Interview - Brotherly


20 maj 2007, 18:12

Beyondjazz has asked the much loved London duo, Brotherly about how sweet their life is a week before their album launch party on 2nd, May at Jazz Cafe and a few weeks before the release of their long awaited debut album "One Sweet Life".

How much are you excited about playing at Jazz Cafe next week?
Really looking forward to a big knees-up with all our mates and fans and can’t wait for people to hear the album. Love playing at the Jazz Cafe, great vibe, great sound, lots of good memories.

Please tell us about Brotherly. When did you come up with the idea of the band?
Brotherly (aka Robin Mullarkey and Anna Stubbs) came out of a previous band which really belonged to Anna in the late 90s. We were playing original soul influenced tunes but with D&B theme which obviously was becoming massive at the time. It was a live band with string quartet and we did a few lauded shows at UK venues before deciding to refine the concept as more of a team effort. The 1st tune we wrote was A Little Trouble (was featured on Hospital's Outpatients Vol. 3 compilation) and it was before we had really been exposed to any broken beat so I guess that's where we were naturally heading.

How did you two - you and Anna - meet?
We met at Leeds College of Music where we were studying jazz together. We used to play in various bands together varying from ECM modern jazz to more jazz-dance Airto kind of bands and we just found our soul-mates.

I read you are coming from a musician family, who were your first musical discoveries?
Rob: My mum's a folk singer and there was a lot of live music in the house. Also my dad is a bassist and step-dad is a drummer! They were very enthusiastic and supportive about my music and i had piano lessons from about 8 which i think is a good age to get stuck in. My 1st tape had Weather Report on one side and Joseph's Technicolour Dreamcoat on the other. It was bizarre when I bought Heavy Weather again a few years ago and found that i knew it well enough to play along.

The first Brotherly single 'Put it Out' on Bitasweet Records was a great success in '05, how did you hook up with the Bugz kru?
Rob: Seiji was DJing at a big Eska show at Koko and i passed him a cdr. He was really into it and passed it on to the others guys. Top geezer!

Now Monumental Records is your new home, they have just released the second single and they will put out the album in May. It seems Monumental is a great label and fully dedicated to support true musicians and talents...
Basically we have a great manager in Brett Leboff, and after spending a year trawling the earth for a decent deal, the label was borne out of necessity.

Could you tell me more about the recording process of the new album? Who produces the music, lyrics etc?
Rob: Generally I will develop some musical idea in Cubase with a little help from Anna and work on it til it has a vibe and a rough structure. I almost always begin with some interesting rhythmic or harmonic discovery and use it as a springboard. I usually mix as I write, as I like to know whether the arrangement is going to work once it’s finished. I usually stick down rough ideas on all instruments, ie beats, keys, bass, guitar, maybe some percussion, but i think that can cause it to become a bit stagnant so it always helps to get some great musicians in to replace parts with their distinctive sound, and contribute something of their own to the music. Once I have something I’m happy with, I hand it over to Anna and she will put down some top-line ideas and lyrics in Garageband and make some suggestions about form and flow. Then we’ll make a complete backing and add the final vocals.

The extended Brotherly family is full of brilliant musicians like Eska, Ty, Earl Zinger, Tawiah and more out of London. Who else are featured on "One Sweet Life"?
Finn Peters of Bansuri fame takes an awesome flute solo on System, and the amazing rhythm guitar on there is Jan Ozveren. Si Colam (Ty), Martyn Kaine (IG Culture, Bugz in the Attic, Reel People) and Femi Temowo (Soweto Kinch, Terri Walker) from the live band feature on there, as well as a few cameos from the likes of Dave Okumu (Jade Fox), Volker Strater (Robert Mitchell) and Ben Bryant (The Heritage Orchestra). Also Natalie Williams and Tawiah make an appearance on BVs

As for the inspirational side, where does the fantastic eclectic sound of Brotherly come from?
Rob: I think we are unusual in that we are not just jazz enthusiasts, but schooled and experienced jazz musicians that have become a a little unnerved with the lack of support for jazz in the uk, and are pursuing a more relevant and exciting outlet for our skills.
Anna: before training as a jazz singer and pianist, i was really into the jazz dance scene (Snowboy, Gilles Peterson, Jazzcotech etc) and all the fabulous and varied styles that it supported. In one evening we would get Roy Ayers to latin fusion via 240bpm swing ... it was an environment of musical equal opportunities! Even though I love jazz harmony and songs, I’m not really an ECM kind of person, and I wanted our album to tie harmony and cutting edge beats together in a cohesive way.

On the technical note, the arrangements are so tight and good, have you ever used any drumloops or samples?
We’ve never used a drum loop of any kind in our tunes. It’s all played or programmed from scratch. I cant make mine sound as good as on sample cds but i cant imagine ever trying to pass off someone else’s beat as my own. We did have one tune that had to be dropped from the LP at the last minute due to a sample clearance issue though. We’ve learnt our lesson now.

Rob - you also got involved with various projects like 2 Banks Of 4, Ty and Zero 7 with who you lately toured a lot, how did you enjoy it?
I love working with all those bands and there is more planned for later this year. I’ve been really lucky, or maybe i have just engineered it so that i only work with great people and musicians.

I know you are a great fan of Jazzanova and they influenced you a lot, do you ever plan to work with them?
It’s a great idea. We should hook up at least. They have so many side projects that i dont really know who exactly Jazzanova are, but I think when they collaborate something special happens with a kind of super-producer vibe. As much as I love filthy Madlib beats, there’s a Donald Fagen in me that craves Jazzanova’s precision.

The Brotherly live gigs have been amazing so far, so the gig next week is expected to be a biggie too. Who will be performing on the night actually?
The line-up Wednesday will be Anna Stubbs, Rob Mullarkey, Earl Zinger, Eska (TBC), Natalie Williams, Tawiah, Si Colam, Femi Temowo and Martyn Kaine

Huge line-up. Are you planning to go touring worldwide with the album?

Finally, let me ask some personal family thing, what would you buy to your little kid Lucas, a guitar or an mpc or both?
We’re not going to force music on him. There are loads of instruments around our flat that he is free to use so let’s just see what happens. He likes cars.

Thanks for your answers and time then. See you at Jazz Cafe next week!

Brotherly's album "One Sweet Life" is out on 14th, May at Monumental.
The band will perform on 2nd of May at Jazz Cafe, London and on 31st May at Hi Fi Club, Leeds.

Album preview:
More info:

by creaminal
originally published on Beyondjazz
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