It's funny how a band can encapsulate a sound without actually playing that style verbatim or getting caught up in its dramatics, semantics, or identifying call. Take for instance Hume, New York's Barry Brothers; formed in 2011, these boys play southern rock but they don't. They're not from the South, they hail from the southern tier with a decent helping of American southern rock ethos in the overall sound. The band is what it ain't. Whatever you wanna call it, it's good, baby. Real good.
Not too long ago, The Barry Brothers — Patrick Barry, vocals and acoustic guitar; Bradford Barry, drums; Ben Barry, bass (whenever he's in town); John Mast, lead guitar; and Jelly Yeomans, banjo — warmed the boards at Water Street Music Hall for Toronto roots rock heroes, The Sadies, another band that transcends its own classification. Whether caught by surprise or with budding admiration and awe, the crowd howled after each tune the brothers laid out. There was big guitar but plenty of thoughtful interludes in the acoustic nature in which their music was born.
If you are quick to judge, it's a rock band. If you listen to the heartfelt sincerity and drive you'll realize, as said before, The Barry Brothers is what it ain't. And the band proves it with its new, sh*t-kickin' release, "Stories from the Southern Tier," on its own 100% Records. It's riff-heavy and dirty with mucho attitude and shake appeal. The first track, "Broken Night Light," will knock your head off on its own.
Patrick and Bradford Barry stopped by to give an update on the band, what they do, and what they don't do. An edited transcript follows.
Did you guys grow up playing together?
Patrick Barry: No, not really. I mean I always loved music but I didn't get my first guitar until I graduated high school. I just decided to learn some songs and then write some songs.
Bradford Barry: The beauty for me, he picked it up when I was about 10 or 11 years old, so my memory growing up was him playing music. And I've been going with it ever since.
What were you listening to then?
Patrick: Modern rock. It was the 90's. I was really into what was on the Nerve at the time.
And then you slowly gravitated to Americana and Southern rock?
Patrick: It was actually pretty quick.
What got you into this style initially?
Patrick: While my brother and I were on tour with Navar, we got into watching a lot of movies. One was The Band's "Last Waltz" and Scorsese's "No Direction Home," his documentary on Bob Dylan. I just fell in love with it. Instead of it being manufactured like an alt-rock band, you could play this music on your front porch with acoustic instruments or you could turn it up and get a little crazy on Saturday nights. It's all just pickin' and singin'.
What made you think you could do it?
Patrick: When I went to my first concert — Weezer at the Harrow East Ballroom in '97 — and it was like watching a hockey player or some Olympic athlete that had trained their whole life to be up there. Then I picked up a guitar for the first time and looked at a tab and I was like "That's all you do? I can do that." So we just learned a bunch of those songs to see what gave it that soul, whether it's how the words are put together or the melodies are put together, and — not through osmosis — just feel it. Now I find every song we write, there's a piece of a song I just learned in there. Sometimes it's really good and I'm like, "Sh*t, did I rip something off here?"
How do you, as Yankees, conjure such a rural sound?
Patrick: We're not playing to anything or anybody other than what we like to do. But our area is really rural; farming is a dying industry in our area. It's one of the poorest regions in New York State. So when you live there you can see that that kind of life is hard on people and you gravitate to the blues and the heart of what southern rock is about. We live there and it has a very southern feel. It just doesn't have the heat.
How do The Barry Brothers write?
Patrick: Our guitarist Johnny is the riff factory. He loves Stevie Ray Vaughan, but he also loves bands like Tool and he'll bring in all these big heavy riffs. Or I'll have some ideas and we try to meet in the middle. If we headed in one direction, we'd be a heavy rock band. There's a lot of power in those riffs and hooks, so we always work at it, specifically how do we push it back in and still tell a real story?
Perhaps by pulling in the reigns?
Patrick: Absolutely. We do.