WXTJ DJ Morgan Feldenkris interviews Brothertiger in anticipation of his Nov. 2 show at the Jefferson, opening for JR JR.
How have your musical inspirations, such as Talking Heads and Brian Eno, inspired the lyrical themes and sound of Brothertiger?
I always thought that I write lyrics in a pretty odd way. I usually start the songwriting process with some pads, a few lead melodies, and some beats, then add the vocals last. This is usually done through singing gibberish for a while until I get a melody that I think fits. Once I’ve found something I like, then I’ll write lyrics that fit that melody. I read a biography on Eno, and I learned that he writes lyrics in the exact same way. Eno has always inspired me in a melodic and methodical sense, but I never knew he wrote lyrics in the same way I did. I really dig that.
David Byrne also has an interesting songwriting process, and his lyrics are pretty general like mine, in a sense that they don’t call out anyone or any specific instance or experience in particular (in general). I took influence from that in some ways. My lyrics touch upon certain moments of my life, but in a very indirect way.
Do you identify yourself with the chillwave genre? If not, why do you feel music fans are so eager to place similar-sounding artists into genres, especially in the last five years?
I never really understood the genre itself. Chillwave has been a sort-of “genre that must not be named” with a lot of bands, and it always seems to come up for me. I think chillwave was a brief thing that happened around 2009-10, and I don’t think it’s here with us anymore. I don’t consider myself chillwave, and I didn’t really understand why I got thrown into the genre when I first started.
I think the Internet has made a huge impact on how people discover new music, but I also think it has limited the industry in some ways because it has constructed this specific set of categories that bands belong in. It sometimes makes an individual bands’ music harder to stand out. I think Spotify has a genre station called Chillwave. But at that rate, why not make a station called vaporwave, or seapunk, or witch house, etc. These things come and go. I’m surprised people still consider chillwave a thing.
What about that dreamy, nostalgic sound you are known for draws you in?
I think it stems from my love of the sound of deep, warm synth tones. Over the years, I’ve developed certain things I do in almost every song, including Mu chords on pads (Major 2 chords), simple lead arpeggiations, and really warm bass synth tones. These are the consequence of music I used to love listening to as a kid, hearing 80s songs on the radio as a 10 year old and asking my dad about the band. Then, I’d hear that same song again while in college or something, and I was able to research how they made it. I’m a really big fan of dramatic chord changes and really simple melodies. That’s really all I’m about with my music.
Do you have any plans to expand your signature sound into a slightly brighter, less lo-fi territory, as your latest songs Out of Touch and Wake seems to imply?
Definitely. The entirety of the new record is a lot brighter than any of my previous material. For this record, I really tried to open up to new influences in mixing and production, and aimed to step away from the lo-fi sound for a change.
What themes would you like to explore in this upcoming album, and does the dark, mysterious cover art have a direct connection with these?
It does have a direct connection. Out of Touch is a really personal album for me, touching on my sense of feeling disconnected from the rest of society sometimes, yet how I shouldn’t look at it as a bad thing. I think it’s something that many people feel about themselves. I have always been really self-conscious and overbearing over myself, and I’m still unsure if I’ve found my place in society. But over the years, I’ve realized that many people are always trying to find their place, and some never will. But here I am, reaching my hand through the reeds, to try to discover my place in this world.
How much collaboration work have you done with other artists with similar musical sounds, such as Teen Daze and Washed Out, and how much would you like to do in the future?
Teen Daze and I have swapped a few remixes for each other over the past few years. He and I have been good friends in music since we heard about each other online. I’ve met Ernest (Washed Out) a few times, and he’s a really humble guy. I’ve never collaborated with him or remixed anything for him, but I’d definitely love to in the future!
What artists do you know of that personally excite you, but have a lack of press attention devoted to them?
I have a really close connection to a few bands out in Denver because my manager used to live there, so I’d always go out there to play and hang. I met my friends in Inner Oceans a few years ago when they gave me a ride from SXSW back to Denver so I could play a show there before I went back to New York. That’s a band I’m really excited about, and I’m eagerly waiting for them to make an impact outside of Denver and the West Coast. They sent me their demos for their new album, and I got the chills listening to them. I’ve played several shows with them, and each time I see them, they get better and better, tighter and tighter. I can’t wait to see what they do.
In your personal experience as a musician whose music has propagated widely due to social media and the internet in general, does Spotify and other streaming services negatively impact the artists in the current musical landscape or aid them?
I think it depends on the situation. Obviously if you’re a small-time artist looking for exposure, Spotify can be your best friend in terms of getting your music out there to listeners. But if you’re an established artist, you’re weighing the benefits of pretty much everything you do, and things start to matter more. I think the current financial constructs of streaming services are really poorly done, and should be reassessed overall. But for me, Spotify is still an asset and only helps.
Extending from your rendition of This is the Place (Naive Melody), are there any other classic songs of the 1980’s or your influencers that you would like to cover?
I’m about to begin production on an entire cover album of Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair, which I’m really excited about. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and they’re my favorite band, so I want to do it right.
Your contemporary in the synthwave/chillwave/synthpop scene of the 2010’s, Neon Indian, has recently been exploring influences from disco and funk. Similarly, Toro y Moi has branched out from the ethereal, summery sounds he was known for into psychedelic, dance, and even hip hop music. Have you thus felt any pressure to switch up your sound drastically?
I haven’t felt any pressure from that, no. I think it’s natural for a musician to stem away from a genre or style after awhile. Right now, I feel like this sound I’m going for is the kind of music I am truly supposed to make, and I feel really good about it. But that feeling could change, and I could find some new style and feel that same way about it. Things change, and feelings change, just like the seasons. But I think that’s a healthy form of creative output, and I’ve accepted that.
See Brothertiger on tour with JR JR when they stop by the Jefferson Theater on Nov. 2.
Tickets + info here.