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Jeff the Brotherhood bring the DIY

By LIZ PELLY  |  March 25, 2011

NASHVILLE CATS Jake and Jamin Orrall’s blend of ’70s punk and ’80s metal has pinned them as one of Nashville’s defining underground garage-rock bands of recent years.

"If I hadn't witnessed Jeff the Brotherhood, there would be no Skimask," Skimask singer Andy Brown told me after an Allston basement show last month. His Boston noise-punk trio (see "Class of 2011," in the January 7 Phoenix) opens for the punk-rock-and-roll duo of Nashville brothers at Great Scott this Wednesday, joined by Milwaukee hip-hop performer Juiceboxxx.

Brown elaborates: "They concretized the idea that we could play together without the right tools as long as we were emotionally honest and gave it all that we did have." Jeff the Brotherhood, who also run Nashville's Infinity Cat Records, make particularly gnarly, heavy sounds given their stripped-down line-up: Jake Orrall sings and plays a guitar with only three strings, and his brother Jamin Orrall plays three drums and three cymbals. Their signature breed of '70s punk and '80s metal has pinned them as one of Nashville's defining underground garage-rock bands over the past few years.

Jake Orrall says that - like Skimask - Jeff the Brotherhood were inspired by the punk bands who played around their home town in high school, provoking them to pursue life as a DIY rock band. Before releasing their most recent full-length, Heavy Days, in 2010, they lived out on the road for 13 months, playing shows almost every night. "It was a big commitment," says Jake. "We grew up going to see live shows, playing in a high-school punk band, seeing people totally going for it. That was really inspiring for us, made it seem not scary and intimidating. The fact that we've been doing that so long makes other people think it's not scary and okay to do too."

Their forthcoming We Are the Champions is the brothers' first recording made in a proper studio. (Heavy Days was recorded in a friend's basement.) But their general æsthetic remains intact. "It actually doesn't sound too different," says Jake. "It takes the ideas we were starting to get at to the next level, songwriting-wise and sonically. It's a logical next step. It's what you'd think the record is going to sound like. The songs are a little bit more honed." Jake adds that he "loved" recording in a proper studio. "It made everything less stressful."

Their DIY ethos isn't changing either - the record is still being released by their own label, and as we talked, they were playing a string of house shows on their way to SXSW in advance of its release. One thing that may change - and get even better - is the experience of Jeff the Brotherhood's live show. "We're really into playing with rap and hip-hop artists lately," says Jake. At recent shows, they've joined Juiceboxxx, New Orleans rapper Big Freedia, and Brooklyn hip-hop group Ninjasonik, lining up DJs in between sets. "We've been really intro creating more of a party vibe at our shows. Rap and hip-hop bands bring more to the table in that sense."

Related: 25 Hip-Hop acts to see at SXSW 2010, Photos: Jay-Z at TD Garden, Kidz In The Hall | Land Of Make Believe, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Nashville, New Orleans, hip-hop,  More more >
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