Twins Adam and David Moss perform together as The Brother Brothers, a duo that pairs tasteful harmony vocals with two-person musical arrangements that weave together bluegrass and the darker side of folk. This month, The Brother Brothers will release their full-length debut, Some People I Know.
It’s a strong debut, the dozen tracks sounding like they originated from a pair that has harnessed the synergy of having played together their entire lives. Turns out, that’s not exactly the case.
“We did a lot of singing and playing together as kids, did orchestra together,” David said. “We came into (performing) at the same time, playing in gypsy jazz bands in college.
“After that we went our separate ways and played in different bands for a while,” he continued. “We didn’t come together until spring 2016.”
For Adam, his way was that of a sideman. Living in New York City, he’d gig for pretty much anyone looking for a fiddle player. Constantly having to seek out collaborators and shows was exhausting and frustrating. Then he and David got to talking.
“Living in New York, being a side guy, I just got tired of waiting,” Adam said. “I wouldn’t say playing together was any of our ideas, specifically, but I would say I pushed harder.”
That push came at the right time for David, as well. After college, he went the route of the singer-songwriter. While he found a little bit of success, he too was growing frustrated and felt alone as an artist.
“Doing the solo singer-songwriter route, it’s a really hard thing to do,” David noted. “Your only advocate is yourself.”
Thus, The Brother Brothers was born. In each other, Adam and David, now in their 30s, found the necessary musical dynamic that eluded them in the various endeavors they tackled separately over the past decade.
“I would say playing in a band with my brother is, for me, easy harmony,” Adam said. “You’re not relying on a ‘foreign entity’ – we’re on the same page and we have a similar upbringing. We hold each other to the same standards we hold ourselves to.”
“All of a sudden, I had someone to help me, be with me, and make music,” David remarked. “It made it more enjoyable, and that’s really nice.”
A major component of the Moss brothers’ ability to play together is that time spent apart. David is unsure “what the quality would have been” if they had started jamming together immediately after college. Adam is of a similar persuasion, feeling that the struggles and experiences each faced while trying to find their own way were crucial in informing their current creative and business decisions, laying out exactly what each does and doesn’t want to do.
But just as important as the creative insights they gained from those years apart, the Moss brothers, specifically Adam, were able to build a base of contacts and connections that have proven essential in helping to establish The Brother Brothers on the national Americana/roots music circuit.
“Adam had been in an unconscionable number of bands and he called everyone he knew and cashed in all his favors,” David explained. “All of a sudden we were opening for these huge audiences.”
These prestigious gigs were in support of a strong mix of established and ascendant talent in the modern folk movement: Lake Street Dive, Sarah Jarosz (and her I’m With Her project with Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins), Big Thief, and Shakey Graves. These opening slots, in conjunction with their January 2017 Tugboats EP, helped The Brother Brothers get a little bit of buzz over the past 18 months.
Composition for Some People I Know occurred over a couple of years, with David having developed several of the songs prior to pairing up with Adam. That fits with how The Brother Brothers’ creative process operates in general: David generates the original idea and brings it to Adam once it’s fleshed out.
While the brothers work together on a final arrangement for a track, they’ve yet to figure out a way to collaborate on a tune from the ground up. It’s not like working together on a song turns into some sort of knock-down, drag-out brawl à la Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes or Liam and Noel Gallagher; they just haven’t found that groove yet.
“We may never feel like we’re on the same wavelength,” David noted. “We’re getting better at managing (that). It’s never nerve-wracking. I’ve definitely written a couple of songs to bring to Adam and he’ll be like, “I don’t know if it’s good for the band.’ It’s a real, ‘What are we looking to do, what direction do we want to go.’ We get really excited when the other comes up with something good.”
Some People I Know sat on the shelf for about a year while The Brother Brothers shopped it to labels. Now that its arrival is impending Oct. 19 on Compass Records, the brothers Moss are excited to finally be able to talk about it, with David comparing the wait to “steam under a piston.” Adam is looking forward to hearing what people think.
“I’m really excited to release the album; I kind of can’t wait,” Adam enthused. “We wouldn’t have started a band if we didn’t believe the music was good and it weren’t something we weren’t really proud of.”
While they wait for the release of Some People I Know, The Brother Brothers are also looking ahead. These plans, while not concrete, are pretty straightforward.
“It’s inevitable we’re already looking forward,” David said. “We’ve been sitting on these songs forever and been waiting a really long time to talk about these songs.”
“We’ve already written songs,” he continued. “We’re focusing on the only things we can control – booking gigs, touring, writing songs as well as we can, and performing them as well as we can.”