Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1082

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Feature

Brotherly: Sweet harmony

Brotherly @bluesandsoul.com
Brotherly @bluesandsoul.com Brotherly @bluesandsoul.com Brotherly @bluesandsoul.com Brotherly @bluesandsoul.com

Taking inspiration from soul, funk, broken beats and electronica, London-based male/female duo Brotherly return this month with their eagerly-anticipated second album âFind First Lightâ - the follow-up to their widely-acclaimed 2007 debut set âOne Sweet Lifeâ. Which prestigiously led to a nomination for Gilles Petersonâs âWorldwideâ Session Of The Year on Radio One, following their performance at the BBCâs world-famous Maida Vale studios

Comprising vocalist Anna Stubbs and multi-instrumentalist Rob Mullarkey (best known for his work as bass-player for chill-out chart-toppers Zero 7), Brotherly - who write and produce their own material - effectively blend such diverse influences as Prince, Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye to create a soulfully eclectic sound. Which is in turn evidenced on their aforementioned new set by tracks like the engagingly uplifting current single âFind First Lightâ; funky, blues-edged âLucky Cloverâ; and eerily throbbing âRequiemâ. As the friendly twosome (a real-life couple) share mid-morning drinks with Pete Lewis at Foyleâs trendy coffee shop along Charing Cross Road.

âFor this new album we were trying to do something just a little bit different from our first, which was quite dancefloor-orientatedâ, begins an instantly forthcoming Rob: âAnd, because we were trying to go a bit more guitar-y this time, one day I came up with this interesting kind of chord sequence on the acoustic guitar while I was just messing around. You know, I didnât know if it was gonna be something for the album or not. But then, as soon as Anna heard it, she was like âThis is GOOD! This could actually define our new direction!â!.. And I think thatâs basically what it DID! Because it ended up becoming the albumâs title-track âFind First Lightâ, and in turn almost forging a blueprint for the whole RECORD! In that I think the focus on the guitar is what mostly differentiates this album from the previous one. Plus the fact that this time we wanted to do a record where we could just take the songs into a live environment and do them acoustically, rather than having to rely on a big band and a lot of production.â

âYeah, we like to explore new avenuesâ, adds a chatty Anna: âWe donât like to sit back on our laurels and stay in one genre. Thatâs just not what weâre ABOUT! And to me thatâs the beauty of not being signed to a major record company! I mean, we have our own label; we play our own music; no-one is telling us what to do... So we donât have to live up to anything, and we donât have to sell certain numbers. Weâre very fortunate that we can just be free to create something that means a lot to us. And what Iâm especially proud of, is that this album doesnât SOUND like a home-produced album - but yet it IS! Which to me is what makes it DIFFERENT! We werenât hurried; we werenât controlled⦠And so itâs very free and innocent in a way, though at the same time itâs also very accomplished and sophisticated. You know, weâve both studied music. So, even though we donât consciously try to make quote-unquote âclever musicâ, I do think some of that training always seeps through.â

Lyrically meanwhile, âFind First Lightâ has been described as âan album full of lifeâs ups and downs - a thinly-veiled autobiography telling a troubled history of addiction and recovery, birth and bereavementââ¦: âWell, though I know a lot of people donât listen to albums all the way through any more, I still wanted to make this album a journey that was listenable to from beginning to end - with songs that were deep and were a lot more than just few simple wordsâ, asserts lyricist Anna: âI mean, as a songwriter, you really can only write about your own experience. And all the best songwriters do use writing as a form of catharsis. So I definitely wanted to write about stuff that had happened in my life that I thought was different, and that set me apart from other people. And so, when I listened to the music Rob had created, what I generally did was just try and describe the feelings I got from it. Which in turn usually harked back to experiences that had stayed with me from the past, and had made a big impact in my life.â

With Anna - unusually - having grown up in both Essex and California (!), she takes up the story of how Brotherly originally came to be: âWell, I left school quite early - and then, all of a sudden, it was âThe Summer Of LOVEâ!â, she recalls laughing: âSo my friends and I went away to Majorca. We lived out there, worked in the clubs and stuff⦠And thatâs when I fell in love with music, and realised that was what I wanted to DO. So, as Iâd always played piano, I decided to get myself into music college and study jazz. Because I knew that, to express music nowadays, if you have a jazz background, you can do ANYTHING - all harmony, all rhythm - and it really expands where you can GO. So I went up to Leeds to study, and thatâs where I met Rob.â

âYeah, my family is all from the North West of England - and theyâre all musiciansâ, adds Rob: âSo I grew up in Rochdale (Lancashire), spending a lot of time in my bedroom playing along to prog-rock records! Then I went to Leeds and ended up becoming a very busy bass-player there. You know, sometimes Iâd be doing around 14 gigs a week! Which is when I met Anna, and we started doing lots of gigs together and just generally experimenting a lot musically, But, you know, Leeds is quite a small city really. So we eventually decided to move down here to London and just hack away at it. And, you know, the various little projects we worked on just developed; one turned into another⦠And finally we got to where we wanted to BE!â

⦠Which eventually ended up being Brotherly: âYeah, I think the whole Brotherly thing really came about quite organicallyâ, states Rob: âYou know, we started experimenting with the computer, making beats, trying different things out⦠I mean, we were very much into the early drum-&-bass thing. And at one point - around the late Nineties, when the 4Hero thing started - we were actually touring with an eight-piece string section! Which was quite exciting, because nobody else was really doing that at the time. Then when (West London broken beats collective) Bugz In The Attic actually put one of our tunes out, I guess we started crossing over from the drum-& -bass to the broken beats thing. And I actually came up with the name âBrotherlyâ basically because we wanted one word that signified something warm.â

âYeah, and we also thought it was a good word to describe the sort of family/community-type thing that evolves around usâ, adds Anna, as our lively conversation draws to a close: âBecause, along the way, we have picked up some great friends and musicians. I mean, all the people involved in our album are pretty much people weâve known for a long time - the photographers, the stylists, the string players... Even the person that MASTERED the album is a friend of ours! So there is very much a community spirit going on around it. And so, in that way, the name âBrotherlyâ does definitely seem appropriate for us.â

Brotherlyâs album âFind First Lightâ is available now through I-tunes; its physical release follows June 7. The digital single âFind First Lightâ is out now. The single âLucky Cloverâ follows May 31, all through Brotherly Music
Words PETE LEWIS

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