The Blood Brothers fucked up song structure, threw out 4/4 time, and sent you home with rhythm your mother would not approve of, and the press praised the band for its intelligent, vicious songwriting. In the past year and a half, the Seattle quintet has toured endlessly, stopping only to put out its third full-length, Burn Piano Island, Burn, replete with breakneck speeds and intense emotions. Prefix Magazine's Randy D'Amico sat down with vocalist Jordan Blilie and bassist Morgan Henderson to talk about writing music and the motivations behind the Blood Brothers' push to get heard.
Prefix Magazine: What's going on with this tour? How did it happen?
Blood Brothers: Part 1: Jordan Blilie: They [Cursive] just asked us to do it. Cody (Votolato, guitars) had known Ted (Stevens) for a little while, from going through and playing in Omaha. They had gone to a couple of our shows as well. We just kind of met them casually. And then, yeah, they just asked and we said yeah.
PM: You guys having fun so far?
Blood Brothers: Part 1: Morgan Henderson: Oh yeah. It's been awesome. PM: Do you guys still look forward to tours?
Blood Brothers: Part 1: JB: For sure. I look forward to being home, but you know, I never think, Oh great, another tour. Fuck. I have to do this again. It's always fantastic. PM: What's it like playing with bands like Cursive, who you'd expect would draw a different crowd than what you guys might attract.
Blood Brothers: Part 1: MH: It's a pretty similar crowd actually. When we did our last US tour, we mentioned that this would be our next tour, you know, "Hey we'll be back...with Cursive." And a lot of kids were really totally excited. It's the shows that are with the Used or Glassjaw that are a little bit more iffy, because those kids, they've never heard of us, so it can be kind of weird. PM: The last time I saw you guys was in Jersey at Club Krome, and I went up to (vocalist) Johnny Whitney --
Blood Brothers: Part 1: MH: The show where Jordon didn't play, or the show we did with Glassjaw? PM: No you guys were all there. I don't think Glassjaw played actually. It might have been two tours ago? It was right before Piano Island had come out, and I had just listened to it, and I went up to Johnny and I was like, "Wow, I've heard the album, it's amazing. I'm totally in love with it." He was really wary actually of how kids were going to react to it in Jersey. He was like, "Thank you, I appreciate it, but I'm not really sure how these kids are going to take it." I'm sure those kind of thoughts ran through your head a lot at first. How has it changed since?
Blood Brothers: Part 1: JB: Glassjaw, and bands like the Used and some other bands -- well, those two mostly -- attract a certain crowd that really has no frame of reference for what we do or the bands that have inspired us. So going on tour with bands like that makes it a challenge because they [the audience] are seeing something they have never been exposed to. And on top of that, it's hard to wrap your head around [the Blood Brothers' music] on a first listen, especially seeing it live. In that respect, when bands ask us to go on tour with them, we are always a little bit apprehensive as to how we are going to go over with their fans. PM: Has it changed now, going back to those towns?
Blood Brothers: Part 1: JB: Yeah, just because we haven't done a support tour in a while until this one. So going back to those towns, we were getting the kids who did get it from the other times we had been there, the kids who have always listened to us. This is nice though, because to me it's the perfect mix of the kids that would see us anyway and new people who haven't seen us before or heard us before. And the kids that like us aren't going to refuse to see us because we are playing with cursive. They can enjoy that too. PM: That actually brings in ideas about musical integrity. Cursive is another amazing band that does what they want to do. They did an interview with Prefix where they mentioned that they had been approached by major labels and denied the offers because they are happy doing what they are doing. They continue to put out records basically the way they want to and really maintain that sense of integrity. You guys do the same thing though. You try to make sure that what you're doing is what you want to do.
Blood Brothers: Part 1: MH: Oh, yeah. It's the only way we would ever do anything. JB: For sure. There is no way we would ever give up control over what we want to do, or put ourselves in a situation where we were doing that in the slightest. One of the things we have been able to do and be particularly conscious of is to work with people that are our friends. Like having our friends put out our vinyl, or working with an independent booking agent, or designing and ordering all of our own merch. PM: You guys have all seen the reviews I'm sure for Piano Island. I got a press packet before I came here that was about 100 pages long. Blood Brothers: Part 1: MH: Hah, the book ... the novella. PM: Yeah, and I've read through all of it, because I've actually been a huge fan since March On Electric Children. What's it like to see something that starts as an off-time guitar rhythm or a bass line turn into something generating this much acclaim?
Blood Brothers: Part 1: MH: Hmm ... interesting question. I don't read a lot of the reviews, simply because it can fill your head with things that aren't necessarily true. I appreciate them so much, though, because people who review music listen to so many bands. To be one of the bands they like is kind of an honor. I think some of the context people put us in is different. When you compare us to bands like the Used, of course we'll seem crazy. But where we are coming from, to me, I love what we do, but I don't think we are the craziest band out there. Some of the reviews are like, This band is the craziest band in the world, and this and that, and I don't know. My point is that we do what we do, and that's the outcome. JB: I think if you focus on the end result, you're kind of mind-fucking yourself. It's very detrimental to songwriting. When you are like, OK, this went over very well, let's try to do this again, and make another album that will go over very well, it just puts you in a false mindset. MH: It's kind of like being influenced by you in that way. We offer our own boundaries and criticisms, and don't rely on other people's. It's awesome to have people like your record. We've all been in bands where people didn't always like our records. And I mean, we've been a band for almost six years, so there was a huge chunk of that where not a lot of people were that into us. PM: You guys have been doing this '97. All this hype, you have been working for 6 years for this. Was it that hard in the beginning or did it always come a little easier because of what you were doing something so new?
Blood Brothers: Part 1: JB: I don't think we have had it particularly hard. I think we have all worked hard. MH: Especially in the past year and a half. JB: The challenges we have faced are no greater than what any other band has faced. You know, like a van breaking down, shows getting cancelled, booking your own tour, paying for recording, whatever. It's no sob story really. I think we are very lucky right now, and it's really great to see how things have progressed. And it's very nice that we have been able to stay in touch with the people we first worked with and remain this tight-knit family. PM: I happen to be in a band, and like I said, you guys blow my fucking mind. The bass is incredible, and the guitar is off the wall. I don't know how you come up with this stuff. How much work actually goes into a song? Making that rhythm or bass line, into something like "Ambulance" or "Cecilia," where the changes are incredible and the progression is just something very different from other music.
Blood Brothers: Part 1: MH: The only thing I can say is that it's just the way we think. Those changes are things we hear in the moments we are playing them. A lot of those things are mistakes that somebody will hear, and then try to capitalize on that moment. We will be like, "What was that?" and then try to recreate the moment, which we usually fail to do, and then quick moments where we just say, "What was that, let's try to do that." PM: Who actually writes most of the music?
Blood Brothers: Part 1: MH: Cody and I wrote most of the music. A lot of times he will have a lot of riffs, and we will work through them, and then I'll go take a piss or something, and then all of a sudden he has a whole song worked out. That's very much how the first new song we wrote, "Trash Flavored Trash," came about. I went out, and when I came back they had the song basically written. Between the five of us, we all just figured it out. Sometimes he and I will both have riffs, sometimes he and I will be home alone and we will write out full songs and come to practice, and between the five of us it will work its way out into Blood Brothers.