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Brooders are a Leeds-based band whose music has been categorised as psych-grunge, a label which is fortunately loose enough to suggest both its passionate energy and its more experimental moments. These qualities come over in full measure on their recently released eponymous mini-album.
Vocalist/guitarist Adam Bairstow and drummer Liam Naylor had been honing their sound since forming in October 2014 as a duo called Hunny. Their new name (something of a pun on the German for ‘brothers’) followed the February 2016 addition of bassist Adam Speare. It evokes an all-for-one brotherhood rather than something fratricidal, an attitude that carries over into generous appreciation of their peers.
Maybe it’s time for Leeds to achieve the prominence as a musical city that Manchester, Liverpool and London have long tended to enjoy. Whether or not that happens, in Brooders at least there is already a blend of songcraft and blazing power that bodes well for their being heard much further afield.
Pennyblackmusic spoke to the two Adams, Bairstow and Speare, who responded with the kind of reflectiveness mixed with a fan’s fervour that characterises most good musicians, qualities that in turn run through Brooders’ music.
PB: You began as a duo; were you modelling yourselves on bands like the Black Keys or White Stripes, or even then were you after something else in your sound?
ADAM BAIRSTOW: I think back in the early days of Brooders [Hunny, at the time] we were just so keen to delve into a world of our own with our sound. We were big fans of bands like Drenge and The Wytches who were both upcoming at the time, however we were also keen on other interesting bands like Fat White Family, Cage the Elephant and Wolf Alice. You can’t help but have influences when you’re writing, but I like to think we’ve pulled the best influences from the best bands to create our own thing.
I think the only reason we never were anything more than a duo was because we hadn’t found a bass player who fitted in with us. We wanted something a bit more out there and experimental instead of the typical Nirvana-esque thing that often is the stereotype of ‘Grunge’ [hence our association with Psych-Grunge as our genre, I guess]. Speare just fitted the bill, he was a great player but as avid about pedals, tones, and energy. We had been living together for about two years at university, we went for a jam all together and we got him involved straight away.
PB: From the Everlys to the Gallaghers, rock music has been fraught with fraternal friction. In choosing the name Brooders, presumably you saw the word ‘brothers’ in a more positive light? Or is the intense love and rage brothers can express towards each other something you creatively embrace?
ADAM BAIRSTOW: I think people read too much into the ‘brothers’ thing. Brothers are people you can laugh and fight with and nothing will change in the relationship, you are still family. I think the idea of the brotherly association came a bit later on as an idea. We were gigging for about a year under the name Hunny, but just realised that we basically were like brothers anyway. Liam and myself have known each other since college [nearly five years now] and haven’t ever had conflict between us. When we asked Speare into the band we just had to find the same dynamic, someone who could have a laugh with us and was easy going and dedicated as a friend to the both of us. Obviously brothers scrap and there are conflicts of interest on occasion, but who can honestly say they’ve never had arguments with family?
PB: Given your places of origin, what made you gravitate to Leeds? Is the local scene particularly inspiring?
ADAM SPEARE: Leeds is such a vibrant and interesting city, I fell in love with it when I came up for university open days and my interview; everything just seems right. The city isn't too big but is full of ace independent music venues where plenty of up and coming and bigger bands play quite literally every night. The local scene is a huge inspiration to us, there are so many of our peers working hard to get their name out there and creating some incredible music. Some personal favourites of ours are Fighting Caravans, Tight Lines, Allusondrugs and Hookworms.
PB: There are so many musical scenes and styles nowadays, arguably more popular than rock; what influences – musical and personal – attracted you to it? Do the three of you share the same musical influences, or are they quite diverse?
ADAM SPEARE: We definitely all share a similar music taste but we also enjoy some other styles of music more than each other. For example, I enjoy noise and experimental music, I’m a big fan of Death Grips, Swans and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Whereas Bairstow enjoys Alice in Chains and Hendrix. Also Liam is an incredible classical pianist, so when we write together it can be helpful to explore the harmony from a different point of view. It’s a great band to be in because we all bring some of our favourite elements of music into our writing, and it gives us so much space for development rather than feeling limited.
PB: As far as the charts are concerned, guitar-based rock bands seem to be almost an endangered species. Do you feel you’re fighting an uphill battle to be heard?
ADAM SPEARE: It’s definitely a struggle to get our music heard though I wouldn’t say that the current state of the charts really affects us since we’re such a small band. It is disappointing to see that there are less bands who make music like us in the charts but, either way, the charts definitely don't entirely dictate how well a band’s doing. Plenty of ‘rock’ bands still progress onto greater things thanks to the help of services like BBC Introducing who’ve helped a great number of bands bloom by spreading their music. It can get a bit frustrating at times but we’ve come to accept that it’s a slow and expensive game in such a saturated industry and we’re willing to work as hard as possible to get our music to as wide an audience as we can achieve.
PB: Is there any particular message your songs are trying to convey, or are they simply self-expression you trust others can relate to?
ADAM BAIRSTOW: I think our songs are quite expressive. It’s all about experience, feelings and brooding really. Of course there are hidden messages within the lyrics, but it’s not too ambiguous to follow. I think with lyrical content it’s mainly written from the moment, I’ll write it down on my phone and save the idea or scenario onto a note and come back to it when it’s easier to process and step back from. I like breaking things apart and putting them back together, metaphorically speaking. I also tend to write my life out like a diary through the songs though, so a lot of what is being heard is about the past, and the important things that have been thrown in my way. But I like to think of it as a good way of writing, people struggle to talk about their thoughts and feelings, and I think that if you can creatively throw them into a song, then that’s a really good transfer of negativity into positivity.
PB: You had the trio of Jamie Lockhart, Lee Smith and Rob Slater produce and mix your album. How do you come to know them? Are you likely to work on future releases together?
ADAM SPEARE: In the lead up to recording the mini LP we were researching potential studios to work at and Greenmount popped up since it’s only 10 minutes away from where we live. We’d heard great things from them and found they’d actually produced music we were already listening to like Submotion Orchestra and Pulled Apart by Horses. So, we decided to test them out and see if they could help us achieve what we were aiming for. In May 2016, we went in for two days and recorded Cling. The whole process of recording was really enjoyable and we learned a lot in those two days. The final product was ace so we agreed we’d head back in the summer to record the rest of the tracks with them to create ‘Brooders’. As for the future, nothing is certain yet but I’m sure we’ll get back in with them at some point.
PB: ‘Brooders’ is a powerful achievement; apart from touring it, what future plans do you have?
ADAM SPEARE: Nothing completely definite in the books at the moment, the plan is to just keep working, writing, gigging and recording and we’ll see where the future takes us.
PB: Thank you.
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In the wake of their exciting 2017 mini-album, Adrian Janes interviews psych-grunge maestros Brooders to ask about their influences, the Leeds scene and their progress to this point.
Brooders - CDS
Debut mini-album from Leeds-based Brooders has its roots in 1990s rock but is infused with a fresh energy and passion
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