Melbourne duo Jack and Pat Pierce talk their new EP, breakups, life on tour and whether their music is more like a monkey or a bear.
You’d think it couldn’t possibly be easy working with a family member—let alone with one who is a splitting image of yourself—until you’d met the Pierce Brothers.
As a relative stranger to the Pierce Brothers’ music (now their newest fan), I’m rather surprised to find myself sitting across a table from two of the humblest, most personable musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
A flat white and a long black make up the table dressing as the Tuesday morning bustle of Franklin Street’s Public Caffe slowly dies down.
“Every time we come here, we love it,” says Jack, “We’re looking forward to doing a proper headliner later on in the year – the tour’s not announced yet, but it’s no secret.”
Somewhere in between tales of post-gig bin races with The Cat Empire in Madrid, an awe-inspiring reception of their song ‘Brother’ in Amsterdam and their experience touring with one of their musical heroes, Ben Harper, we get onto the crux of the matter: the Pierce Brothers’ brand new EP ‘The Records Were Ours’.
Recorded at John Castle Studios in Melbourne, ‘The Records Were Ours’ and the next of the duo’s upcoming anthology-style trio of EPs were written, perfected and mastered over the course of almost 18 months.
“We kept working and working and got up to about 18 songs and thought we couldn’t release 18 songs on the first album,” says Pat.
“Then someone at the label suggested we don’t release an album, but we put out three EPs as one collection of music,” says Jack, “That way, we can also group the songs together in great little collections that tell their own unique story.”
The second EP is already done and dusted and, without giving too much away, the folk-stars say it’ll take on a more anthemic sound than the first collection’s ballad style.
By opting away from the traditional ‘album’ formula, the boys give their audience a chance to digest the music over time, rather than dropping it all at once.
Bacon and egg rolls arrive, but go untouched as the twins chat on about the inspiration behind ‘The Records Were Ours’.
The title track, inspired by a breakup and its unavoidable aftermath, perfectly depicts the low point directly after a breakup.
“I went and stayed at my sister’s place after the ‘event’,” says Pat, “And when I came back, things were packed up and the records were split-”
“The records were gone!” Jack laughs.
“Jack’s generally sort of the lyricist, so I contribute a lot of stories and then Jack will look at them, interpret them and get them out.”
The very next song, ‘Only One’, is the ‘other side of the same coin’, as the boys describe it, highlighting the fond memories of the relationship in the form of a melancholy, musical memoir.
“In a breakup, you have the ‘f**k you’ side that you go through, but then there’s this kind of overwhelming sense of loss,” Pat says.
Although the EP does have a distinct theme, it still manages to keep the listener guessing, and the two live versions on the end really emphasis the Pierce Brothers’ love of performing – as well as their downright talent.
‘Take Me Out’ gets proceedings going with an almost Kingswood-esque feel – a guitar-heavy, catchy tune with a sound that belies its deeper, more serious meaning.
The title track and ‘Only One’ then follow with a sobering effect that only grows with the slow beginning to ‘Rhodes’.
The fourth track does build, however, before ‘Take A Shot’ gets back to the fast-paced, barn house folk-rock for which these guys are renowned.
Based on the (unfortunate) rise of Donald Trump to the White House, and his ongoing persecution of minorities, ‘Take A Shot’ suggests President Orange shift his aim away from the ‘little guy’ for once.
“We’re middle-class, privileged white guys,” says Jack, “We’re never going to have those problems – why don’t you try having a shot at us instead of the people you just step on because it’s easier?”
The boys tell of how they struggled with this penultimate track in the studio, and how it came down to the final night of recording before their deadline.
“We actually messaged Ollie from The Cat Empire and asked if we could send him the track and have him put some keys down,” says Jack, “Turns out he was actually in Melbourne and hadn’t booked a hotel.
“So he got there at like 9:30 at night and by about 2:30am we had smashed out the one that’s on the album, and by that point we were getting knocks on the doors complaining!”
The collection then comes full circle with ‘Keep In Mind’, a beautiful yet sombre melody about loss and, ultimately, death.
An energetic, almost heated live version of ‘Take A Shot’ follows, recorded at the Brothers’ Sydney Opera House show.
A live version of the aforementioned ‘Brother’ rounds out the EP, a song the duo wrote, fittingly, for their older brother Justin.
The duo’s conversational tone is not just something that comes through in their music; they are true storytellers, bouncing off each other even across the table in a busy, white-collar coffee shop.
Despite playing huge festival shows and selling out concert halls from here to Amsterdam, the twins still hit the streets when they can.
“We still busk whenever we get the chance,” says Jack.
“The good thing about busking is there’s no added pressure because people are walking past anyway; they don’t care unless you make them care – there’s no downside to it at all, it’s just fun.”
Finding time to busk might prove an issue over the next few months, however, as the Brothers have 40 dates already announced (and another 40 to be announced) on their upcoming Europe/US/Canada tour which includes a support slot with Tash Sultana.
Before we part, I can’t resist asking these two ‘that’ question: if their music were an animal, what would it be?
“I like that,” laughs Jack, pausing to think for a moment, “A bear.”
“No,” interjects Pat, “it’d be a monkey because it jumps around.”
“A bear,” Jack holds firm, “Because you can’t get away from it.”
With that, I finally let the boys dig into their breakfast and, with a couple of hugs, we part ways.
Basically all I can say, at this point, is whatever the animalistic manifestation of their wonderful music, I cannot wait to see it back in Adelaide soon.
Image: Pierce Brothers