Just when you thought the power duo might be played out, here comes JEFF the Brotherhood’s moment in the sun. If the Black Keys represent the lean-and-mean blues-rock face of the guitar-drums tandem, JEFF is all about its seamy, psychedelic punk-rock underbelly, pulling traces of Nirvana, Death from Above 1979, Pavement and Pink Floyd through a youthfully rowdy filter of white noise, feedback and urgency.
Nashville natives Jake and Jamin Orrall have been rocking out together since they were teenagers—which is to say, a decent stretch of ten years now. They launched their own label, Infinity Cat, from their father’s basement in 2002, eventually releasing five albums and making a splash with last year’s We Are the Champions. Their recent Hypnotic Knights EP, produced with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach (now a Nashville resident), is the lead-in to their major-label debut, Hypnotic Nights, coming in July.
Tracks like “Region of Fire,” a jangly ballad rife with sitar licks and older brother Jake’s sleepy Ray Davies–style vocals, or the up-tempo “Hypnotic Winter,” with its staccato sloganeering and artfully layered guitar harmonies, reflect a complexity that has slowly crept into the brothers’ sludgy onstage mix of power chords and punk grooves. When you can count the Black Keys and Jack White (another Nashville transplant) among your support base, you’d better bring it live, and on that score, the Orrall brothers have finally reached a point where the excitement revolves around not just what they’ve done, but what they’ll do next. Brace yourself.—Bill Murphy