Posted by: – Oct 19, 2012
Brother Bill is a four piece folk/indie/punk rock group from Warrenton, VA. They officially began in 2008, when the members were asked to throw a set together and play a show at an Irish pub in their hometown. But long before brothers Dan (Lead Vocals/Lead Guitar) and Pat Mulrooney (Drums) settled on their moniker, the driving force behind what would become Brother Bill was developed during campfire sessions with close friends, booze, and guitars.
Brother Bill was initially formed as a three-piece featuring the brothers Mulrooney and original bassist Bill Patchett. Bill soon left the band on good terms, in pursuit of a long and exciting career in accounting, and Dan and Pat added Aaron DeLong (Rhythm Guitar/Vocals) and Alex Berklovich (Bass/Vocals) to round out the lineup. Soon after, Brother Bill completed a solid ten-track album to accompany their well-earned reputation, which still precedes them in the Warrenton/Fairfax/Winchester area of Northern Virginia.
While Dan has long since relocated to Richmond, his bandmates have remained rooted in their hometown. When asked about the difference between RVA and Warrenton, Pat said: “Richmond’s our baby. The fans are different here. People dig the creative stuff. [They’re] not like ‘We just want to dance.’” It would undoubtedly be an easier feat to focus exclusively on an up-and-coming music city like Richmond, but the group refuses to put their achievements in Warrenton behind them. I recently spent a weekend with Brother Bill to find out why they spread themselves between two locations. We hit the road on a booze-fueled adventure that would take us from a wild show at The Yerb to Griffin Tavern in Rappahannock (near Warrenton), then back to Richmond to watch them perform at The Watermelon Festival.
Before the trip, I considered Brother Bill to be just another talented group of musicians with an intense live show and an album that I thoroughly enjoyed. But since then, I’ve learned a lot about musicianship--not just theirs in particular, but musicianship in general--and how integral kinship is to the longevity of a collective concept. I found Brother Bill’s music to be a completely accurate depiction of who they are as people. Before the trip, I’d spent quite a bit of quality time with Dan Mulrooney, as well as having met and hung out with his band mates on several occasions. However, I’d never associated their tunes with a specific lifestyle that they were leading. On the surface, Brother Bill’s music simply combines intellectual lyrics with intelligent instrumentation and complex vocal harmonies from all involved. But at its core, Brother Bill is as honest, vulnerable, and amusing as its members.
Tell me about your self-titled album.
Dan: It was released in February of 2012. We recorded for seven months. All in all, it took about eleven moths to finish the album. There were originally eleven tracks, but one was a cover so we cut that one off. We wanted ten, solid, original tracks.
How do you guys feel about the album as a whole?
Dan: If we hadn’t spent eleven months on it, I don’t think it would be nearly as good as it is. We recorded drums in a professional studio with our friend Mark Reiter, the drummer for The Daycare Swindlers. [Mark] really cared about what we were doing, so he spent a really long time with us. Of course while we were recording, we had shows to play. Every other weekend we’d record. I had a job, so I had to drive up from Richmond [to Warrenton] and would drive back, terribly hungover, on Sundays, because I had to work by ten. This time when we record, it’ll be a little easier, as long as I still don’t have a job.
Pat: We had certain songs written out, completed, but a lot of it was just like--we laid drum tracks down in the studio, with loose guitar with it. It seemed like the songs built as we recorded them. It’s kind of an old school way of going into the studio and writing.
AD: It was like going into the studio with an unlimited budget.
Pat: It was like six grand for everything.
Dan: It would have been a lot more. But we got surprised. We went in there with five complete songs that were finished, written.
Pat: Oh, that’s right, it was supposed to be an EP.
Dan: Ryder, our producer, was like, why don’t you lay down the drum tracks for all of them. Some of them, the song changed when we laid the drum tracks down, because they weren’t all the way written yet. But that became the structure.
There’s a big difference between your studio album and your live show. Did you guys notice that?
Dan: That was one of the criticisms. That’s going to be one of the differences in our next album. It was our first shot. It was hard not to be like “Throw another guitar on there, we need this shit rich!” or, “Throw another vocal harmony on there, we need it super resonant.” It ended up being a little overproduced. You learn from that.
It seems like Brother Bill always ends their set with “One Heart In a Hole.” Is that always the case?
Dan: So far. It’s the most punk rock [of the original songs] that we play. It’s the loudest and fastest, it seems like it should be saved for the end.
I don’t know if you guys noticed, but I started a mosh pit at The Yerb. Do mosh pits ever break out at Brother Bill shows?
Dan: Yes. That’s the best part.
Pat: When we first started getting shows, it was with The Daycare Swindlers, and that was a real punk rock crowd, at really punk rock venues. We didn’t really know our songs that well. We still had to change them, make them faster. Playing those shows for the punk rock crowds, we didn’t know what we were doing. Now, we’d probably just play it normal, just like, “Fuck You!”
Dan: We’d just turn it up a little louder.
Alex: And we can play them quietly if we need to. If we’re playing for a dinner crowd.
You guys don’t seem like you want to play for a dinner crowd.
Dan: No. But we got to make that money.
Interview by Dan Anderson/Photo by Kelly Shepherd