October 20: Brookes Brothers will release their second album Orange Lane on Viper Recordings.
11 years after their debut Viper single, six years after their accomplished self-titled debut album on Breakbeat Kaos and three years after they told us it might be ready by the end of 2014, Orange Lane comprises 13 tracks including collaborations with Danny Byrd, ShockOne and vocalists Charlotte Haining, Majesty, Pierre Da Silva, Shezar & Bossman Birdie and Chrom3.
Confidently commanding long-awaited status, Orange Lane takes its name from the street their grandmother had a shop on and consolidates the soulful, warm, groove-focused flare they’ve hinted at since the very beginning with early tracks such as Promise and certified anthem Tear You Down.
Now operating on whole new level of production, Orange Lane is the sound of the Brookes Brothers have sculpting a body of work that’s warm, heavy and loaded with consistency and details. Riddled with disco, soul, real songs and live feeling instrumentation, Brookes Brothers may have taken a little longer than a lot of us hoped but the wait is worth it. We sent them a few questions to find out more…
What took you so long. I know you can’t hurry or force art, but in 2014 you told us that “hopefully the album will be out before the sun goes away again”. That was three years ago…
Yeah we had a feeling that quote would come back to haunt us! We did say hopefully. There were some dramas behind the scenes that affected our ability to flow as we’d planned. It definitely took longer than we’d anticipated to wrap up. After all that we had some sample clearance issues that delayed the release even more. It’s frustrating when things out of your control start to get in the way but we just had to accept it and try and prevent it happening again. We’d still rather be late-but-right than bang-on-schedule but half-finished. Hopefully it’s worth it for those who’ve waited! We feel like it’s what it was supposed to be. Moving forward we’ve promised ourselves to keep a steady release schedule and we will.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during all of this?
Once you’re past a certain point the simplest things become challenging, like knowing if a tune is good or not. Writing an album is a huge task and as an artist you feel a responsibility to get it right. We wanted it to be a progression on our first album, while also retaining the best qualities. We decided to do some more songwriting for this LP and try and push our sound into new territory, which meant unlearning some old production and mixing techniques and coming up with new ways of doing things. It was really important to us to that we progressed our sound, fusing it more with elements from the analogue music we grew up with.
As so much time has passed, many tracks will have gone through many transitions and transformations or simply been dropped along the way to reach this final body of work… How many tracks were created during this album writing process and would you have any idea on man hours invested into it?
Damn that’s hard to answer. Yeah the tracks definitely go through various transformations, and parts get redone/rerecorded if they’re not hitting the spot. We must have come up with at least 50 ideas but we really only end up properly finishing the ones we feel are working best for the album. We definitely have a fair few ideas knocking around now that could be used for the future. In terms of hours, I’d rather not know, I think between the two of us it’s certainly into the thousands. Literally too scared to do the maths!
We’ve only had a sneaky peak but there were some very nice moments that instantly grabbed me – the lavish but loose soul of All About You, the epic first track The One, the restrained slippery funk of The Way. It feels like there’s a lot of attention to detail on the sounds and consistency throughout the whole piece as a body of work, am I right?
Thanks, we’re glad you’re enjoying it! It’s those little details and less “lead” sounds that can really make a track, so we try and focus as much on the background as on the foreground. As far as consistency yeah there’s more of a musical thread to this LP – looking back, the variety on the first LP was a bit bonkers. Also this album is drum & bass speed from start to finish, so the variation all takes place within the same tempo. We’re hoping it’s the kind of album you can keep listening to for a while. Our music can be quite chilled-out on the surface but I think this is a pretty intense album.
Are you using any hardware or vintage synths? There’s a really distinctive aesthetic and signature on a lot of the tracks which makes me think you might be.
It’s all in-the-box. We do try and marinade our sounds as much as possible for flavour. There is a fine-art to making digital music “feel” right – it feels wrong to us by default. You gotta fix it up. We’re 80’s babies & it’s that sonic signature we’re searching for, that’s what feels right to us. 80’s music was driven by high-end studios and desks which are fairly impractical in this day and age unless you’re Bruno Mars, so we learnt to replicate those sonic conditions as best we can within the digital framework.
We need to chat disco. I have no idea if we’re hearing samples/replays/virtual instruments across the big string and horn hooks but take us to the source and the roots of your love for the disco sound.
Hahah that’s good… We grew up around a lot of 80s/90s R&B as well as soul, jazz and reggae. That’s what we listen to most – at house parties we’ll always reach for a bit of Earth Wind & Fire before playing the latest banger. For us music is good times, that’s where our focus lies with the whole thing. I think the good-vibe feeling comes from R&B, soul and disco. Lyrically it’s the antithesis to the blues, it’s got that uplifting aesthetic. That’s what Daft Punk picked up on as well, the celebration factor.
You mentioned songwriting earlier. There are some proper songs on the album. You must have learnt a lot about lyrics and structure etc during this process?
Yeah we tried to attack that side of things a little more with this album which was a challenge – we were used to the usual way of making drum & bass. It ended up an essential part of the album though. We started off writing stuff like Good To Me, then we realized we could do that sort of thing and make it work. At the same time we felt there wasn’t enough songwriting in D&B that wasn’t aimed squarely at radio, so we wanted to try something a little more organic and see what the outcome was.
Where or what is Orange Lane?
It’s the name of a street where our grandma had a shop on and where we spent a fair bit of time as kids, just something personal to us that we liked as an album title.
Give us an album high – a moment when everything was coming up Brookes!
Damn I don’t know, if it doesn’t feel Brookes we pack it in! We enjoyed working on every track…For the first 100 hours of each track that is.
Now give us a shit moment. A time when you thought the album may never actually materialise from this trip you’ve been on?
Every good moment needs a corresponding shit one! You have to try and stay level-headed even when everything feels like it’s going against you. I think the worst moment for me was when we couldn’t get a vocal sample cleared despite spending like 10 days re-recording and processing it to perfection.
Speaking of vocalists. Having Pierre Da Silva at the start and the end of the album gives it a real finished feel and sense of consistency. Was this planned? Big up Pierre!
Not planned at all but Pierre is such a unique talent. We tried to cut it down to one song but we couldn’t justify leaving either track off. Pierre is a real artist and he’s got loads more on the way. In an age full of engineered industry ‘link-ups’, the most refreshing thing still for us is finding someone noone has heard of and making an awesome song together. Everyone we collab’d with on the album was a pleasure to work with.
Please feel free to share any stories about Danny Byrd to sign-out. You know, like the ones where he drives his car down a lane that’s too narrow, that type of thing…
Byrd’s driving has actually improved. I think the two bans may have done the trick!
Brookes Brothers – Orange Lane is out October 20.
Next single Movin’ On is out August 11: Pre order