Brothers in arms

tony_tomasYou 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!
/Gramps
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Billy Momo’s been busy…

Really long time, and no hear from your favorite bearded band Billy Momo. There’s a reason. The band has been busy writing, recording, releasing new material. And some gigging as well. And shooting what will be a really cool video. For a brief catch-up of the latest months, begin with checking out MomoTV. You will find it all in there. And then some… Start from the beginning or skip through to your latest seen episode. Birgitta/management

A different drum, crayfish and the-day-after-volumes.

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Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

We have started recording a bunch of new songs lately, and you will no doubt see a lot of footage from this project on MomoTV in the weeks and months ahead. But here are some personal reflections after the first week of recording.

Each Billy Momo album has had its own approach and recording process. ’Ordinary Men’ was done very much as a duo with auxiliary musicians.

More of a band sound started to emerge with ’Drunktalk’, although it wasn’t quite there yet. And it was still largely put together one instrument at the time, the separated recording technique used by most smaller studios.

’Seven Rivers Wild’ was the first album recorded entirely as the seven-piece band that we had grown into, and we also started to record a little bit more as a live unit, with at least the rhythm section being recorded at the same time. It had happened on occasional tracks before, such as ”The Weekend”, but this time around that was the overall approach for most of the tracks. On SRW we also began experimenting with double drums on some songs, with me and Barba playing together on separate drum kits to get a lively, swampy feel to the grooves. With this approach we could also introduce more interesting sounds into the rhythm tracks, junkyard percussion, stacked cymbals and other sonic experiments. SRW was quite ambitious, a glossy, rich production, Billy goes Fleetwood Mac, almost. The final enhancement to this album was the amazing artwork, which made it ideal for the vinyl format.

But these days, we are living in a world where streaming services and downloading individual tracks constitute the norm, rather than oldskool album listening, where you with a sense of pride, joy and even duty listened all the way through the album you had just purchased (yes, there was a time when you paid money to the creators of the music in order to listen to it). Today… not so much. And so, why not try some different approaches to platforms and formats?

With this in mind, we are now experimenting with different approaches to recording, not necessarily working towards ”an album” as the desired end result. It might still end up being that, of course, but we try not to have that as a preconceived notion, but rather approach a handful of songs at the time, consider some creatively interesting method of recording them, and see what happens. They may be released as individual tracks, or as parts of a bigger, cohesive whole, but we’ll see what it is when we get there.

The first and most obvious difference this time around is that we have started to work in Barba’s new house, part of which has been converted into a recording facility (again, MomoTV will bring you up to speed on that) which gives the whole working environment a more homegrown feel, which suits the band perfectly.

During rehearsals in the past couple of years we often found that some really interesting things happened to the groove when we were playing at lower volume (the decision to turn it down was probably more due to hangovers than intentional improvements of musical nature, but hey!) and so we wanted to try recording some songs while playing softly and more delicately. So this has been a deliberate change for this particular batch of tunes. Oh, there are still some viscerally exciting, rambunctious, slamming beats going on (oh, man, you have noooo idea what you’re in for, people!), but there is a different sonic quality that comes out of drums and percussion when played slightly less forcefully, and the interplay between players gets more dynamic, so this we feel is a huge improvement.

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Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

We are also expanding the idea of the junkyard percussion setups, with both myself and Preach having some deranged setups to work with. Trashcan lids, wooden crates, fucked up cymbal combinations with applied chains, drums filled with quinoa, and the list goes on. The Billy Momo sound is getting deeper, grittier and sweatier than ever. We can’t wait for you to hear these fucking songs!

The first week of collective recording finished on Friday (some individual overdub sessions proceeded over the weekend), and we had a traditional Swedish crayfish party on Friday night, right there in the studio! It was the usual Billy Momo joint, with way too much booze, and so, the drunktalk began, as expected. One member of the band kept insisting that most fears that people refer to as “phobias” are actually just a part of ones personal image and public relations-package, or something along those lines. The verdict from the jury is still pending on that one. And at some point during the wee hours of the morning, we hazily drifted into listening to terrible 90s Eurodance music (although some of us insisted it was FUCKING AWESOME!!!) and eventually some of us got wild and crazy behind the drum kit for a bit at 4:00 a.m.-ish, presumably to the immense enjoyment of the neighbors, but, you know, what price art, eh?

Stay tuned here and at Momo TV for continuous updates on the recording process.

Have a beautiful fall, all you crazy kids in love out there!

/Gramps

Recommended listening:

MomoTV – episode 1

A little insight into what’s Billy Momo. We’re planning to produce these and publish every Sunday, to be found through our socials, and here through the blog. We’d love feedback, and if there’s anything you would like us to feature in one of the shows – just let us know!

All the leaves are brown…