You know, I see my little brother almost every day.
It wasn’t always like that, but these days we both live in the suburbs of Stockholm (albeit on different sides of the city), we have been working together since 2003, and oh, lest I forget, we also play in the same band.
Siblings playing in the same band aren’t really that unusual. Ray and Dave Davies. Alex and Eddie Van Halen. Karen and Richard Carpenter. Malcolm and Angus Young. Duane and Gregg Allman. Ann and Nancy Wilson. Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell. Not to mention the Staple Singers, the Jacksons and the Beach Boys. The list is endless when you start to think about it.
Barba, as he is affectionately known within the ranks of Billy Momo, is five years younger than me, and growing up, we really didn’t hang out much due to that age difference.
In his between-song rants, Orren often relishes in pointing out my trailer park white trash credentials, as I married and had kids at a fairly young age (not to mention becoming a grandfather in my early 40s). This also meant that I was preoccupied with family life and being a dad at the same time that my brother grew into his rock’n’roll-lifestyle-era. And as my kids got older and more independent, and I became more ”accessible to frivolous social encounters and activities” as it were, that’s when he started a family and the responsible-dad-thing. We just always seemed to be out of phase, although we got along great whenever we’d see each other.
We are both drummers, so we spent many years playing in different bands, never actually playing together. The first time that changed was when Barba started his RockSteadyEddie solo project, where he was the lead singer, and thus needed a drummer for live performance (he still played on the recordings). I was drafted for this task, and this was the first time we performed together. It was also the first time I played with Orren, who was the bass player then. It was not too long after this that Barba and Orren morphed into the early stages of Billy Momo. They started writing and recording songs, discovering a new direction different from anything they’d done before. In the beginning they played most of the instruments themselves, with auxiliary players added whenever needed. I was one of those players. And I played the drums with the band live from the very first gig, so I was the first +member added to the then-duo, nowadays a septet. Growing pains much..?
So, what’s it like to play in a band with your younger brother, especially as he is one of the two bandleaders, you ask? (Or maybe you don’t, but I’ll tell you anyway.)
In a seven-piece group where the dynamics pretty much resemble a dysfunctional family on a alcoholic binge anyway, with sibling rivalries, squabbles and inside jokes, the actual blood relations between Barba and myself doesn’t really seem too obvious. In fact, we are probably the two guys who argue the least among each other in the band. We both like to be on time, none of us is a snob in our tastes (although our tastes often diverge quite a lot from each other), and we are both pretty easy-going (out of the two of us, I’m the moody, difficult one).
One of the funny quirks is that initially we both found it really hard to do vocal harmonies together. Our voices have really similar timbres, and if the harmonies were tight (as they should be), it would be very difficult to differentiate between us, so much that we’d sometimes not know which parts we were singing! I’d find myself having to do a little pitch bend to find out which voice was me! Over time, we have learned how to tell ourselves apart a little better, but sometimes it’s still difficult. One of the band’s inside jokes is that the most pointless gag imaginable would be if I started to sing lead on a song instead of Barba, as most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Barba is the organizer of the band, the disciplinarian father figure as well as the worrying mother, while the rest of us are the unruly kids driving him crazy. But that doesn’t mean that he’s boring and stiff. In fact, he’s one of the most fun guys I know to hang out with. If you’ve ever partied with Billy Momo, you are keenly aware that we all know how to have a good time.
On a strictly personal note, while we have obviously been family our whole lives, it’s very precious to me to find that in our advancing years, my little brother is also one of my very best friends, and I love him like crazy.
As today is his birthday I’ll raise a toast to the man who was happier than anyone else when the VHS era ended. Here’s to many more years of brotherhood and bandmatery! Cheers, little brother! Love ya!