Interview: JEFF The Brotherhood's Jake Orrall on Leather Pants, the Nashville Scene, and Almost Breaking His Neck
Rebecca Smeyne JEFF the Brotherhood during CMJ 2009, sans leather pants
So I was doing some research for this, and I read that in 2000 your dad did a song with Al Gore?
He wrote a song about Al Gore, and [Gore] came into my dad's studio in the basement and laid down a little vocal track at the end.
Wow. Did you get to meet him?
Yeah, he actually lives down the street from us, and my dad and him are good friends.
I can imagine that got a mixed reaction from the community. What was that like for you guys?
Uhm...we didn't really...we didn't really get much of a reaction. I mean, it did but it wasn't like people saying...I guess I'm not exactly sure what you mean.
Were any of the conservative people in Tennessee mad at your family for working with Al Gore?
No, we got nothing but positive feedback from it.
So, in addition to the album, you release your own comic books?
We used to do comic books. We did 25 comic books or something, none of which are available any more. Jamin went to film school for a little while and has always been into filming, we've done 6 or 7 music videos, ourselves.
What were the books about?
In high school, I did a comic book that was about an alien, from another planet, that was trying to assimilate into American culture, and all the confusing things that he went through. We had a little book called The Brotherhood that we would do once every couple of months. That one, we used to make like 50 copies and put them in with 7-inches and stuff.
Listening to you guys, it's definitely punk. But Southern punk, very loose and riffy but still fast. How'd you nail your sound?
Our sound definitely evolved quite a bit since our first album which was really inconsistent and immature, just random shit. Our album before this was one was very, very...like the album is called The Boys Are Back In Town and the first song was 15-minutes long. It was really, really kind of jammy, psychedelic kraut-rock kind of improvisational kind of stuff, with some really hard-rock sounding songs mixed in. And me and Jamin pretty much draw all of our influences from obscure early '70s hard rock bands and Southern rock bands and stuff, and then also earlier '80s pop punk and stuff. So basically, this album and a tape came out at the same time...we did a tape of all the stuff that was too jammy and obscure sounding to go on the album because we wanted the album to be really accessible to a wide audience. We basically took all the really honed-in meldings of hard-rock and early '80s pop-punk, and put those on the album. It's really riff heavy, early '70s hard rock and Southern rock mixed with '80s pop-punk and power pop. That was basically the idea.
Live, do you stick to the tight-fast punk songs? Or do you do the 15-minute long jams?
Only in cities in where we have a lot of fans from back in the day. But normally we try to keep our live set to a 25-minute power set of everything that's the most intense, hook-heavy stuff. Right now we're trying to focus on putting on the most bad-ass show possible every show. And I'm sure sooner or later we'll have to start playing 45 minute, hour sets, you know, if we're doing bigger tours. I think that's when we'll start to incorporate more of the psychedelic, kraut-rocky jams.
So, I saw you guys last month at the CMJ Marathon, playing the Union Pool. And you got right on the bar several times, just working it. Do you ever fall off when you do that, or do you have excellent balance?
I almost broke my neck, actually. Months, ago. There's this place called The Five-Spot in Nashville. And some friends of ours were having a show there, and they wanted some Infinity Cat bands to come open, and they asked us day of: "Will you guys come play this show so that the Infinity Cat fans will come out?" and we were like "Yeah, but if you're going to have one of us, then it's got to be all of us," so we had like four bands go and take over the show, basically. We were all just partying in the parking lot and making a scene, and sort of just messing around and stuff and got pretty drunk. We made this huge stack of amps and we were all just sort of trading off and playing songs, because there was no one there, just us and our friends hanging out, and I climbed up this scaffolding thing and got on top and the bottom amp was on wheels and slipped out from under and everything came down in a big pile. Pretty gnarly. I fell on the back of my neck.
Ugh. Does that sort of thing happen often?
No, not too often. It was funny, though.
At the show you had a mustache. And I wasn't sure if the pants were leather, but they seemed pretty tight. You definitely had the full-on rock star look going.
Yeah, those are my leather pants. I'd had the leather pants for a long time from a band called Scorpion Sting that I was in when I lived in Washington State, and I just found them in the closet and decided to bring them up to CMJ and ended up wearing them like every day, lived in them for a week. And I can't take 'em off now, because they're lined with silk. They're like, the best pants ever. And in the winter, they cut the wind, so you never get cold.
That sounds comfy. And how long have you had the mustache?
A couple of years. I don't know why. My facial hair kind of grows in really splotchy, except for the mustache, which will grow in pretty good, so I just kept it. I don't know, I like it. It scares the rest of the girls of when I'm on tour, so my girlfriend doesn't worry about me.
JEFF The Brotherhood play the Bowery Ballroom with Ted Leo on Sunday, and headline Mercury Lounge on Monday. Visit the Orrall Men at http://www.infinitycat.com/.
Jake, with moustache