“I don’t really get interviewed, and I’m kind of afraid of it,” Ryan Gray Moore admits. A slim, excitable dude given to the occasional bout of rambling, Moore’s friendly, slightly spastic conversational style often births unexpected nuggets of wisdom. It’s also analogous to the music he makes as Brothers, a name he has commanded for several years but which recently has become a more full-fledged effort—an actual band, if you will.
Of course, that was kind of an accident, too. Moore started Brothers as an “antithesis” to his previous local group, Soapbar, which prized rock and roll escapism over all else. “I was obsessed with the Whigs,” he says, explaining that he wanted “distortion, guitar, bass, drums.” (It’s worth noting that the few songs that remain streamable on Soapbar’s MySpace page display a depth beyond that of the typical three-chord burner.)
Citing Grizzly Bear and Sufjan Stevens as initial inspirations, the intensely analytical Moore, who has a master’s degree in music, yearned to explore the outer reaches of pop. He settled on the name Brothers, which, on the surface, implies externality and camaraderie but was intended, Moore says, to represent the two competing sides of his musical mind.
As he explains, “I decided I wasn’t going to separate them anymore. With Brothers, I was going to [balance] making what I call ‘composongtions,’ [with] making, just, songs—this feels good, it’s pop music, don’t over-think it.”
The first smattering of shows under the Brothers moniker featured Moore’s plaintive, melodic (and, he says, painstakingly notated) compositions backed by strings and horns. But soon, with a concretizing of the live lineup—Moore on guitar and vocals, along with guitarist Stephen Pfannkuche, bassist/vocalist Noel Brown and drummer Michael Gonzalez—Brothers became something looser.
“We sort of morphed back into a rock band all over again, even though I really didn’t want it to be that,” laughs Moore.
Lest you think Moore is a tightly-wound ball of internal strife, he says he is pleased with where his project is at present. “I’m 27, and I’ve been playing in bands since I was 16, and this is the first time that I’ve felt really comfortable,” he says. Brothers is still very plainly his creation, but he’s quick to give his bandmates their due, even assigning them songwriting credits on the Bandcamp page for Brothers’ newly released five-song EP, Street Names. (“If I didn’t write the whole thing, and I didn’t tell them to do it, like puppets, then I don’t think I wrote it,” he says.)
“In Fog,” the EP’s leadoff track, is a particularly collaborative affair. Not coincidentally, it’s the track on the recording that feels most alive. Somehow both ethereal and tightly constructed, the song comes the closest of any on the EP to achieving the intelli-pop transcendence Moore is searching for.
Though it doesn’t quite reach the bar set by “In Fog,” the rest of the record is also a captivating listen. The title track, in particular, is kinetic. It ambles through two-and-a-half minutes of slightly wistful (and slightly generic) indie-pop before it is reborn as something else entirely: an achingly melodic ode to alienation. The song’s striking latter half seems aimed at its too-sanitary opening minutes in the way that Moore’s heady tendencies are offset by his other self, the one, he says, “who just wants to shut off his brain and play for three hours in the practice room.”
Though the content is impressive, Street Names suffers a bit for its sheen. Moore, who says he refused to put any furniture in the living room of the last house he occupied in order to create a more optimal sound environment, is a home recording enthusiast (check his Soundcloud page, which features over a dozen solo tracks and skeletal early versions of Brothers tunes, for proof), but the EP, which features new material as well as new versions of songs he has had on hand for a couple years, was assembled professionally at an eminent local studio. Moore describes the experience as mostly positive, but also says he did things he “never wants to do again,” like use digital plugins to manipulate the sound.
A nascent partnership with The Glow Studio’s Jesse Mangum, a relationship Moore describes as fluid and productive, has already proven a more fruitful endeavor.
“With each song, when it gets to that point where I know I’m not having fun, I’ll give it to Jesse, because that’s where he starts having fun. He’s all about frequencies and filters and figuring out where the sound is on the graph.”
But don’t expect a full-length anytime soon. Or, for that matter, ever. Moore envisions Brothers’ discography as a series of digital-first singles and EPs, explaining that his natural inclination is to make material available as soon as it’s ready. (Moore also consumes as he creates, admitting to that most widespread millennial habit: torrenting music for free, rather than paying for it—at least most of the time.)
More importantly, releasing music in short bursts will also allow Brothers to be any and everything its creator wants it to be. Moore says he wants to explore different sounds and ideas in perpetuity. The band’s current core lineup will remain—”I’m not, like, a crazy person, where I kick people out of the band,” he says—but he plans to incorporate other folks, too.
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen, and I don’t like making grand statements like this, but… I like thinking that Brothers is the last thing I’m ever gonna be in,” Moore says. “I don’t want to ever have to escape. People, they feel like their band becomes a [certain] sound, and they can’t ever escape what that means.”
Moore sits silently for a brief minute, then smiles. “But that’s probably overthinking it.”
WHO: Brothers, Blue Blood, Thayer Sarrano & the Glass Ashes, Jims Brown
WHERE: Caledonia Lounge
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 31, 10 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $5 (21+), $7 (18–20)
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