One of the highlights of last week’s SXSW was catching JEFF the Brotherhood at Nashville label Infinity Cat’s showcase. After a lengthy standoff with Warner Brothers, who dropped JEFF from their roster a few months back, the brothers Orrall came back swinging with Wasted On The Dream, a collection of killer riff-heavy garage rock tracks (check out “Black Cherry Pie,” which features Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on pan flute) that’s one of the best albums to come out of Nashville this year. We chat with JEFF about drop tuning, iPad apps and Desmond Child.
You write everything in drop C#. How has that influenced your songwriting, especially in terms of vocal melodies?
I don’t know anything about music terminology or anything. I’ve always written in drop tuning, ever since I started the band. I’ve never written in anything else so I wouldn’t know how it would affect the melodies.
Does this put you in a comfortable range, or do you just like the sound of it?
I just like the sound of it. I mean the vocals don’t really matter to me, I just like the guitar. The guitar sounds cool when it’s low and heavy.
In a recent interview you mentioned that “Black Cherry Pie” was inspired by Princess Mononoke. Are you influenced a lot by movies and TV?
The influences are pretty vague. I just get stoned, watch a movie, and write down bits and pieces of stuff. Someone will say something weird and I’ll write it down and end up with fragments of images or words. I’m really bad with writing lyrics about something. For our music, I don’t think it matters what the songs are about, so I end up with these fragments of images.
Who are your favorite songwriters?
I don’t have favorite songwriters as much as favorite guitarists. I love Billy Corgan guitar wise.
What’s your regular songwriting process?
We like to tell people we use iPads and have an app and trade loops on our iPad app. We’re actually developing our own app for the iPad because technology these days are going towards loops. Technology is advancing rapidly for songwriting apps.
What do you think is the most annoying thing about songwriting?
Writing lyrics. I just wish someone else would write them. It’s all about the riffs for me.
Does anything inspire your riffs, or is it just noodling?
Mostly old ’70s records and smoking weed.
Do you have anybody in particular you go to when you’re trying to be creative?
Yeah, Missing Persons.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
I thought I wrote “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but it turns out Nirvana wrote it.
If you could co-write with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Who’s had the most number one hit singles in the history of music? Cause it would be them. Or Desmond Child, probably.
Who do you consider an underrated songwriter?
Is there a song of yours that was particularly difficult to write?
“Black Cherry Pie” took three years to write because we couldn’t finish it. We had to tweak stuff in the app and write a new code. It popped out just in time for the recording session.
What do you consider to be the perfect song and why?
“It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy. You can’t get it out of your head and he used our app to make it. Also “Happy Birthday.”
What percentage of songs you write are keepers?
Most songs are keepers.
How often do you write?
When we have to.
Do you ever write on the road?
No, but we’re working on a mobile version of the app. It’s like a version of Garage Band.
What was the last song you wrote or started?
“In My Mouth” was the last one. I wrote it when I got out of the shower. I wrote it when I got out from behind the bamboo curtain.