Q&A: Jake Orrall, JEFF The Brotherhood



JEFF The Brotherhood, a psychedelic rock duo based out of Nashville, has released so many albums in past decade-and-a-half that it is hard to keep count. The band, made up of brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, also run a record label together called Infinity Cat Recordings, signing friends like Daddy Issues and Diarrhea Planet.


In mid-August, JEFF The Brotherhood put out a new studio album, Zone, going back to their roots of recording with an independent label, choosing Dine Alone Records. Now on tour after the release, the band is making a stop at Black Cat, bringing their heavy guitar riffs and experimental tones to D.C. Jake Orrall, guitarist and vocalist, weighed in on their label, a spectacular new album and what being in the “zone” means in the brothers’ lives.


WRGW: JEFF The Brotherhood just came out with your guys’ 11th LP, Zone. What’s the idea behind the album, in terms of the name, the songs you chose and the context?


Orrall: I think the word Zone comes up a few times in the lyrics and, my brother and I, we’ve both been staying home pretty much all the time, when we’re not on the road because we both live in houses across town from each other and we both have different hobbies and stuff like I do a lot of gardening and Jamin works on motorcycles. So, we’ve been kind of spending a lot of time in our zones. The reason we chose those songs is because they were the ones we finished in time for the album to come out [laughs]. But yeah, we’re both homebodies.


WRGW: Were you writing these songs on tour or while you were home?


Orrall: We took three months before we went in the studio, where we didn’t tour, this past winter. Yeah, I think it was November, December, January and we went to the studio in February.


WRGW: Your tracklist for Zone is made up of just one-word titles. What was the idea behind that?


Orrall: I think we’ve always tried to have some kind of weird continuity with our song titles. And in this case, this was the only album where we didn’t finish writing everything until we were in the studio so a lot of them didn’t have titles when we were recording them, just [named with] whatever word was from the lyrics. Once we were done making the album, we realized most of our songs didn’t have titles and we had just one-word titles written up on the wall [in place of formal titles], so we just made the ones that did have song titles into one-word titles just for continuity.


WRGW: Wow, so there was a backstory to it. Listeners are calling your newest album part of the “spiritual trilogy,” with Heavy Days and We Are the Champions, but as super prolific artists, you’ve released Hypnotic Nights, Wasted on the Dream and Global Chakra Rhythms in between these three. Why do you think people are labeling the trilogy as such?


Orrall: Well, that [label] came from us. That’s how we feel about it. Mainly because we’re kind of back in the same place that we were when we made those two albums. With We Are the Champions and Heavy Days, we were doing everything ourselves, how ever we wanted to, you know? We didn’t have to make anything a certain way or put any kind of spin on anything. When we went to go record it, it felt like recording those two albums. We were just like, “OK, what do we want to do now? We can do whatever we want.” This has the same… for us, it was very nostalgic to write and record and it brought us back to the days of those two albums.


WRGW: So you’re referring to being back on both Infinity Cat, your label, and the independent label, Dine Alone, instead of Warner?


Orrall: Yes, that’s part of it. I mean obviously when we did Global Chakra Rhythms on Infinity Cat, that was very much a free for all. Like a very, very “out there” album. But, at the same time, it didn’t really have anything to do with Heavy Days or We Are the Champions. [Those had] a very different process for writing songs, like the whole way we approached the albums, we hadn’t revisited that at all until we made this one.


WRGW: I was a little confused about Zone because, I mean, Infinity Cat is your family label, you run it with Jamin and your father. But, then you jumped to Dine Alone to release Zone. So why did you not stay with Infinity Cat for it?


Orrall: Infinity Cat is, unfortunately, not a successful enough label to pay for a band to go into a studio and record an album. So we needed someone to put up the money to go into the studio.


WRGW: Makes sense. While JEFF The Brotherhood takes a break, are you working on any side projects?


Orrall: I just went up to New Hampshire, to this a little house on a lake with my friends and we recorded an album up there, of just really, really weird songs that we wrote sitting by the lake.


WRGW: Is this lake house collective album going to be released anytime soon?


Orrall: To be honest, I don’t think it’ll ever come out. It was just me and my friends messing around… I have this little label called Stoneham Tapes, that I’ve put out stuff on since college. Just like limited edition cassettes or CDs, so we might do something on that… Jamin and I also have a project with the bass player who played on Wasted on the Dream, kind of like a 70s bar rock power trio called Shakespeare, but that’s really been slow-going.


WRGW: Yeah, it seems like you have a really good group of musicians featured on almost every album you release. What was it like to collaborate with Alicia Bognanno from Bully for Zone? I know this isn’t the first time you had her on an album.


Orrall: We had her doing backup vocals on Wasted on the Dream but Warner Bros. didn’t want it on there so they kind of wiped it out of the mix mostly. But, yeah, I think that might have been right when Bully started playing. But, we’ve known her for a long time because she used to do sound at this venue that we played at every once in a while. The Nashville scene is pretty small and we wanted to have her sing on the record, so I wrote that song for her to sing and when she came in, she nailed it in two takes and we just hung out.


WRGW: You’re going on tour again soon. Anything special you’re looking forward to in D.C.?


Orrall: Oh, good question. What do we usually do in D.C.? That’s one of the few places where we don’t have like a home base. I know there’s a lot of good Ethiopian food in D.C. so maybe we’ll do that.


WRGW: Yeah, there are a lot of good places on U Street next to the Black Cat, where you guys are playing. Last question: who would be on your list for a dream collaboration?


Orrall: Oh, I guess, Ryuichi Sakamoto. Yeah, that would be sweet, to do some crazy synthesizer stuff. Who knows what we would get into?


WRGW: Great, that’s all I have. See you guys at the show!


Orrall: Yeah, thank you.


Interview conducted by Everly Jazi.


Photo: Courtesy of Infinity Cat

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