For about a decade, brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall have been playing fuzzy, guitar-centric garage rock as JEFF the Brotherhood, releasing raw-sounding albums, usually recorded in three to four days, on their own Infinity Cat label. Later this month, they’re releasing their major-label debut, Hypnotic Nights, which was produced by no less than the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. It contains a few more keyboard tracks than usual and overall presents a more polished — but still unpredictable — take on the duo’s signature sound. Part of that might have something to do with the fact they recorded this one in the space of a week.
Despite such luxuries, the pair still enjoys the simple things in life. When we reached drummer Jamin, he said his biggest goals for the summer were swimming and canoeing with his friends — something he and vocalist-multi-instrumentalist Jake captured in their wild and NSFW video for the album’s lead single, “Sixpack.” In it, they drink beer (duh), pass flasks, go skinny dipping and pass, uh, hand-rolled cigarettes to one another. It looks like a nice respite, but before long they’ll be back on the road, touring in support of their record in their short bus, which Jamin says below is becoming more like home than ever before.
On your new album Hypnotic Nights, the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach produced. What did he bring most to the album?
The main thing was the sounds that we got for the record. He helped us a lot with song structure, changing things. He was almost like this living advice column or something. He brought another point of view, which we’ve never had. When it’s just the two of us, we get really super deep and into it and don’t come out of our own heads. There’s never any perspective, so you never know what could have been different or what could have been better. Dan helped us with that.
Your video for the song “Sixpack” just came out. It looks like it was fun to make.
It’s pretty funny. We got a bunch of our friends to come with us to the river, which is what we normally do in the summer. We just filmed it this time. The song is about going to the river and canoeing.
Has having a song called “Sixpack” encouraged people to buy you more beers?
[Laughs] People always try to buy us beers. At a show recently, some kid brought a six-pack of homemade beer in this case that just said “Sixpack” on it, and that was kind of strange. But that was kind of cool. People try to get us to shotgun beers pretty often, but I hate doing it. [Laughs]
How was the homemade beer?
I didn’t try it. People bring you stuff and you never know what’s really in it. Actually, this woman brought some weed caramel popcorn to one of our shows and I tried that. That was really good.
What inspired the song “Staring at the Wall”?
A lot of the songs, I can’t talk about what they’re about, because it’s personal with Jake. And he won’t talk about it either. But you can ask me more questions about that song and I’ll just try to answer them.
Why is it about staring at the wall in the first place?
Well, that’s just something everybody does. Everybody can relate to that. It’s just a good thing to write a song about. There are definitely dark events that inspired that, but I can’t talk about them. Jake won’t either.
Watch the video for “Sixpack” here:
Why did a very synth-heavy cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” make the album?
Well, it sounds kind of cheesy but there are a lot of changes going on with us. We wanted to do that song because it kind of sums up where we’re at with our musical path. We signed with Warner Bros., and our music style is changing a little. We’re playing in new places and stuff in our lives is changing around. It’s all good stuff, but we really like that song.
It was Jake’s idea. He kind of did the whole thing when me, Dan and Colin, the engineer, went out to lunch. When we got back he had pretty much done the whole thing. I knew he was going to do it with loops and the vocals. There are probably going to be a lot of synths on the next record, so this was kind of a segue.
You approached it pretty differently from the original.
We wouldn’t dare ever cover a normal Black Sabbath song. They’re all too perfect. I would only be disappointed hearing a cover of a Black Sabbath song. There’s no way to make it better. I think we tried to do a good job on “Changes,” because it’s not their normal sound. There was more to play around with.
Did you record any other covers?
We didn’t do any other covers in that session, but we’re about to put out a seven-inch on our label, Infinity Cat, of a Hole cover that we did. We picked “Turpentine.” That’s the song to do. And we also have a cover song coming out on a Nick Lowe tribute album, “Marie Provost,” off his Jesus of Cool album. It’s a really hard song to cover, because it’s so well done already.
Lastly, you’ve recently been touring in a short school bus. Why is that?
We’ve been touring in it for the last three tours, so about four months. We had a van and we wanted something bigger, because we had more gear, because Jake keeps getting more amps. It’s really annoying, but it’s his thing, I guess.
We had a school bus a long time ago that Jake converted to run on vegetable oil, but the transmission went out and we didn’t have any money so we just got rid of it. This one we bought from a daycare and ripped all the seats out. Jake and I built a loft bed and a couch in it to make it more like an RV. It gets really bad gas mileage but it’s nice. It’s like a house. You can sleep in it most of the time if the weather’s right. There’s no AC, but you can get a good cross breeze if you open the windows and the hatch in the top.
Hypnotic Nights is out July 17 on Warner Bros. Stream a four-song sampler EP here: