Among Brothers are a 5 piece Cardif band who have just released their 3 rd single " Keep " on Jen Long's Kissability label. We asked Alex Comana from the band to give us an insight into this musically ambitious Cardiff band.
Tell us about how the band was formed and how you developed your sound.
We all met whilst we were attending Cardiff University and started playing music together pretty soon afterwards. Four of us were actually in a band before Among Brothers and that was a big learning curve which ultimately lead to the music we write today. It took a long time (and a lot of scrapped material) before we were able to turn our ideas into songs that we were happy with, it's still a skill that we're constantly trying to improve.
Efterklang keep coming up as a reference point. How do you react to this and how do you manage the balance between being influenced by other musicians and finding your own original voice?
We're always flattered when people mention Efterklang to describe our sound as they're one of our favourite bands. When we first started writing music we used them as a reference point because they're able to write what are essentially pop songs without needing to stick to conventional song structures or time signatures, and that is something that we wanted to experiment with. We were never worried about being too heavily influenced by them as we have such a broad spectrum of musical interests which all seem to make an appearance in one song or another.
You are a 6 piece which presumably takes some managing. How do you organise yourselves and keep from falling out?
We've always said that we're "friends first and a band second" so we'd never put the band before our friendship. We try and make everything as democratic as possible and we always discuss any decisions we need to make together to make sure we're all on the same page. It can be hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time but everyone in the band is very committed so we always seem to make it work. I think the moment we stop having fun is the moment we'll stop playing, luckily it keeps getting more and more fun!
Your music has been described as orchestral and is at times quite complex. How do you create your music? Is it through improvising together and seeing what emerges or is it scored in a more traditional way?
We rely quite heavily on narrative, so the songs usually start with a theme, event or story, this helps us decide what kind of feel the song is going to have, and to some extent, dictates what direction the song will take dynamically. From there we tend to compose the foundations of the song on our computers which lets us try different things, we sample a lot of found sounds and manipulate them to create new instruments. Once we have the skeleton of a song we take it into the practice room to 'flesh it out' and give it a more natural feel. At this stage it can change quite drastically as we might discover things that don't work as well in a live scenario or different ways of playing the parts. We've arrived at this method through trial and error and it seems to be what works best for us so far.
Your new single "Keep" is being released on the cassette label Kissability. Why them and why on a format that most people can no longer access?
Kissability is our manager Jen's label, so when we came to release the single digitally through Young & Lost Club it made sense to have a physical release alongside it. Nowadays people listen to music almost solely in digital formats: they buy a CD, rip it onto their computer and then leave it on a shelf to collect dust. We decided to release tapes for people who like having something tangible when they buy music. The tapes come with a code for a digital download so people don't have to dig out their old cassette player, and they look nicer than those horrible jewel cases. We've even had someone who turned theirs into a necklace!
The video for the single is quite special. Tell us about the shoot and what you wanted to portray?
The story of Keep revolves around a paranoid father who is convinced the world is ending, he builds a shelter for himself and his children and hides away inside it. The children are worried about forgetting what the outside world looks like so they try and stop themselves from falling asleep, but when they eventually do they dream of the world with a distorted view. We worked with On Par productions for the video and they were very keen on following the story, which we were delighted with. We spent a good few days creating the props for the Michel Gondry-esque dream sequence and hired actors to play the parts of the father and children. We were a lot more involved in this video than our last one, and it's something we want to do more and more.
You have been around as a band for a few years now. Do you get together sporadically or are you just going for the slow burn?
It's a combination of both really, although, we're not purposefully going for the slow burn, we want to make sure that we progress naturally and don't have to rush releases before we're 100% happy with them. Our ultimate aim is longevity and being able to be full time musicians. We have no interest in being a hype-band.
What do you think are the best and worst aspects of being in a band in south Wales?
The best thing by far is the community spirit that South Wales has within the music scene, everyone is keen to help each other out and local promoters and radio stations do their best to promote Welsh music. The worst side of it is the fact that a lot of venues have been closing down recently, meaning there are fewer places to play and see bands.
You have received some very positive reviews for your gigs. How does the band approach live shows?
It took us a while to become fully comfortable with playing live. We used to worry about how we came across on stage and put too much emphasis on trying to emulate the recorded material. Now we just try and have as much fun as possible and hope that people watching will have fun too.
Finally, what are the future recording and live plans for Among Brothers.
At the moment, we're busy planning for our next release whilst carrying on with writing the follow-up to our Homes EP. We should have a tour or two in the winter as well! We'll be giving updates through our website along the way.