'People can call us anything as long as they are talking about us'. Jasmine Phull chats to a hungover frontman of controversial band Brother about Liam Gallagher, negative media attention, and Britpop.
Date published: 31st Jan 2011
‘The Internet is sort of a musical cemetery for bands’ is exactly the kind of dismissive yet strangely poignant sentence you’d be likely to hear when talking to Lee Newell, frontman for Brother; a band who've been heralded as the ‘Britpop revivalists’.
With their ‘lad rock’ swagger and apathetic attitude, UK band Brother are hardly wallflowers. Far from it. With the intention of being ‘the best band’, best record in tow, Newell speaks to me from the studio where they’ve already finished recording six days ahead of schedule.
The quartet is garrulous, rowdy and liberal with the outlandish comments, and they’re not afraid to name names. Not surprisingly, such comments have brought them a lot of media grief: ‘if people hate me that’s fine’, says Newell before quoting a similarly indifferent quote by the once great and commercially opposed Kurt Cobain. Arrogant? Maybe. But no one, including Newell, is saying otherwise.
With the Stephen Street produced debut set to be released in July 2011, you can be sure there’ll be no shortage of attention coming their way. Liam Gallagher’s certainly had his turn, using every four-letter word under the sun, but don’t pity Slough’s Brother because they couldn’t care either way. ‘People can call us anything as long as they are talking about us’. And that they are.
You signed back in October 2010 are you working on your first release? Yea. We’re in the studio now and we literally just finished the vocals. We’ve finished way on track considering we are here till the 6 February. I don’t know what we are going to do now? Probably go-karting? We’ve got nothing left to do. We’re just gonna bite each other’s heads… (laughs)
Do you write the lyrics? Yea I write 95% of the lyrics, but say there is a line that needs to be finished then we’ll work it out together. Musically it’s completely even.
Is there a theme for your debut? It’s sort of a theme of ‘escapism’ because the whole reason we started this band was to try and do something with our lives as we seemed to be spiralling into nothingness... in our small town. (Laughs) There’s a lot of songs about how we really don’t care if people hate us; we get a lot of hate...
Brother does seem to be purposely portraying a reputation of apathy. Is that part of your shtick? Is the negative media attention provoked? Is Brother about attitude as well music? Yea it is a little about ‘having a sharp tongue’. It’s who we are. I don’t blame the media for doing what they’re doing, I did say a lot of questionable things about a lot of bands but I didn’t say them in quite that way. What I’m trying to say is that we don’t put on media faces ever. This is exactly how we are. If people hate me that’s fine. As Kurt Cobain once said: ‘I’d rather be hated for being me then loved for not’.
So the whole ‘lad rock’ thing that people are trying to dump on Brother is all just words? (Laughs) Well we’re lads and we play rock music and that’s as far as it goes. It’s fine because the last great time of music, especially in the UK, was Britpop. I think. That’s probably why are influenced by it. That’s probably why we’re being pigeonholed as a lad rock band. People can call us anything as long as they are talking about us and we get to show people our music. That’s the only reason we started this band.
You’re described as Britpop revivalists. Was that a conscious thing you were trying to do when you started up Brother? Are you trying to reach back into the past and reenergise a sound that seems to have taken a back-seat? I didn’t want to consciously bring back Britpop as such. I certainly did want to get rid of the boring wash music; the crap that I get on the radio. We do have that bratty sound which is fairly familiar with Britpop. We just intended to be the biggest band we can be and write a great album. Now we just have to deliver that... or we’ll look very, very silly.
I know that you were in a well-respected emo band prior to Brother. Can you explain the complete change in direction? What spurred that on? It certainly wasn’t an emo band. I’m 23 now and that was back when I was 17-18. We played shit songs and listened to Green Day and Nirvana. That was it really. Our music tastes changed and we started listening to music further and further back. It wasn’t even serious. I can’t believe it even gets brought up. It’s like if you’re playing football in the Sunday league team and you’re having an interview and they’re like ‘so how’s your football career’?
I watched the 'New Year's Day’ video today. It’s difficult to know if you are being serious or satirical? Describe the thought process behind that? (Sighs) I hate that video very very much. The one thing in Brother I regret doing is that video. We did it when we first started and we were creating our demo. We needed a video so we were like ‘we should do it like a mad party’. Obviously we had no budget. It was like two questionable ‘models’ at best and it looked fucking weird. I don’t like it. It’s not the video for the song by any means. We’ve just done our first proper video for ‘Darling Buds of May’. We’re trying to get it off the Internet but NME keep bloody posting it! (Laughs). I hate it. It’s evil. The Internet shows you every f**king wart you’ve ever had. (Laughs)
And the rumour about Brother’s involvement with Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green clothing label? True or False? He said that we were a bunch of c**ts and we were rubbish and he hated us, and that came after we were scheduled to get a bunch of his clothes and wear them for the front cover of NME. Then he said that and we were like ‘he can f**k off’.
Why would he say that? Well he just started a new band as well and Liam Gallagher is Liam Gallagher. We’re all fighting for the same spot on the page and as brilliant as Oasis was I guess he has to start all over again with his new band. It’s a bit underhanded he didn’t talk about our music. But obviously that’s all he f**king cares about, that’s why he started a clothing label and not a music label.
Is there something that’s missing in the music industry that was there 10-15 years ago? Yea money. With the whole downloading thing I’m at a weird point because everyone has downloaded music before and I think that it can work but it also doesn’t. From what I’ve seen the record industry is getting more underhanded and dodgier and music is being cheapened because there is less money and people don’t get a chance to experiment because it’s very formulaic now. Every one song on the radio sounds exactly the same. We’re very privileged that we’ve got an opportunity to change that. Once our music gets out there properly we will change that. I don’t mind the Vaccines, who I should hate, but they’re gonna open a lot of doors for bands like us. We’re quite happy to be at the front of this change and hopefully over the next couple of years there will be a revival of guitar music again.
Obviously the Internet is one of the main precursors of the financial downturn of the music industry but is there anything great that has come from its existence? I think it’s great on a global level so you can be heard. In another sense as soon as you put your band on the Internet you are an equal to every other band. Everyone can get the same amount of space from the Internet and I think that cheapens music. The Internet is sort of a musical cemetery for bands. It’s just very stale and that’s why we’re trying to do things a bit more hands-on. We’ve made our own broadsheet paper all about us and what we’re doing; it’s called Acid Love. We’ve got articles from people who do and don’t like our band. It’s more personal than the Internet which I think is insincere.
One track that makes you feels elated? I love Everything Everything they’re f**king nutters. I love their new single Photoshop Handsome. I’ve also been listening to Brian Jonestown Massacre their EP Smoking Acid is pretty good. All their song names are f**king ridiculous. (Laughs). Their movie Dig! Is insane!
What should the crowd expect from your gigs? A lot people tend to like us after they see us live; we put on a great show.
Well if you don’t believe in yourself then no one will. Exactly that’s what I’m trying to tell these f**king idiots who say I’m arrogant. I just believe in myself and I wanna do something about it.
You’re just taking a leaf out of Kanye’s book and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yea... he’s done alright. (Laughs).
One great - recently deceased - artist? Probably Zapper. No that wasn’t recent was it. I’ll tell you what the last artist who really spoke to me was Joe Strummer. That was ages ago but he was the last one that really moved me. The Clash mean a lot to me. Sorry I’m really hung-over at the moment. All the management came over last night and we all got really pissed.
No worries, I truly believe the next-day hang over is the best time for a raw conversation; you’re definitely more forthcoming. I definitely feel a little bit sensitive and emotional the next day. I’ve written a lot of songs hung-over.