Interview with Brando

Brando Interiew

The trio ‘Brando’ are made up of the lovely brothers Sam and Joe Lewis and best friend Luke Begley as they create their own distinctive sound that is influenced by legends such as Depeche Mode, Bowie and Gary Numan as well as the modern sound of today – not to mention they’re best mates with and managed by Boy George who regularly features the ‘quintessentially British’ boys on his instagram.

The ‘Brando’ boys have had a passion for the ‘old’ 80’s and 90’s sound since their parents would play the classics growing up, nothing’s changed years later as they channel their love for the legendary classics into their own, individual sound, never sticking to just one genre as they play around with indie rock, electro, dance and glam rock – making them all the more intriguing and lovable.

Brando told Something About all about their upcoming album, which started out as a few tracks here and there, before the boys realised they had an album in the making and they put their creative minds to the test to stand out in a ‘disposable industry’ where albums are arguably becoming more and more rare as singles take over. Their most recent releases ‘Star Crossed Lovers’ , ‘I Don’t know What I Want’, ‘Learning to Love’ and ‘Bi- polar Baby’ are all completely different and yet the one thing they all have in common? They are all so Brando!

So what have you all been doing today?

S: Yeah, just been around London doing photoshoots.

What are the photoshoots for? Or is it a secret?

S: Well were doing a bit more press photography and stuff, just going through and sorting outfits and makeup. It’s been a long day.

How did you get started together as artists, as a band?

J: Well, we were on the same football team, Luke and I, we’d write songs together, play football, we likes the same bands, Tears of Fears, Smiths and it just went from there.

L: Yeah, obviously they’re brothers but they’d come round and we’d write songs and stuff and it started from there really.

So you played football first, how did you switch to music? 

L: It was kind of natural, it kind of took over I think the music side of things, football was just less and less support.

What there a decision to make between one or the other, or did football just fade away?

J: We weren’t that good!

L: Most the time we were on the bench!

Did you all grow up in a musical household, or was it more of a sense of just following a passion? 

S: Our dad’s a very good singer, he’s got a very soulful voice so he’d always be singing songs and he quite liked a lot of the soul music from the 60’s then my mum quite liked the 80’s even the early 90’s so I suppose it was a bit of a mix match. There was always someone singing in the house.

L: Mine wasn’t particularly musical but they had a really good cd, record collection so I was always listening to that stuff.

S: Then we started going clubbing and we’d find alternative, Indie, sort of to escape out home town we’d go to underground clubs that were really well publicised then with that, and we started doing that then obviously with a few of the live bands that were there we started thinking ‘why don’t we give it a go!’. Because we were there literally every week, so we started getting together and yeah.

You obviously have the influence of the 80’s and 90’s, would you say that was pushed by your parents or was there a genuine love for those era’s?

J: I think it was quite subliminal

S: I think it was always there is the background and we just picked it up.

J: It was all a bit mis-matched stuff

S: We quite liked the dark sort of synth sounds, like the Smiths, Tears of Fears.

J: Depeche Mode

L: The other thing as well, is that we saw this film, ‘Donnie Darko’ which had a really 80’s soundtrack and that was really good, quite dark and all sorts of things really.

Would you say it’s intimidating taking on such big, legendary influences like Bowie and Depeche Mode? 

S: I think it’s about finding our own sort of, identity, but like Luke does a lot of the production and the Dark Synth sounds.

L: I don’t so much find it intimidating, I know it’s all really great music but it’s more inspiring than anything to use it to make it our own.

Other than that, what else do you use as inspiration?

L: All sorts of things really, we listen to new bands as well, we take inspiration from poetry or books or films or it could be anything, literally.

Is travelling a large part of the inspiration?

L: Yeah, I think that happens quite a bit, where we’ve travelled quite a lot.

J: We’ve written a few songs about that haven’t we.

S: We’re like to go to the Czech Republic, don’t we.

L: Been there a few times!

J: There’s a good music scene.

L: It seems to be different there as well, the musical taste.

So would you say everywhere you go, the audience is always different?

S: It’s the same type of genre, but then it’s like little tweaks, you’ll get groups of different audience that like the same thing but certain countries will have more of a … it’s the production isn’t it, maybe a bit more dirtier or a bit more of that European…

L: Sort of like, London at the moment, the majority like grime, underground dub-step, that kind of stuff, whereas if you go to Berlin, they’re really into their electric and dark synth music, and Czech Republic, they’re into a quite lot of the old school bands like Black Sabbath.

So is it about knowing before you go on stage, what audience you are trying to impress almost?

J: We never change really do we. We seem to be appreciated everywhere we go, but it’s all in fashion now anyway. So it’s like ‘Stranger Things’ coming out, that’s all very…

As you obviously have the influence of the past, what is your opinion on the modern audience with the phones and the whole idea that they’re never in the moment?

S: We were saying this earlier, we sometimes feel like no one is really living in the moment and that when you go to a live gig, you get loads of people not actually looking at the acts but looking at the act through an iPad or iPhone and you just think ‘put it down and just experience it’. But then it’s made it a lot, I mean technology has improved so much that you can share your music, it’s better but then sometimes you loose that sort of realness and that live feel that people aren’t actually watching acts, they’re watching through a screen.

Yeah, they’re doing it to put on social media, they want to show they were there rather than actually be there.

L: It’s alright to take a few, just not the whole gig!

So you said it’s easier to promote music with the help of social media?

S: No, definitely!

What do you use mostly to share your music? 

J: Youtube!

S: Yeah! Twitter, we’ve just recently gone on instagram.

L: Facebook, a lot in the past.

S: But it’s about giving snippets, not all of it, so we’re not revealing too much, because we’re just doing an album, we’ve nearly finished it so we don’t want to reveal too much. So it’s almost like we’re trying to give little snapshots.

So you’re managed by Boy George, did you grow up listening to him? Was it almost surreal to find yourself working along side him? 

J: It was yeah, I mean I was definitely a big fan. A fan of culture club and yeah. We’re with him a lot now, an apprenticeship almost! My writing improved a lot.

S: First it was surreal, but then obviously you get to know each other, so we’d spend most weekends at his house and we count him as a really good friend you know, and we can relax a bit, we have a laugh.

L: Sometimes, it’s nice because where we are obviously close in the band, it’s nice to have someone else and to see how they’d approach things as well, it’s a cool thing. Someone like that for example, you don’t really get to meet someone like that very often.

You (J) said your writings improved, does Boy George give you guidance and advice?

J: Yeah, he’s a brilliant lyrical genius!

S: He can write a song it literally three minutes.

You’ve written a song with him before right?

J: Yeah, he’s a playwright.

S: It’s amazing to watch him in the process, he’ll have a tune that we’ve done, then he’ll go ‘errr, ummm, okay verse 1, verse 2, chorus!’ and you’ll be like ‘woah!’. He’s helped us structure songs, he’s helped us not go to the standard of just verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, it doesn’t have to be any of that. So he has helped us become tighter.

Has it been hard to differentiate yourselves as a group? You’re not exactly following the mainstream pop trend, but has it been hard to ‘make your own’ in the industry?

L: I’d say we try and just do our thing and we don’t concentrate too much on what anyone else is doing but instead just try and do something that we think is relevant and what we think is our sound, and then it just follows. But yeah, there are a lot of people doing that and stuff so it can become quite saturated but at the moment, with the position we’re in I think we’re pretty lucky to.

Yeah, it’s important to stick to your own sound. 

J: Yeah, do what you like!

S: If you don’t like it, there’s not much point doing it.

On that topic, a lot of the music now is about incorporating the current trends, is that something you find important in your own music?

J: We do listen to current music…

S: Yeah, we like the production of, well we like the Harry Styles album, that was brilliant! There’s Zac, the stuff he was doing was quite dark and synth like. We do like the modern production, but we try and stick to our own but try and work with what is current.

J: We’re in a good position because we all play instruments, we write all of our songs  and that’s quite a rarity in this day and age. Often you get a lot of people, they are prescribed on what they’re gonna do but we are a real band we want to bring it back, we’re real musicians.

Is that part of your goal, bringing ‘it’ all back to how it was before?

L: That’s the thing, we try, even if we sit down one day and write a rock song, it still sounds like Brando, it’s still got those undercurrents of our sound. So we don’t intentionally try and pigeon hole ourselves, but we always end up sounding like ourselves.

J: Which is a cool thing!

You do follow a few different genre is you own music; indie, rock etc, does that that it difficult to grab the attention of one particular audience, or it that part of the charm – that you can reach so many different audiences?

L: I just think, people generally now, unless you’re a really avid follower of one kind of genre, lots of people listen to different things now, different styles. So I’d say I’m the same, I listen to lots of different kind of styles, it just depends on the person and whether they like it or not.

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So, you’re working on the new album, is it a mixture of loads of different genres then?

J: It’s very Brando!

L: But it is a big mix I’d say, a bit different.

S: We’ve got one track which is a house track, then another is sort of more indie and another is a bit more darker synth.

L: Then there’s one that is almost a bit Regge, like The Police kind of vibe to it.

J: I think it’s our own sound.

It’s important nowadays, someone can sit down and know its a ‘Brando’ song. 

J: I know, just from the first few bars, I think we have quite a distinct voice, we have our own identity now that Boy George kind of bought on.

A large part of the career, is the performance aspect, what’s it like for you guys to get on a stage and see an audience? 

L: We love it. We love the live shows, our last one at the apollo was a great opportunity for us, it was incredible.

Just to see an audience singing back must be incredible? 

S: They’re all on the same vibe as well, obviously a few of them at the time were listening to snippets that were fans of George so they knew a little bit of what to expect and I think sometimes I think you can get the right vibe even if that audience is on that wavelength it helps. It was a brilliant gig, it was such a buzz.

Would you say your audience is very likeminded to yourselves? Music wise, and fashion wise? 

S: In Japan at the moment, were getting a nice response, and I think the fashion in Japan, and the music, they like that sound that we’re doing. Saying that, even in Europe, there’s a sort of European vibe.

L: It’s quite varied, the people we’ve got on twitter and stuff, it’s quite varied. You can’t really pinpoint them. It’s hard to say really, because they’re all quite different.

Is Japan somewhere you’d like to play?

J: We would love to go to Japan.

S: We’ve had offers, and it’s one place I’d love to do it.

J: The albums our priority, once we have that sorted, we’d love to get out there.

So is there a tour planned? 

S: There’s talks in the pipeline, we’re looking at America. We’d like to do a tour, a few festivals. But at the moment, we’re so close to finishing this album, then we can just launch that. Obviously the more you play, the tighter you are, whereas the longer you leave it…

Has the album been a long time in the making?

L: I wouldn’t say it’s been that long to be fair, we’ve been doing demo’s and stuff before but…

J: We didn’t really set out to do an album.

L: Yeah, we’ve just sort of been, writing, it wasn’t really our intention to do an album but it’s just got to that point where we have enough songs to do that kind of thing.

So there was no particular sound you were going for, it was more just putting it all together?

L: Yeah that’s it, we were writing and it just literally came together.

S: And we started realising, okay, this is our identity and our songs after that all had a common ground even though they were all completely different and so we said, ‘well, we might as well do an album’.

What do you want the audience to get from this album? How should they react and feel after listening?

J: I think I’ll leave it to them, open to how they’re feeling.

S: And I think everyone’s different, I could listen to a track and think ‘oh, that’s really sad’ but someone else could be like ‘what are you talking about!?’, it depends on the person.

J: I want them to feel something.

S: Yeah, we want them to feel something emotionally, but be open to make their own interpretation of it.

L: I think it’s quite ‘dance-able’ as well.

S: Yeah, they get the comedy in it as well.

As a band, there’s already 3 of you, but is there still people you would like to work with?

L: Obviously it would be amazing to work with Morrissey, but I’m not sure that would ever happen to be honest!

S: There’s an underground band in Germany, ‘The Dagger’ I think they’re called, a transgender singer, just really cool, really dark, really unique voice. Who’s that other guy that you like? Obviously Morrissey…

L: Johnny Marr as well, but I don’t think you’d ever get Morrissey and Marr in the same room anymore! Either one would be good!

Summer is a big time for artists in general, have you got anything big planned? 

S: We’ve got a few things in the pipeline, just being talked about but the main thing is finishing this album, and if we get one festival or one tour, it would be great, but yeah, we’ve got to try and get the album done. We’re in the process of something, possibly in America.

L: I think the thing about today is that not a lot of people do like an album, not a lot of people do albums anymore, just singles and so we want to focus on a body of work…

J: That we can be proud of and go out and play.

L: Because everyone just listens to singles and I just want people to listen to the whole thing again like ‘Dark side of the Moon’, ‘Pink Floyd’, they’re albums not just singles.

That’s true, it’s all about getting out one single, letting it go to the top charts then going under the radar and waiting to bring out another single!

J: It’s very disposable really.

Is that something that you guys are passionate about, getting rid of that disposable industry? 

L: It’s a hard one, because a lot of people just don’t want to make albums anymore, like I can’t remember what artists said it recently but they said ‘oh I’m not going to make albums anymore, I’m just going to make singles’ but I think it’s a bit of an art form doing an album, something cohesive and I don’t know what other way you could get around that disposable mentality.

Would you say that’s the difference between someone doing it for the money and the fame rather than the passion for producing music? 

L: It’s hard to say really, it could be, it could be driven by money or it could be driven by the actual success side of it, you know, there’s a different formula for it in this time to gain success. We’re more interested in the actual sound than the, obviously it would be great to be doing the music side of things all the time but we’re driven more by making people happy, making it sound right and with everything else, if that comes after then great but it not…

Have you got a ‘5 years plan’ so to speak, or is it more a matter of taking things by the moment? 

L: Well, I’d say that we just want to keep making music, at least an album every few years or so.

J: Also just to try and enjoy the process, you know, it’s unpredictable we don’t know where we are… today we’re covered in white paint, photoshoots and tomorrow we’re in the studio…

S: I would really like to go to Japan, or Asia. That to me, is a market I’d really love to really get a good following in, maybe live out there for a bit.

You mentioned America, is that an audience you’d really like to get in with as well? 

L: It would be interesting, because it’s so varied…

S: Each state is like one country in Europe so it’s hard to one interest in the chart, there’s so many different cultures. But it would be good to tour, because you go out there and experience it because we like travelling. But yeah, just to do this for the next 5 years, I don’t want to work in a normal…

J: A normal office job…

Has there always been a determination not to end up in a bog-standard office job?

L: I’d say all of us shared that same kind of thing, I mean the first gig that I ever saw was Michael Jackson when I was quite young and I just thought ‘Wow that’s an incredible show, I wanna do that!’.

J: Nothing else would make any sense really.

Did you follow a uni path?

J: Yeah, we went to Brighton, a music college, a song writing course. We did quite well, so it’s been a long old journey.

L: There was sort of an earlier version of the band, we’ve always been into the same thing but it’s always been us.

Your previous band was called something different, what bought on the change?

L: I just think we’ve grown in terms of sound, now it’s been building up to that and it’s just helped form what we are now really.

S: You go through changes in your life really, we’re not the same people we were at the start and we won’t be in years to come, we’ll still have that… but I think everything evolves. I think for the first time ever, we’ve got our, I believe our real sound and our identity so it will be good to see where it goes.

Obviously, you guys are interested in the makeup and costume side of things, is that something that you hold as a large part of the performance in your music? 

J: We like to put on a show!

S: You have to sound right, music is number one, but to say image is everything, even the bands that go out of their way to have an image they’re still making a conscious decision not to have an image. So stuff like, Status Quo, they had the faded denim. I think music should always be the main thing but you have to be quite visual as well. With music, even some live gigs you see now, the visual element in coming in so you have something behind and moving things and so it’s all image.

J: It’s expression.

Interview by: Maija Sicklin