Q&A: Encountering The Hypnotic: JEFF The Brotherhood’s Jamin Orrall Talks “Nights” + More
By Bailey Pennick; thumbnail by Jo McCaughey on June 22, 2012
“I quit my job at a bike shop and Jake quit his at Kroger—he sliced the deli meats for old ladies...”
After the release of their fifth full-length studio album, 2009’s Heavy Days, Nashville brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall decided to throw off the shackles of their day jobs and permanently hit the road in pursuit of their rock and roll dreams as JEFF the Brotherhood. The two years of constant touring, and gaining a raucous reputation while they were at it, has given the boys enough money to settle down (“It’s super cheap to live in Nashville,” explains, Jamin, the younger Orrall),and a quickly growing fan following which caught the eyes and ears of Warner Bros Records.
With a new record contract, a thriving Nashville label—Infinity Cat (which they started as kids)—a blessing from their family and an intense penchant for humor, pets and the hypnotic, JEFF the Brotherhood has quickly become the band to watch out for. Next month’s release of Hypnotic Nights, the duo’s first LP for Warner Bros, continues to show JEFF’s progression into a more refined sound, while delving into larger themes of restlessness (“Leave Me Out”), escape (“Changes”) and relationships (“Region of Fire”). It’s an album that stays true to their passion and energy, while allowing them to grow as artists; a success by any means.
FILTER caught up with drummer Jamin Orrall about the hard-hitting subjects that matter most: cats, snacks, daiquiris and Dan Auerbach’s love of incense.
Right off the bat I’ve got to ask, how did Jake actually break his hand?
Well, the truth is that Jake didn’t actually break it. We thought he did and the doctor he saw the next day said it could have been, but it was too early to tell. It was Memorial Day when the accident happened.
We were at Beth Cosentino’s (Best Coast) uncle’s house; he was throwing a party, and built a margarita machine out of wood and PVC pipe. Throughout the day, everyone was playing basketball. Jake gets really competitive when he’s playing any type of sport and ended up colliding with Mark (Best Coast’s tour manager). They both went down and Jake fell onto his hands. The next day Jake’s hand was all swollen and he could barely even hold his guitar, so we packed it up and went home early. It was a bummer.
Over the course of two weeks at home, he started to feel better. We are playing shows again, but it still hurts after a full set.
I know that the question of brotherly love and quirks has been asked several times before, but what about the Orrall family dynamic? How do your parents feel about having their sons touring in a rock band of their own creation?
They’ve always been really supportive of us. I think they are happy knowing that we are happy, and doing what we love. Our sister is cool too; she makes art and [throws] parties in Chicago.
Most of the releases on Infinity Cat come out on vinyl (usually some awesome color as well). Why the push for analog?
I wouldn’t call it a push; for us, it just makes sense. When we started the label, we were just trying to get music into the hands of our friends. We, and all our friends, listen to records and tapes, so that’s what we keep putting out.
Tangentially speaking of cats, your latest tour shirt is absolutely divine. Is it safe to assume that Jeff the Brotherhood’s official favorite animal and/or spirit animal is the cat?
Thank you! We love most animals: cats, dogs, fish, birds, rodents. We love a cat, but our spirit animal is probably the fire ant. Jake likes a dog.
The JEFF the Brotherhood's All Music profile bizarrely describes the mood of your music as boisterous, brash, confident, energetic, freewheeling, fun, playful, rambunctious, raucous, reckless, rousing, rowdy, volatile and, my personal favorite, whimsical. Which of these do you think most accurately describes the true mood of JEFF the Brotherhood?
What made you decide to sign with Warner Bros records?
They bought us lots of food and we wanted to be more popular.
For your upcoming album Hypnotic Nights you worked with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach as a producer. How did adding an outsider to the mix influence your music?
Co-producing was a totally new thing for us, but it was really fun. I liked having an outside opinion on things. He [Auerbach] likes to get hypnotic and he loves his incense.
2011's We Are the Champions is a powerful album that showcased a more polished sound and pushed you guys into the national spotlight. Has the additional coverage changed you two? Did the positive reaction to We Are the Champions affect the writing and recording process for Hypnotic Nights?
I don’t think anything has changed with us. We are doing the same thing that we always have. We Are the Champions was recorded in three days; when we did Hypnotic Nights, we got to go in the studio for seven or eight days, that was the biggest change.
Beyond the title of the album (and accompanying Hypnotic Knights EP), the word "hypnotic" appears in the title of two songs and can accurately describe the self-perpetuating driving tone of the album. What draws you to the concept of the hypnotic?
We just get hypnotic, I don’t know why. There is a delicious daiquiri you can get in New Orleans called “Hypnotic Nights," it will put you in a trance. Everyone should try it.
Straying away from the essential 50/50 ratio of guitar and drums, instruments from pianos and synths, to saxophones and sitars are featured on Hypnotic Nights. Why the move to a larger sound?
The two main reasons are that it’s fun, and that it was possible. We probably would have put all those things on our last two albums if we had the time and resources. We are always trying to make our music bigger and more fun, but this was the first time we were in a studio for more than three days so we really got to go wild with it.
How much creative control did you guys have on the final product of this summer’s release?
Well, we made the album, then we sent it to Warner, and now they are putting it out. As much as anyone, I guess?
Is there anything that you miss about producing the albums yourself?
No. We had a blast and I don’t think anything but goodness came out of it. We don’t do anything that we don’t want to, so there is nothing to be scared of.
You two are known for touring extensively and have been known to be game to play anywhere at any time. What draws you to live performances?
They are exciting, hypnotic and forever changing.
How would you describe your fans?
One of my favorite segments of your blog is SNACK ATTACK. What are each of your favorite “on the road” snacks and why?
Jake loves his beef jerky. I like ginger beer, raw almonds, Tasty Kakes, Choco Tacos, Cheetos, slushies, etc.
Besides a series of X-rays and a ton of gauze, what’s next for JEFF the Brotherhood?
Our new album! We are about to put out a 7 inch on Infinity Cat of Hole covers. Also we are going to hang out with our friends on tour, play sports, go canoeing, swimming, and explore other countries. F
Hypnotic Nights is out July 17 via Warner Brothers. You can pre-order the album here.
JEFF the Brotherhood tour dates
22 - Montreal, QC - Il Motore
23 - Toronto, ON - Wrong Bar
24 - Detroit, MI - Small's
25 - Indianapolis, IN - Radio Radio
13 - Louisville, KY - Forecastle Festival
27 - Rock Land, IL - Rock Island Brewing Co.
28 - Somerset, WI - SoundTown Festival
29 - Des Moines, IA - Vaudeville Mews
30 - Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room
31 - St. Louis, MO - Off Broadway
01 - Columbus, OH - The Basement
02 - Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop
03 - Chicago, IL - Subterranean (co-headline w/ Growlers)
04 - Chicago, IL - Lollapalooza
11 - Bristol, TN - Gentlemen Of The Road Festival (w/Mumford & Sons)