This interview with Fayetteville’s Brother Moses ended up focusing a lot on life on the road, because for the last two years, that’s really all the indie rock group has known. After self-recording their lo-fi demo in a swamp-ass-inducing garage, they self booked several trips across the country, while building a dedicated following back in their football-obsessed college town.
That buzz perked the ear of LA-based producer Raymond Richards (Local Natives, Avid Dancer), who invited Brother Moses to his Rancho Park studio to track a proper EP. The band, who for the most part are full time students, bailed on school for a week to head to LA to track the new EP. Those whirlwind sessions (made possible by the band’s tightness from non-stop touring) became Legends, which will drop August 26 via Missing Piece Records.
Brother Moses float between sunny surf rock and tongue-in-cheek indie about as well as any up and coming band out there right now, with a tightness and earnestness that usually takes years to perfect. I asked a lot of questions and got a lot of great answers, so left this interview pretty intact.
WINDUP: Your new album is due out in less than a month, what kind of anticipation are you guys feeling to finally release this thing?
James- I’ve got all sorts of ants in my pants. There’s a couple of boxes of the first physical copies waiting for us in Fayetteville, and I’m trying not to think about it.
Matthew- These songs have been done since December, so we’ve been ready for people to hear this for quite a while. I go through about a two month cycle of not listening to the songs ever, and then spinning the EP for a couple of days just to re-assure myself that it sounds OK. And each time I do, I get excited all over again. I haven’t gotten tired of the music even though we’re playing it every night on tour and have been with a few of these tunes for 2+ years in some form or fashion. And that makes me really stoked to put this in people’s hands.
I was reading about your first EP and I think I can actually hear the sweat dripping off you guys faintly on the tracks. What did you learn from those early days and how did you apply it to working on the new record?
James- I’m not sure that the recording of the first project had as much of an impact on the second as much as all of the touring that we did. Playing something a hundred times helps you figure out what you like and don’t like about your music, so going into the studio for Legends, I had a big list in my head of stuff that I didn’t want to do again.
Where do you guys see the biggest area of growth from the first EP to Legends?
James- I mean the obvious one is that this record was made in a dope studio, and it completely blows our old lo-fi stuff away sound-wise. I think one that we overlook is that Michael, our old drummer that played on both projects, improved a ton. I think his playing is a really important part of the sound on this record.
John-Lewis- even though Matthew and I were present for a lot of the recording of the first EP, we weren’t members yet and didn’t have a big hand in writing. It was really cool for us to step on and be part of the writing process from the very beginning on Legends.
How much did your consistent touring and life on the road influence Legends?
James – It definitely made it easier to lay down 6 tracks in 5 days when we made it to LA. We knew exactly how we wanted a lot of the songs to feel, and what to avoid, because we’d spent 6 months trying them out in front of people.
John-Lewis- I think it had a huge effect on our chemistry with playing with each other. When you spend a lot of time on the road, it allows you to really get an idea of your role in the band.
Have you guys adjusted to living on the road?
James – I have a hard time adjusting when I get home from tour. It feels too slow, it’s weird. But it never feels weird leaving to go on the road. It’s like riding a bike for me, twenty minutes into the first drive, I’m like “What time is load-in? Where are we staying tonight?” But I know that when I get back, I’ll get that weird depression you got as a kid when you came home from summer camp. But I’m also so ready to be home for a while. Do I sound adjusted? I’m not.
MH – The biggest adjustment for me is budgeting for food. We’re a thrifty bunch, so we’re always on the lookout for a good bargain. Probably my favorite place to eat on tour is this joint called Cook-Out. I can get a 1/2 lb burger, a ~bomb~ chicken quesadilla, a side of the best hushpuppies you’ve ever tasted AND a coke float, all of that for around $5. It’s insanity.
John-Lewis- I think it feels really natural for each of us to be on the road. However I think it’s an ongoing learning process. It’s a challenge to be healthy on the road, mentally, relationally, and not to mention physically. But it’s also super fun, and I think we’re better for it.
What are three Brother Moses rules of the road you guys always follow
James – 1. Try and stay positive. Being on tour means a million things will go wrong every day, but you just have to write them off as quirks of this weird lifestyle and move on.
2. Everyone drives. We’re always shocked when we meet other bands who have, like, two designated drivers. You gotta pull your weight behind the wheel, man!
3. We had a rule for a while that if your farts were exceptionally bad, you had to roll down your window every time you let one loose. I think we need to bring this one back.
Lyrically what subjects are you dealing with on the new record?
James – Growing up, leaving your hometown, telling yourself to stop doing things that you know you’ll still do anyway, a weird love triangle dream I had. Definitely less cohesive than the first EP but I feel like it’s a snapshot sort of record – you get a lot of glimpses into what life is like around this age.
MH – The two songs I wrote for this project were “Pretend” and “Sandwich Bags”. They both were written during a pretty dark time in my life where I had just ended a long-term relationship, was struggling to finish school and was working as a night-shift server at a 24 hour diner. “Pretend” is meant to be a sort of caricature of my reaction to my break-up. The narrator in the song deals with the break-up by pretending that his ex doesn’t exist, but we’re still friends in real life.
Walk us through your favorite song on Legends
John-Lewis- I think my favorite has to be “Crazy Eyes.” I think everyone shines on that song, but not in an in-your-face way. It always feels like a dream to me. It’s kind of a bizarre song lyrically but it gets stuck in your head, but maybe that’s just because we play it every night.
MH – “Sandwich Bags” is definitely my favorite. I wrote it when I was working the night-shift at Waffle House and was inspired by a sickening moment of clarity that came when I realized the cash tips I had just sorted out on my kitchen counter represented the vast majority of my life for that past week. The song starts out with just a voice and a guitar and ends with everything going at once, including a few 808 drum sounds. Its so crazy seeing a song that started in your bedroom with just you and a crappy acoustic guitar end up in and LA studio, and then on a vinyl record.
What do you hope people are able to take way from the new record?
James – I just hope it makes you feel something. There are moments on these songs that still every night make me feel excited, sad, overwhelmed, and lost. If anyone felt those too, I think we did our job.
What’s the first thing you do when get to a new town while on tour?
James – Me and Grayson, our touring drummer, hit up record stores and then I usually remember how exhausted I am and try to find a cool place to sit down. It’s weird how tired sitting in a car all day makes you.
John-Lewis- we all have little cruiser skateboards so we usually pair off and hit the city via skate. Matthew usually ends up at a coffee shop. My favorite thing to do is pick a direction and just start riding.
MH – Find the Starbucks: reliable wi-fi, clean bathrooms, good coffee. It’s the one constant amidst the chaos of the road.
Best retro gaming console?
James – Are GameCubes retro yet? Probably not. I’m probably too young for this question.
John-Lewis- Super Nintendo! Donkey Kong Country all day.
MH – N64. 007 Goldeneye was a masterpiece. Star Wars pod racing was also an underrated gem for me. My parents never let us have video games, but one time we were on vacation in Colorado and got snowed in (3 feet of snow) at a house that had an N64. My brother and I locked ourselves in that basement for ~hours~ playing Goldeneye split-screen death match. We also made one hell of an igloo.
Favorite dive bar in Fayetteville?
James – I’ve only been 21 for like two months, I’ll let you know in like a year.
MH – Rogers Rec. They have it all: cheap beer, pool tables, shuffleboard and foosball. Its the type of place where crazy old townies and college kids dwell together in perfect harmony.
What have been your favorite albums so far in 2016?
James – Cardinal from Pinegrove, The Hotelier’s new record Goodness, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired from Mothers, and I currently can’t stop listening to Whitney’s new record. So much great music this year, and that’s all in like, one little indie corner of the world. What a time to be alive. My top 10 list this year is gonna have to be like a Top 25 or something.
John-Lewis- I think Harriet’s American Appetite is just about perfect. I had to make myself stop listening to it because getting burnt out on that would be a true tragedy. Junk by M83 has been the soundtrack to my summer.
MH – New Radiohead. Oh man.
What’s next for you guys?
James – Gonna start trying to make all of these crazy new ideas we have into a record. Also I start school again like four days after we get home. I’m tired just thinking about that.
MH – Yeah, lots of ideas, lots of bits, trying to pull all that together into a full-length is going to be really fun.
Anything else to add?
James – Thanks for sharing Crazy Eyes back in the spring! I knew I recognized the name. You guys are homies now.
MH – COOK-OUT FAST FOOD CHAIN EXECS: I WANNA OPEN A FRANCHISE IN FAYETTEVILLE. WE’LL LITERALLY PRINT MONEY. HMU.