w/Brother Oliver

Morgan Minch

​Brother Oliver comes out with their new album this summer, Brother Oliver, and recently released the single "I Rely On Everything." Its looming high winds, layers of big yet subdued guitar, and dusty mandolin pickin’ lay a truss that bears the sliding, doleful melody.  I called up the brothers, Stephen and Andrew Oliver, to learn where this sound comes from.
MM: What was your approach in writing the new album?
AO: With our upcoming record we were going back to roots. It’s definitely a dark, explorative sound. Our second album was a little brighter, intentionally.
MM: How does your new album differ from your previous two?
AO: This will be our most complete sounding record. It’s also a full band record, and we give our biggest sound. It’s very explorative—sounds like a live performance the way the arrangements are.
MM:I want to know about your processes when writing music.
AO: Hard to say! We are concerned with form and the aesthetics of our sound. We write the instrumental body first, seeing what fits lyrically from there. Usually it’s more recent lyrics I’ve written. Adding the message is part B.
MM: So are you more expressive at first?
SO: We run with our impressions at first. Bad habits happen when we depart from that; after a while of playing a song it gets harder because you can lose inspiration.
AO: We record early.
MM: Andrew, how do you begin to juggle the spectrum of publishing duties like admin, distribution, promotion, licensing, AND your label, AND creating? How do you compartmentalize, or do you?
AO: Right now we are extremely rehearsal heavy, because we’re about to hit the road. Typically, when we’re off the road, it’s office day, writing day, recording day, rehearsal day—repeat.
MM: So there is an art to it.
AO: You have to know your limits with all the other things. I stepped down from a PR company to begin this journey.
MM: Where do you see your music in 5 years?
AO: We will eventually hit a spot! We’d love to get more into licensing. I really believe we have a niche spot, sonically, in a market. There isn’t a line between anti-establishment music and commercialism anymore.
SO: Hopefully it’s coming out of the speakers at the Fillmore.
AO: I’d like to take the symphonic, cinematic route.
MM: Tell me about the message behind I Rely On Everything. I can only imagine what it’s about.
AO: ‘Cause we have been and we are guilty of—reliance. The day we recorded that song I broke my phone. Ironic huh?
MM: Many self-contained artists I’ve talked to do this thing where they write for their audiences often because it’s seemingly just harder to “make it” when one self-publishes and records. What can you say about that kind of thing?
AO: There’s nothing wrong with doing research for your music!
MM: How did you guys get started playing instruments?
SO: We both took private lessons maybe at 10, 12? Andrew quit guitar at 12, then took trumpet. I took sax.  We were in the band in high school, but late in school we started creating original music, mostly electronic.
AO: Stephen for whatever reason was like, “I want the mandolin!”
SO: We started off -really- soft folk. Our band, with a few others, Kindered Fellow, put out an EP. Then we wanted to move closer to rock.
AO: Stephen modified his mandolin. It opened a whole new world. Effects pedals, the tones make the music a lot more psychedelic.
SO: I kind of want to rebrand the mandolin. Take away from the bluegrass stereotype.
MM: What are your influences? I hear so many things. Appalachian, delta blues, New Orleans brass band, even cowboy music, motown, grunge.

AO: Stephen’s just like—OH YEAH, grunge! Like Jack White, early Greenday. Actual grunge listeners would scoff at those comparisons. I like mostly 70s rock, and jazz.
MM: Is there a particular song that reflects who you guys are?
AO: That’s a big question. Off our first record, “Stubborn Fool.” The song’s about battling against the flesh. I can never find the words to say what I need to say—before you can know love, you got to know pain.