Concert Preview: The Brother Brothers
David and Adam Moss aim to fill The Southern Theatre tonight with the distinctive folk-bluegrass compositions from their debut album, "Some People I Know"
When I spoke to David and Adam Moss early in October, their excellent debut album, Some People I Know, was less than two weeks away from being released.
Illinois-born and now Brooklyn-based, the identical twins, better known as The Brother Brothers, have the kind of prodigious harmonic purity that is, with a few exceptions, only possible between sibling vocalists. The product? A stunning repertoire of songs that haunt and enchant, widely regarded as a parallel to Simon & Garfunkel’s most reflective works.
It’s a nod the Mosses seem happy to acknowledge.
“I used to play solo a lot, and people would just come up and say that I sounded like Paul Simon,” David explains. “So, I’m used to that comparison…without the Garfunkel part [laughs]. But, he’s been a big influence on my life, I guess. He was always in our Dad’s car, one or two of his records. And his first solo album [Paul Simon] is one of my favorites of all time, so I can understand why people would think that. Man, we sure do hear that a lot, so we do think about it.
As far as the both of us are concerned, we just kind of keep whatever comes out, so we’re not going to change our writing style just because people say we sound like [them], you know? I’ll take it as a compliment.”
Tonight, The Brother Brothers are in Columbus at the Southern Theatre to support, sharing a ticket with renowned all-female folk trio I’m With Her, featuring Nickel Creek founder Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan.
Some People I Know is a culmination of what is now decades of David and Adam playing music together in various forms and fashions, often as a collaborative, but also individually.
Artists talk about a turning point or some other event that has altered their career trajectory. Was there a critical experience that led to the evolution of The Brother Brothers that we now hear on this new record?
David: “Since we were seven, we’ve played violin and cello. And we always performed, so it’s always…it’s just kind of been a natural progression for us…”
Adam: “Yeah, I wouldn’t say there was ever an ‘a-ha’ moment. There was a moment when I first heard Townes Van Zandt that really changed a lot for me, but I was already in a band at that point. That was when I started writing songs. We go to the Kerrville Folk Festival every year. It’s kind of like our favorite place to be. We’ve been going for the last 12 or 13 years, and I would say that the first year that we went was somewhere after our last year of college.
And so we were pretty malleable and unsure of what was going on, and it was impactful because there are folk singers who come from all over the country and sit around campfires and write songs and play. And I’d play fiddle with them. That was a very influential summer in terms of the rest of our lives.”
I imagine this is a function of where you both grew up, and I hear it especially on tracks like “Frankie” and “Cairo, IL,” but you seem to draw inspiration from a place of exceptional empathy for others’ stories — particularly people who are struggling with the ins and outs of daily life.
David: “For me…the album’s called Some People I Know, and I think it’s pretty appropriately named because we really find our value, our life’s value, in the people we surround ourselves with. We really love making new friends and hanging out with people. And we’ll really take everybody — we love a lot of different kinds of people.
I think that when you get down to the nitty gritty of knowing somebody, when all the formalities are done, it’s all about what the struggle has been. All of the tribulations have made them who they are, and I think it’s a really good way to look at somebody and maybe forgive them even if they’re not the most attractive personality you’ve ever met. When you know who they are, and why they are, it helps you love them, you know?”
Adam: “We’re also very judgmental! [laughs] It seems judgmental, but we’re just trying to get inside of them, that’s all. And trying to understand.”
The media has focused a lot, and I’m sure creatively you both do, as well, on your sameness as a duo. I’m curious where you might find yourselves diverging or differing creatively. And how does that contrast play out in the work you do together?
David: “There was a very strong point at which…especially when we started, there was a pivotal moment. Adam comes from a place where he really wants people to enjoy themselves, and that’s a lot of where his approach comes from in playing shows. And he has, you know a…he’s working on a klezmer jam band right now that’s just super-duper fun, and he’s got…we did it ourselves, but Adam’s the leader. And it’s a band called Moishe Circus that only plays once a year on New Year’s at Sunny’s Bar [in Brooklyn]. And that was also just a total gas.”
Where I come from is more…I really want people to leave the show and be affected by it in a way that they’ll still be thinking about it in three or four days — you know, about the writing or the harmonies, or whatever. It’s more of an introspective approach. When you get down to [it], we’re very similar musicians in a lot of ways, but a lot of what drives the music would be described as that.”
Adam: “I think, as well, those two things compliment each other when you combine our efforts and creativity. It makes for a more balanced show and that we don’t fall too far to one side or the other.”
Some People I Know has been a long time in the making. What are your hopes and dreams for this record in terms of how it connects with your audiences and fits into your shared legacy as musicians?
David: “One of the greatest moments of my life is when I recorded my first solo album, and my mom was listening to it – and she’s just a big fan of everything we do. And she came up to me months after, and she obviously had the the album in her car and was probably listening to it on repeat every time she was in there. But she said, ‘You know, I listened to your album, and I really like it. And every time that I hear it, I find something new in there.’ And this was just about when I started writing songs, so I don’t think she was expecting to hear writing like that. I think it caught her off guard.
And that was a really great moment in my life. If people can get that, and they can take something away and want to be listening to it, and 20 years from now are like, ‘I really want to listen to that album’ and can approach the songs from a different place in their life and gain something from it — that’s why I write songs. That’s why I play music.”
The Brother Brothers take the stage tonight, Monday, Nov. 5, with I’m With Her, at The Southern Theatre, 21 East Main Street, Downtown. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, plus applicable taxes and fees, and are available via Ticketmaster. The duo’s debut album, “Some People I Know” (via Compass Records),, is available for purchase via their official website.