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INTERVIEW: Off The Stage And Into The Studio With The Pierce Brothers

Image credit: Supplied

Australia’s answer to high-energy folk-roots music, the Pierce Brothers, have been at the helm of the scene since exploding onto the world stage in 2014. The twin-duo, Jack and Pat Pierce, quickly cemented themselves as an absolute must-see act, enchanting audiences with their fervent live performances, bringing their infectious, authentic sound to life with charming intensity.

We were lucky enough to chat with one half of the duo, Jack Pierce, to discuss the brothers’ upcoming album, the ups and downs of this year, the importance of family (and not killing your twin on tour), amongst other things.

Heavily influenced by Zavier Rudd and John Butler in the early days, the Pierce Brothers evolved with the new wave of folk that arrived with the entrance of The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons, transforming their sound into a unique combination of high-energy Australiana roots-folk.

Emerging from humble busking beginnings (imagine crossing paths with the boys busking on Melbourne’s Bourke Street back in the day) the Pierce Brothers had to adopt a performing style that turned heads. "A big part of our career was busking and that really directed the style which we played because we wanted people to stop and look at us." It was during a live show watching The Lumineers perform at The Palace in Melbourne that the boys’ fell in love with the way they interacted with the crowd and decided to employ some of this animation to their act, which they still exercise to this day.

"It was one of the most energetic, engaging shows. They just had so much energy, the way they played this folk music. So we just took that on and said that energy, the way they're playing those simple songs is just so infectious and we love it. The Lumineers have got to be one of our biggest influences."

Image credit: Supplied

As someone who has been lucky enough to experience a live Pierce Brothers show firsthand, I can attest to their incredible stage presence. The pair give everything they have to the crowd, Jack describing himself as“an excited child when it comes to the stage” and Freddie Mercury himself would be impressed by their audience engagement. No track showcases this more than ‘Brother’, the chorus written mere hours before a live show at The Paradiso in Amsterdam. "We needed a song where I could run into the crowd and get everyone to sing along."

Having never played the track live before the pair were throwing caution to the wind but with a three-tiered balcony "alright I need to go up to that and I need to get a spotlight on me" and the promise of wireless mics "oooooh my god, I can go anywhere!" they knew they had to create something special.

And that they did. The audience response was electrifying, the boys' obvious shock brings a smile to teary eyes as their unified audience belt their hours-old chorus right back at them.

"The first time we played ‘Brother’ we didn't expect people to sing it back to us, we were just changing guitars. We'd written the chorus for the song that day! "

So that's how the Pierce Brothers' first ever live performance of 'Brother' made it onto their 2017 album The Records Were Ours... "and we’ve been doing that ever since. Definitely one of my favourite songs to perform."

This monumental performance that delivered us such an authentic, uplifting track also presented Jack and Pat with a challenge - trying to record a studio version of the song that ignites the same passion. "We've tried to record ‘Brother’ five times in the last five years in the studio. We just can’t get it right! It’s a simple song but when you play it live, it's all about the build up. Running into the crowd, getting them to sing. That is a major part of the track so in the studio when you don’t have that, it’s missing something."

Hold onto your hats, because not only have the boys finally done it, they've nailed the track and it's Jack's top choice for the lead single in their upcoming album. Yes, you heard right. The Pierce Brothers are set to release a new album! COVID-19 may have thrown a spanner in the boy’s tour plans for 2020 however they didn’t waste any time, finishing their upcoming album earlier than expected.

Having already gifted us with two singles this year in ‘Kanko’ and ‘Dentist’, the boys are aiming high, “exploring a deeper sound and bringing some harmonica back into the studio for 'Dentist' something our recordings have been missing.”

Promising a BIG album - "big rooms, big instruments", the Pierce Brothers wanted to step it up lyrically as well as instrumentally, gleaning inspiration from none other than Gang of Youths and the profundity showcased in their esteemed album Go Farther In Lightness .

"Our greatest inspiration for some of our writing over the last few years has been Gang of Youths - one of the best Australian bands of all time. That’s definitely been an inspiration on this album. Go Farther In Lightness has so much depth and clarity and we wanted to do something a bit more ambitious and get some songs big like that".

Their first independent album in a while, the boys' initial vision was to keep it "rootsy, acoustic and cool" but COVID-19 had other plans, forcing them to ditch an all-acoustic album recorded in Byron and meet up with friend Jan Skubizeski (Cat Empire, John Butler) back in Melbourne. Working with Jan, the album quickly evolved: "all of a sudden it was a lot more live tracking, big rooms, big instruments. Then while recording in the studio, I jokingly said ‘well this will be where the orchestra comes in’ and everyone started laughing. Then we realised 'oh god, we actually have to do this'. So it’s a lot bigger. A lot of thought and a lot more clarity went into this album. I think it’s our best work to date."

Clearly being stuck in lockdown hasn't hindered the Pierce Brothers (finishing an album is certainly nothing to sneeze at) and Jack alluded that this might have been in part due to time away from his twin, avoiding “absolutely wanting to kill each other all of the time” when they are on tour.

"We’re still best friends - we do a lot of stuff together, working and writing music, but all that time together would be a strain on any relationship. I think the fact that we’re brothers can make things harder rather than easier. If you’re just mates, there’s a little bit more respect there whereas when it’s your brother you can be like f*ck you! But we always get on fairly well, we just bicker as siblings do".

Although Jack and Pat might have come close to committing fratricide a few times, the pair are clearly extremely family-oriented, with three of their hit songs written for their siblings. "We wrote 'Genevieve' for her wedding, we wrote 'Black Dog' for our brother Lee’s wedding and then 'Brother' of course for Justin. They kind of love it and have great fun with it - we're very lucky and we get along very well with our family."

With Jack and his wife welcoming a gorgeous baby girl into the world during lockdown, perhaps we can expect another Pierce Brothers dedication to add to the collection.

Having established themselves as an integral part of the music scene in Australia and abroad, the brothers have an insight into the Australian music industry that Jack mentioned is "rife with Tall Poppy syndrome."

This is an aspect of the industry that many have started to notice - people putting down our homegrown talent when they find success overseas instead of showing support. "We should be stoked when our artists achieve these amazing things overseas, and instead you get people putting the artists down. Look at Tones & I or Tash Sultana. There's so much vitriol out there for people that don't like a particular style of music."

Like a concerned father Jack's advice is straight and true: R.E.S.P.E.C.T "If you're not into it, that's fine and you can express that in a respectful way but it’s the constant harassment and barrage of comments. We should be celebrating new music created by our talented artists!"

Although we miss the insanity of a Pierce Brothers live show experience, the forced transition off the stage and into the studio has proved to be a thrilling instalment for the brothers, and their fans. With a new album on the horizon set to be the boys’ best work to date - saddle up for a succession of bangin’ tracks - propelling Australian folk to the next level, in charming Pierce Brothers fashion. Oh brother(s), we can't wait.

Check out the Pierce Brothers latest single 'Dentist'.

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