Posted On 19 Dec 2018
Get to know the New Orleans Indie Rock band Mighty Brother! The group is captained by songwriters Jake Ryan and Nick Huster and crewed by a dynamic saxophonist and airtight rhythm section. Since 2014, the group has charmed audiences with their infectious brand of songwriting, soaring harmonies, meticulous arrangements, and full sail quest for collaboration.
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Learn more about Mighty Brother in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
N: No, thank you! Today we are revving up for the last couple of shows we have this weekend in Washington DC. We have had 5 shows in the capitol over these past 2 weekends, including 2 Sofar Sounds. So we are just rehearsing and preparing for the final 2!
Since 2018 is almost over, how has this year treated this band? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year? How close are you to reaching it?
J: This has been a productive year for us. We’ve spent most of the year working on a double album. The process of writing and arranging is a lot of fun, but tracking all your hard work in studio, hearing the tracks develop even further, that’s something truly fulfilling.
We also toured a bunch this year, covering many places from New York to Seattle. It can definitely be exhausting, but it’s always a blast to hit the road together. The crucible of touring, being crammed in a van for weeks on end, seems to synthesize culture between us. There are jokes and jibes that seems to last all tour, and no doubt were hardly comprehensible to the outside observer! We’re getting it down, and the energy is positive.
N: The main goal this year was to get this double album together. It has been a long process because it’s about twice the work of a normal album! Perhaps more if we’re counting the hours that go into coordinating even more people simultaneously. Presently, everything is tracked, and the tunes are in the mixing/mastering phase. We’re hoping to have it all done in the next few months.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could agree on?
N: This project began very organically, and everything seemed to fall into place. From the songs that we selected to the name of the band, we were on the same page.
J: Up to the moment we first jammed together, I’d always felt that I was talking past other would-be collaborators, or that they didn’t understand my dialect. Perhaps I also lacked the language to communicate my vision. With nick, however, everything clicked, and we started churning out tunes from the start. Being a drummer, nick had a window into the side of songwriting I struggled most with articulating. I could imagine the grooves, but I couldn’t describe it. He finishes my sentences in that sense and has the unique ability to bring quite the open mind to the writing table. It’s a good table.
N: The name came from “Dearly Beloved,” one of our early co-writes. “Mighty Brother” appears in the lyrics, and we felt it both a strong name and one that hinted at something greater than the sum of its parts.
How do you think your hometowns have influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
J: Well, three of us are from Indiana, and Jonah (our sax player) is from Seattle. The midwestern roots that Nick, Quinn, and I share seem to lend a certain like-mindedness when it comes to arrangements, perhaps due to exposure to similar music and ideas. Our musical sensibilities are varied, to be sure, but we work together really easily. Jonah is a great musician that anyone could work with. Killer player with a whisked sense for melody. He and I vibe really well on that front.
N: He’s our west coast wildcard! He seems to approach music as practically as we do, willing to go wherever the song leads and also seems to find the fitting part when we get there.
How has your various musical backgrounds helped shape the sound of this band?
N: We have found this balance between a very technically trained rhythm section with a jazz and music school background and songwriters, Jake and I, that are more self-taught and interested in the emotional feel and narrative of the songs.
J: Balancing these two backgrounds helps us create songs that are at once surprising and dynamic while still being relatable and tell interesting stories. Nick and I love taking arrangement risks to help the lyrics and narratives really land, using the “pop form” only as a guideline, never the rule.
N: Jonah and Quinn have a strong sense of the “cool,” and their prowess pushes us towards more technical risks with the chops to back it up.
J: I think together we do a great job bringing our influences together to create songs that are quite palatable and memorable while still being technical in ways you don’t notice at first. There are a ton of Easter eggs both lyrically and musically.
Can you talk about the double album that you will be releasing soon? What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process?
N: It’s been a much grander task and project than we ever expected.
J: We birthed the idea for a double album over a year ago while discussing how, as two songwriters, our songs and performances tend to delve into duality and explore multiple perspectives on similar issues.
N: We had these two characters in the album artwork for “Jettison. Reprise.”, a Rabbit and an Owl. After asking the usual “are you two actually brothers,” folks would invariably ask who is the rabbit and who is the owl. We started thinking of these characters as archetypes and the idea of our double album “The Rabbit. The Owl.” came out of these discussions.
J: This record is the peoples’ doing! We love to dance with the expectations of the audience, and this project is a tribute to that conversation. Once we started thinking archetypally, songs began to unfold as “rabbit songs” or “owl songs.”
The entire group really came together in writing this one, and the music reflects this collaboration. We took a lot of risks and have already toured much of the material to give them time to develop from that same interaction with the audience. They’re a big part of this double album as well, and we can’t wait to share the songs!
While it’s difficult, can you choose a few of your favorite songs on this big collection and explain the inspiration behind them?
J: We have been performing “Escape Velocity” for some time now, and it’s quite the behemoth now, a natural Owl-side track. It’s definitely my favorite for its complete unwillingness to be performed with anything less than a 5-piece. It feels like everyone struts their stuff in this song, and the performance has always catalyzed the audience. We gave our producer free reign on his first pass to get weird on this song, and he really feels like a pivotal part of this song as it nears completion, bringing tons of really cool production ideas to the tune.
We also have this wicked tale of two friends, the vandal and the villain, who rob a bank together. “Vandal,” the last track on The Rabbit, introduces the vandal’s perspective, while “Villain,” the last track on The Owl, speaks from the opposite side. The characters present two very different versions of the same story really driving how the dual aspects of the record. There is betrayal and mystery and dark poeticism making these quite the foray into risky songwriting. These would not exist without the formation of the double album concept, and I couldn’t be happier with how they are turning out!
N: One of my favorites is a song Jake and I wrote a couple years back called “Wolfchild” Iit truly found its home on The Owl. We love to play with vocal harmony layering, and Jake has really outdone himself on this one. The song was inspired by the idea of home, childhood, and your inner wild-child. The music and lyrics explore the idea of losing this creative source if you don’t continue to revisit it, and the pain that leaving it behind can cause. I think all of us, no matter our vocation, could foster more creativity and artistic expression in our lives!
How do you go about writing your music and putting your songs together?
N: In the beginning of the band, we both brought our catalog of songs to the table, helped each-other flesh them out as songwriters, and then brought the rest of the band in to arrange them and create the grooves and riffs for the track.
J: These days, however, we focus more and more on writing our songs together. As songwriters we both try to create grooves and ideas that we feel the band can really expand on. The Vibe EP brought this new process into play. For example, “ Mystic Girl” features a bridge entirely written by our bassist and saxophonist. The result is something more dynamic and creative than what we would have probably written.
N: Sharing the creative reigns is challenging, but we are getting better and better at letting the songs evolve between everyone. This upcoming album sounds more like “Mighty Brother” than like “Nick and Jake play with great musicians,” if that makes sense. And we are hoping to continue growing in this way.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
J: Haha. We’re different in that way. We have this dynamic that some friends describe as fire and ice. I think it really helps our band because we are each able to focus on the most important parts for us and make sure everything is up to snuff.
N: When it is going well, I’d say we all love to be on tour together. Getting the honest reactions and feedback from the audience every night feels great and helps us improve our performance and the execution of our songs. Our friendship also tends to thrive… now that we’ve gotten our tour patterns down a little better.
Do you have touring plans scheduled for the rest of this fall and into winter?
J: We have had a string of duo shows these past two weeks in DC, with two more this weekend.
N: Jake and I are also traveling a lot in the coming months, so we will be playing a lot of duo shows. It will be pretty cool to bring our performances back to our roots… but we will be missing the guys!
J: In January we will begin a tour run that will take us from NOLA over to San Francisco. After that we are planning to fly to New Zealand for a little respite after the work we’ve done this year. It feels like a good moment to put the phone on hold and garner more experiences to bring to the next record. We actually have a lot of music connections in NZ and hope to play across the entire country.
N: There are a lot of plans to share our music far and wide coming up! Our next full band tour should start early next summer to start rolling out this double album..
Do you find that all of social media and keeping up with your fans has gotten so overwhelming? OR do you rely heavily on others to take care of that for the band? Which platform would you say that you enjoy engaging with the most?
N: We like to say at shows, follow us on social media at @mightybrotherband everywhere online… except for Twitter, where we are @mightybother … because twitter is a bother!
J: Nick likes to say that!
We use Facebook and Instagram primarily. I like the format of Instagram for keeping things current in an image-rich way, and Facebook allows for a little more background and detail. Fb events still reign in the event-planning world, although it’s starting to charge a lot to simply reach folks whom have already opted to receive invitations and see your media.
N: We are an indie band first and foremost in the way that WE DO IT ALL. We send the emails, book the shows, make the posters, fill up the gas tank, and we plan the whole thing. That isn’t to say we don’t have help. Our friends and fans engage us online, bring their friends to shows, give us floors to sleep on, buy merchandise and encourage us to continue!
J: We stand on the shoulders of giants, to be sure. Our family helped us in our musical beginnings and continue to encourage us. Fans and friends remind us that our music is producing a positive impact, and we are aided all the while by the musicians who surround us. We are privileged in many ways, and in that we are obliged to push for greater heights, to lift others with us, and to give back.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today? Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
J: We actually talk a lot about how we can use our music and platform as musicians to contribute to socio-political conversations. It’s not something we spell out explicitly in our lyrics, but the stories we tell and the characters we create each embody issues we confront daily, but it tends to be implicit. We see politicization of issues as a major hindrance to conversation and growth as folks tend to vote down the party line rather than adopt perspectives they might otherwise agree with. We like to talk about the social issues rather than how they are politicized, and that happens mostly in interviews like this.
N: One of our goals as musicians is to inspire those around us. By doing our work and sharing our creativity, we hope that others are emboldened to do the same.
What musicians would you love to work with in the future? What artists have really been inspiring this group and your music since day 1?
N: We keep discovering new music that inspires us. For me, I love the Avett Brothers and Alt-J. If we could go on tour with one of those groups, I’d be pretty amped.
J: To share a stage with My Morning Jacket or Grizzly Bear though… I think I’d also love to share a bill with other medium sized groups that have inspired us over the years like Busman’s Holiday from Bloomington, Indiana or Alexis and the Samurai from New Orleans. Both are exceptionally talented and charismatic duos that have inspired our songwriting and performance styles.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
N: Some songs deal with political ideas, others deal with morals and morality, and almost all of them offer some psychological or social perspective. Mostly, I hope that people connect with the energy and stories that we tell, but also that it makes people feel comfortable to also express themselves.
J: I hope to encourage self-expression, for sure. I wonder at each performance why folks should even care. Why should my story mean anything to them? As far as I can tell, people like people. They like their stories, their perspectives, their ways of being. We spend our entire lives talking to people about people! I look around the bar or venue before we go on and everyone is talking to each other. Maybe this is an introvert’s perspective, but it is amazing to me! What makes my story any more important than any of those conversations? Nothing, except that people have chosen to listen. I want to give them something genuine because they seem to appreciate it. The growth for me is in the writing process, that deep delving. Folks tell me that my music inspires them and helps them heal. I want people to feel that they can be honest and genuine and present and that good things come of that.
N: And sometimes, we want people to dance!
Would you like to share anything else about your music or the history of this band to our readers?
J: If you want to write songs, start today! I always tell, “give yourself time to write shit.” Nick and I did our time, and ya know what? One day you write a song that you’re like, that’s not half bad. I like to think we are past that point!
If you are a band, we want to encourage you to get out there and tour and assure you that it is sustainable with a calculator and the right mindset. No special sauce. If you put yourself out there, cities and towns will find a way to get you back. We’ve been touring for years now, and it has been possible through real, in-person interactions. Network and have fun and be genuine.