Even before Jeff The Brotherhood’s major-label debut, drummer Jamin Orrall had tasted commercial success and earned a reputation as a prolific musician. He opened for Sonic Youth as part of Be Your Own Pet, helped to run Infinity Cat Recordings, and has toured with Jeff The Brotherhood for almost two straight years.
Still, he sounds earnest and thrilled about the rising profile of his sibling band, which he formed one decade ago with older brother Jake. The Orralls will stop by Bookspace Wednesday night, promoting this year’s We Are The Champions. The A.V. Club caught up with Jamin to shed some light on Weezer comparisons to his band, the decision to sign to Warner Brothers, and why smartphones can suck it.
AVC: We Are The Champions is the second album where you’re getting national attention—
JO: Yeah, it’s awesome! I’m really excited. Sorry. [Laughs.]
The A.V. Club: No, don’t be sorry! [Laughs.] But there are some articles where writers make it sound as though this is your first or second album.
Jamin Orrall: Yeah. I’m okay with that, though.
AVC: I was going ask you if that was annoying.
JO: I’m not trying to hide the fact that we have other records, but we didn’t try to get anyone to hear our records before these two. Before that, we just put stuff out for the hell of it. So I can understand why people think that, and it doesn’t really bother me.
It probably makes it exciting for anyone that’s like, an actual fan, ’cause then they get to find out about all these weird, old things that no one talks about. That would make me excited.
AVC: Did you meet a lot of Be Your Own Pet fans in college?
JO: No. I didn’t tell anybody I was in that band when I went to college. I didn’t want to have to talk about it; I just wanted to meet people. When I left that band, I was ready to just move on and not associate with it anymore. I’m still friends with all those people, but I didn’t want it to be—it sounds stupid, but—something that defined me.
I eventually made really great friends. I think my closest friends I’ve ever had in my life was when I lived there. I’m not in touch with a lot of them now, which is really sad. But that’s probably just because I don’t have Facebook.
AVC: Facebook can be really creepy.
JO: Yeah. I really want to have one, just so I can keep in touch with all of my friends, ’cause a lot of my really good friends live in other cities. And I always lose my phone. That’s why you had to call me on [my girlfriend’s] phone, because I lost my phone a week ago in New York. But I just think that I would be on it too much. Like, I had one of those smartphones, and I had to get rid of it, ’cause I was just, like, on it all the time on tour, and I stopped thinking and drawing and stuff.
AVC: It has that effect on pretty much everyone.
JO: I wish I could have it, just to keep in touch with people. But I feel like it’s too much.
AVC: Can you talk about the decision to let NPR stream your album?
JO: We wanted to put our album up for free on the Internet, just for the day it came out. But then NPR showed interest, and we figured it would be cool to stream it for a whole week, so that anyone could listen to it. I just want as many people to hear our stuff as possible.
You know, people are going to buy the record if they want the record. But if they just want mp3s, they’re going to download it. I don’t care. It’s not like we make any money off records anyways. Bands don’t make money off records; they make money off playing shows and selling T-shirts and stuff. If more people have our music, more people come see us play, hopefully.
AVC: It seems increasingly like people are making money off touring.
JO: Yeah, it’s pretty insane that we’re able to do it. Neither of us have jobs right now; we’re just doing this. Granted, we are gone constantly, which is hard. And it’s really cheap to live in Nashville, and there’s only two of us in the band, so I think that makes a big difference. But we actually just got home [in mid-July] from tour, and we’re here until Aug. 17, which is the longest we’ll have had off in two years.
AVC: How did you decide to sign to Warner Brothers?
JO: A lot of labels have been coming to us, like a lot of indie labels and stuff, but we run our own label, and we were doing fine. We were kind of like, “Well, there’s not really much more that these other labels can do that we’re not doing ourselves.” And Warner came to us. It’s kind of like, “Well, you’re a biggie label, so how can you help us?”
We worked out a deal where we can still run our own label and be on it, and they can help us with stuff that we don’t have the money to do. We can use their promotional team, and their radio team, and all these people that work for them that we don’t have. It’s a really awesome situation, I think. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll stop doing it.
AVC: Are you still going to produce all your own records?
JO: That’s the plan. We’re going to try and record another record in the winter.
AVC: When you record in a professional studio, how does it compare to home recording?
JO: It’s awesome, because everything sounds really good, and you can kind of do anything you want. But home recording’s really fun because there’s limitations, and it’s fun to work to with limitations, ’cause [of] the challenge.
I like both of them, but it’s really nice to be able to record it in a real place where you don’t have to worry about there being enough microphones, or stuff breaking, or not sounding the way you want it to. But we’ll still do both. We just recorded a Nirvana cover for SPIN magazine, and we did that in Jake’s bedroom on his 8-track, like on the cassette.
I just read the Neil Young biography, and it talks about how [Kurt Cobain’s] suicide note has Neil Young lyrics in it. I didn’t know that.
AVC: Yeah, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
JO: Yeah, from “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue).” My friend John [McCauley]’s band covered all Nirvana songs. They played at Bonnaroo. It was awesome.
AVC: What band is he in?
JO: Deer Tick. But I guess they do a Nirvana cover band called Deervana, and it was really fun to watch.
AVC: NPR compared your band to Weezer. What do you think of that?
JO: That’s fine with me. I think it’s funny. A lot of people have been saying that there’s some Weezer vibes on the record. That’s cool. I like Weezer. That’s obviously ’cause we like them, and it’s come through in our music—but we weren’t really thinking about it when we were writing those songs. I don’t really care what people say about us. I don’t think it makes sense to get upset about any of that stuff.
AVC: That seems like a way to stay sane. If you keep reading everything about your band, it probably makes you crazy.
JO: Yeah, and if you watch YouTube videos of your band, it makes you crazy, too. So don’t watch YouTube videos of your band.
AVC: There’s this sort of goofball sense of humor that runs through all of your records and music videos. How do you work that into your writing?
JO: I think that’s just our personalities coming through. We don’t like to be serious.
AVC: That’s one of the consistently great things about punk, is that punk bands can be funny.
JO: Yeah, totally. I just hate when I see stuff about us, and it comes off as being too serious. I just, I don’t know. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
AVC: So you’re not going to write a Drake-style autobiographical album about your greatest hardships?
JO: No. I don’t have that many hardships. I think compared to a lot of people, I’ve been pretty lucky.