Shawn Braley
To call themselves The Brothers And The Sisters was a stroke of genius as nothing could better describe this band, nor could there be any other band with which such a name could be better applied. This band with such an aptly applied name withholds 7 members; Jeremy Pinnell, guitar and vocals; Ben Franks, guitar(dobro); Evangeline Bauerle, vocals; Tyler Lockard, bass; Cody Franks, banjo; Matt Ayers, drums; Tony Pero, guitar. Each member of the band brings a unique style, while Pinnell, who writes most the songs, is able to capture each member’s eccentricities and use it to the band’s overall advantage.

“We always say we love each other,” Evangeline explains. She’s the only girl, but explains she can take anything the boys can give her. She goes on to say, “The first time we ever practiced we all hugged at the end. I’m an only child and I really feel like I have brothers now.” Pinnell wasn’t available for the interview, and it was explained that he simply doesn’t enjoy the process of being interviewed. The problem lying behind such an explanation is Pinnell’s lyrics are so deeply personal, one gets the impression that every utterance in every song has been lived by him. “We’ll answer as best we can, but I think we all know Jeremy well enough that we can try to answer for him,” Bauerle laments. “He sings from the heart that’s for sure,” Pero said, with Lockard adding, “Everything he’s ever written he’s lived. He told me that one time”. In regards to what Pinnell chooses to display in his heart on his sleeve approach to songwriting it’s simply agreed upon that he bares it all.

As the band takes the stage in Cincinnati’s cozy little Mayday, the stage is crowded, with people and with love for each other and the music they’re playing. Pinnell chose these guys from the Cincinnati area to create this family, and tonight is like a family reunion for the entire Cincinnati scene where hundreds of people traveled from all around the city to see TBATS perform as they release their self titled EP.

The Queen City seems to be having a 1930s era comeback; we have our own folk scene filled with talented, passionate musicians. As far as Pinnell goes, he is a staple in a scene that is only beginning to bud. His work has included previous Cincinnati acts The Light Wires and The Great Depression. The latter being fitting, not only for the depression-era style he still employs in his songwriting, but in the way his lyrics often become a parable for a sort of inner great depression. Hopelessly heart wrenching and heart wrenchingly hopeless, The Brothers And The Sisters songs are real, gritty and honest. Much like the songs of Neil Young, whose lyrics, quite often, lack subtlety, as Pinnell’s do as well. But what they lack in depth of words they make up for in heart and truth.

This couldn’t prove to be more literally true than when asked if the song “Sleep” off their new EP is using the concept of rest metaphorically to describe how we’re slowly killing ourselves by keeping so busy all the time, and the band simply answered, “He probably wrote those lyrics because his neighbor was keeping him awake one night and he couldn’t get to sleep.”

The dim light of hope can be found, not really in their lyrics (though I find it in the eulogy-esque “Big Bright World” which may be about death, but is also about finding happiness in what you had in life) but in their complete lack of pretension and total love for each other.

Here in Cincinnati, the Ohio River has been rising as of late and almost flooded near the banks on the Kentucky side. Ben proclaims that the depth of folk music in Cincinnati and the surrounding areas is due to the river. An apt comparison for the contemporary depth our river is facing currently. Let’s just hope such a depth continues to grow until this dearth of talented bands flood the world.
Shawn's review of The Brothers and the Sisters self-titled debut:
Photos by Natasha Braley