Anyone attempting to start their own band and launch a music career may find their early options "extremely limiting," says Jake Orrall of Nashville duo JEFF the Brotherhood. "You're limited from the first problem of just getting gear, getting something to play," he says, explaining the time-consuming process of "starting off with a little one-speaker combo amp and some drums or whatever, and just slowly, slowly, slowly building on it."
That, in a nutshell, describes the career trajectory of JEFF the Brotherhood: Jake had the small amp and guitar, and his brother, Jamin, was on the drums. They started in 2001, first playing in basements and later releasing four full-length albums with local distribution on their family-owned Infinity Cat label, which the brothers continue to run with their father, country writer/producer Robert Ellis Orrall. The siblings' fifth album, "Heavy Days," received a national push, and by the 2011 release of their swill-soaked, riff-ravaged "We Are the Champions," the brothers led a burgeoning Nashville punk scene and Infinity Cat distributed a roster of fellow shredders.
It was too loud, and too good, for the majors to ignore. Last May, Warner Bros. struck a distribution deal with Infinity Cat, while JEFF the Brotherhood joined the Warner roster. On July 17, Infinity Cat and Warner will co-release the band's seventh LP, "Hypnotic Nights," which was written in Nashville after the brothers spent a year touring behind We Are the Champions.
After the tracks were written, the group spent a week at Easy Eye, the studio owned by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who co-produced the album with the brothers. It was the first time the duo had tried such an arrangement, but the collaboration proved fruitful. Jake says, "Bringing in a third party, especially someone who's had so much success writing commercially digestible music, brought us to a whole new level." The brothers had an epiphany, which Jake describes as an inner voice declaring, "Oh, we can actually change a little bit and make it interesting to way more people."
The crisp "Hypnotic Nights" does just that. For example, the crunchy, riff-laden first single, "Sixpack," never once feels forced or contrived, while its seamless experimental turns reveal more sophisticated songwriting.
With the record's rollout, Warner worked closely with the specific vision the band had for the project, right down to the packaging that the Orrall brothers designed with friend Perry Shall. The duo offered other suggestions along the way, including a neat, watercolor-animated teaser for "Sixpack."
"Our rollout has taken the best things about these guys-their live show, their personalities, their raw aesthetic-and just amplified it while bringing it to a larger audience," Warner marketing manager Hannah Keefe says.
To whet appetites, Warner sent 200 white-jacket vinyl albums with custom stenciling to indie retailers for giveaways. In addition, before the group's June tour with Best Coast, four album cuts were released on an EP, also titled "Hypnotic Nights." And fans who preorder the album also receive nine knickknacks at no extra charge.
"Hypnotic Nights" marks a big step in the duo's career: the major-label debut. "We have an insane opportunity here," he says. "If we work our asses off, we can be a really successful band. And we won't have to work at a fucking grocery store anymore."