JEFF the Brotherhood w/ Uncle Bad Touch and 2 Ton Bug
June 20, 8 p.m., $10, Cafe Nine, 250 State St., New Haven, cafenine.com.
The greatest benefit of playing music for the hell of it is — in a redundant but totally logical way of thinking — being able to play music for the hell of it. JEFF the Brotherhood, a Nashville-based band made up of brothers Jamin and Jake Orrall, epitomize the positives of this sensibility. "We were just doing it for fun," Jake says, discussing the group's initial goals, and boy, is it easy to believe him. Although the Orrall brothers aren't weekend warriors any longer (signing to Warner Music Group in May 2011 definitively changed that), they still very much come off as guys who do this music thing just to get their rocks off, not to follow a career path or fulfill a grand creative vision.
JEFF (whose unusually typeset moniker comes not from an acronym but a word they capitalized for the sake of quirkiness and never changed) are as generally scruffy as a band can get while staying within the confines of acceptable hygiene. The Orralls usually dress like chilled-out prog-rock fans from 1981 who'd just rather be hanging out on the couch and watching "Law & Order" reruns, and even though they've amassed a solid following, they don't exude any star presence — especially during their encounters with the press. When I spoke to Jake, he was laconic and mumbly — a polite enough dude who grew less shy as the conversation went on, even as you maintain the sense that he finds interviews with journalists he's never met a weird rock star-ish obligation he's not into.
A similar sense of scruffiness comes through in JEFF the Brotherhood's sonics. They play garage rock like they're a garage rock band who actually did all their training in the garage. No, scratch that. They're more of a '60s-wood-paneled-downstairs-bedroom band — the sort who rewrite riffs in-between chugs of RC Cola and can easily burn a half-hour enthusing about their favorite tracks on Nuggets. There's also a serious tunefulness to JEFF's work — a palatable power-pop sweetness that overpowers their salty fuzziness a little bit more and more with each subsequent recording. JEFF are often likened to Weezer, which is a brilliant and perfectly apt comparison. Both JEFF and Blue Album-era Weezer have a lovably uncool and naïve spirit to their music, and both write scrappy, half-grimy pop songs worth cranking up on a summer afternoon drive and humming when you get home. Plus, Jake's voice is a dead ringer for Rivers Cuomo.
JEFF the Brotherhood started in 2001 but didn't receive any serious press attention until releasing Heavy Days in 2009. (Heavy Days is often referred to as their debut full-length, even though it's actually their sixth.) Trying to get Jake to explain why the brothers received this sudden burst of attention in late 2009 doesn't produce much of a good story, though. After finishing Heavy, they thought they had made a really good album and then decided to make a big publicity push to get its name out there, and it worked. There's not much more to it. "We saw that people liked [Heavy], other than just us because all of our previous records are just kind of us messing around, you know?" Jake says. "Our previous albums had been all over the place stylistically, jumping from one thing to the other, and Heavy Days was the first one that felt really cohesive — where we actually felt like we had a style."
Over the years, the Orralls have also been running Infinity Cat, a garage-rock-heavy DIY label that issues music by their band and others. (As of now, they're up to 75 releases, and JEFF's major label deal is a collaboration between the band, Warner and Infinity Cat.) Considering the low prominence of the bands on Infinity Cat, the label must be a labor of love, but the brothers have never given the impression that any of their music endeavors could qualify as actual "labor." There's an enviable youthfulness to how they manage all these affairs. "I think we'll do [JEFF] as long as I can comfortably live off of it," Jake says, moments before mentioning his desire to visit several countries, live on a farm and open up a bar or record store. "I don't want to give myself a cutoff point, but I definitely don't want to be doing this forever because I have a lot of other shit I'd like to do."
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