out and party. It doesn’t need to be that complicated, right? At first I was like “Huh, this seems kind of boring, since we always do that in the summer,” but then I realized that most people have never done that, don’t even know what that is. A lot of people are like “Is this place real?”
Hypnotic Nights is out now on Warner Bros.