Jake and Jamin Orrall, the two brothers who form the rock band JEFF The Brotherhood, aren’t the kind of dudes who sat in the back of their high school math class launching spitballs or harassing the teacher. Nor are they the kind of dudes who dozed off during class.
They’re the kind of dudes who didn’t bother showing up at all, but not because they raged too hard the night before or because they were chugging beers at an afternoon kegger. They didn’t show up because they simply forgot it was a school day.
At least this is the impression I get after talking to vocalist-guitarist Jake (his younger brother Jamin plays drums) on the phone from his home in Nashville, and after listening to their new Warner Bros. release “Hypnotic Nights,” due out next Tuesday. It is the band’s seventh full-length album since they formed just over 10 years ago.
“There’s no calculation behind any of it," said Jake about "Hypnotic Nights." "It's all just pretty heavy guitars, pretty grungy and stuff.”
“I don't really believe in trying to write good or meaningful lyrics, because it's fucking rock’n’roll, you know? Who cares?"
Like much of JEFF The Brotherhood’s extensive back catalog, the new album sounds as if it was written by two guys who locked themselves in a room for five years, listening to lots of Ramones and Weezer records. In other words: big drums, bigger guitars and an unabashed glorification of slackerdom.
But Jake and Jamin only seem like slackers; it’s an illusion. The truth is that they’re everything but.
The brothers got their first taste of the music industry at an early age. Their father, Robert Ellis Orrall, is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter and producer who worked with country artists like Reba McEntire, Shenandoah and Taylor Swift. By observing their father’s career, they mostly learned what they didn’t want for themselves.
“We saw a lot of unfair things go down,” Jake said. “We learned a lot about what we weren't interested in doing as musicians. We didn't want to be involved in any of that. It made us turn toward punk instead.”
Learning from their father also led the Orall brothers to launch their own label while they were still in high school. (Correction: They didn’t skip class because they were lazy, but because they were running a label.) On the label, Infinity Cat, Jake and Jamin released many of JEFF The Brotherhood’s first albums (recent additions to the label include fellow Nashville bands like Heavy Cream and Natural Child). They also briefly played in the punk-ish band Be Your Own Pet but began taking JEFF The Brotherhood more seriously after the critically-acclaimed album "Heavy Days" in 2009.
There’s no denying their strong work ethic -- it's what caught the attention of Jack White, who released a live EP by the band last year on his Third Man Records label. But JEFF The Brotherhood's number one priority is having fun. And, well, slacking.
In the video for the new song “Sixpack,” Jake, Jamin and a bunch of their friends take a trip to a lake, where they drink canned beers and pass around a bottle of whiskey while paddling around in drunken boats.
“It’s pretty hot out, it’s only 15 miles,” sings Jake. “I wanna cool out, and get wasted.”
“It's all kinda like bullshit,” he says about his songwriting. “I don't really believe in trying to write good or meaningful lyrics, because it's fucking rock ’n’ roll, you know? Who cares? Most rock songs are either about girls or cars. I try not to think about it too much and just write words that sound good or cool.”
It’s a combination that has worked for them so far, but “Hypnotic Nights” takes it one step further with its brazenly single-minded lyrics (Party Hard!) and wilder, more rambunctious sound. The sonic improvement likely has something to do with the album’s producer, Dan Auerbach, frontman for the Black Keys, another two-piece rock band.
“We mostly just made fun of each other and looked at pictures on the Internet,” Jake says about working in the studio with Auerbach. “We did a lot of web surfing together, mostly looking at motorcycles and YouTube vids.”
Distracted by his glorious memories of slacking off in the studio, he forgot to mention that they also made a solid rock ’n’ roll album.
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