INTERVIEW: Patrick Pierce (PIERCE BROTHERS)
Beloved folk pop duo Pierce Brothers are an irresistible family affair. From storming the industry back in 2014 to whipping global frenzies with their energetic take on relatable folk and infectious jangles, Jack and Patrick Pierce have evolved into integral mainstays in the Aussie music scene; a fact certainly due to cement further with the impending release of their sophomore Into The Great Unknown tomorrow on March 5.
Offering an exuberant wonderland of blissful riffs, catchy rhythmics and creamy harmonies, Into The Great Unknown levels up the Pierce Bros production to their largest heights yet, with orchestral flourishes and high-energy blues set to stun with polished and bewitching stupor. But before the brand new album unveils in just one sleep, we grabbed a moment with Patrick Pierce himself to chat new material, evolution and the quintessential moment the two brothers cut their teeth in the music industry. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hiya, thanks so much for having a chat today! It’s been sprinkling brotherly love for a while now as Pierce Brothers edge closer to the release of ‘Into The Great Unknown’ on March 5…including the release your most recent track, the very aptly named ‘Brother’. How does it feel to be finally so close to release for the new album, and what has the reaction been so far to the singles in the lead-up from an insider’s perspective?
PATRICK PIERCE: We’re so excited to be finally getting this album out into the world. We’ve had some awesome reactions over the past 10 months. We shot Kanko & Dentist in Jack’s house during lockdown and then got stuck into the It’s Alright & Brother videos once things opened a little bit. Each single has definitely had a bigger response than the last which is brilliant. Brother especially has been a crowd favourite for a few years now, so finally getting that tune into the studio was awesome.
TIANA: The lyrical themes on ‘Brother’ and the reality of bringing ‘Into The Great Unknown’ to life really do dovetail, with ‘Brother’ focusing on being away from family, and the album itself being recorded in between Victorian lockdowns…did the overarching insanity in the world really kickstart making this new album, or did you already have the bare bones planned out before COVID ramped its ugly head up?
PATRICK: The whole process started about 15 months ago when we headed in to the studio with Garret Kato up near Byron Bay. We wrote the first single ‘Kanko’ with him and worked on another track ‘In The Morning’ before the great lockdowns started so we ended up doing the rest of the album with Jan Skubiszewski in Gisborne, Victoria. Our last few releases have all been written around touring, taking weeks here, a few days there. Due to the lockdown this album allowed us to stay onsite for almost a month and really sink our teeth into each track and it really shows. This is easily our most realised album we’ve ever put down, which is definitely a result of the extra development time due to covid. We didn’t have so much of the album written at the start of production, but we did have a basic idea of the sort of album we wanted to write. We were looking at doing a much smaller scale acoustic vibe album, but that lasted about halfway through the first day. The further in we went the clearer the album’s shape presented itself to us. One could definitely tell we’d had ‘Go Farther In Lightness’ by Gang Of Youths playing on repeat for a while. The title ‘Into The Great Unknown’ is pulled from lyrics in two songs on the album, ‘White Caps’ and ‘One’. Both of them really relating to the massive changes happening in our personal lives and on a global scale. As we all know 2020 was a year with a tectonic shift and the great unknown ahead of all of us was more evident than ever. Jack was about to have his first child, the lockdowns and uncertainty of everything played a massive part in the concepts we explored on this record.
TIANA: I’ve read you guys discuss the actual album process, recording by day, dinner and a bottle of red and then back to work on the tracks by night…and in a cottage setting no less! Was this a significant change to how you conjured your debut album? And would you do it all again the same way next time round if you had the chance?
PATRICK: Yeah this is the first time we recorded in this style. Because of the lockdown we were staying on site, in the guest cottage of our producer’s house. It meant that we were locked, in so to speak, for longer periods than our normal recording times have been in the past. This meant that after each day in the studio we’d head back to the cottage and have a listen to what we’d have recorded that day, make some dinner discuss lyrics or other ideas before the next day of recording. Once we got used to this style we found that song the songs were recording became much more nuanced and realised than anything we’d done previously and it definitely gave the album a connected flavour that pulled it all together as one artistic piece. It’s really the only way I want to work from now on.
TIANA: Some of the content on ‘Into The Great Unknown’ certainly harbours some particularly spectacular backstories, including a chorus written while trekking through the mountains in Switzerland. In terms of bringing a Pierce Brothers song completely to life, how does a track usually come together for you guys? Do you feel like a well-oiled machine from a songwriting perspective, or do you surprise yourselves and change it up each time?
PATRICK: Nearly every song we write has a different approach from the one before. Sometimes a tune will present itself out of the blue, fully formed. Other times it feels like drawing blood from a stone. I personally have the most trouble getting lyrics together that don’t sound too overproduced or sappy, and it can be so frustrating when those words wont come out. That’s definitely the hardest part of the process. The dinner discussions each night made a massive difference on that though. Towards the end of the recording process it felt like we’d really hit our stride in what we were trying to achieve and things went far more smoothly than the first week.
TIANA: The new album also features some stunning arrangements and instrumental flourishes, including some strings and horns thrown in for good measure. And while you two are frequently described as “folk pop” or “indie folk” etc. etc. etc…I’m fascinated to know, how do you see yourselves in the broader music community from a genre and/or stylistic perspective? For me personally, labels often limit my creativity, and I’m not sure if it’s the same for you…
PATRICK: Folk is something we’ve never tried to shy away from. Our influences are pretty clear for sure and for this album there were certain things that we’d never really done that we’d always wanted to. We’ve never had strings on any of our releases and it was something I’d been keen to play with for a really long time and it was one of the greatest days of my life when the strings players came into the studio and put down these beautiful parts. As far as how we see ourselves in the broader community, sometimes we definitely feel like imposters. Some of our peers are just so exquisite in the way they perform their craft and Jack & I are really hyper aware that we’re more broad strokes kind of performers. There is definitely an element of comparison that every artist will have with themselves and their peers, but this album allowed us to get a little more intricate, I’d say, than we’ve been in the past.
TIANA: While the end result of ‘Into The Great Unknown’ is a serious triumph, I believe it was almost an album that didn’t happen. You guys aren’t strangers to the highs and lows of the realities of being a musician, even pre-COVID ridiculousness…but after being on the road relentlessly for so many years and having the pressure of a second album hanging over you along the way throughout that time (AND a pandemic thrown in for good measure)…what kept you going with all the stresses and pressure that the past few years no doubt threw your way? What is it you love most about this whole journey so far?
PATRICK: It was definitely an interesting time for us. We’d never been home for this long, we’d never had this long NOT playing music. But the break gave us time to work on other aspects of Pierce Brothers, and in the end gave us so much more time to make a stronger album. I spend a lot of my time writing grants and making plans for 2021. We came up with some awesome ideas for music videos and I found video and photography again. When the second lockdown ended and we could finally get back to start playing even small shows, we’d used up every cent to get this album across the line and we made it to the end of lockdown by the skin of our teeth. Although, as difficult as it was, we came out of it with a new album, a new show and a great plan for 2021 and beyond.
TIANA: As Australia slowly starts to jitter back to normality, the notion of live music has crept back into our lives, which is genuinely so exciting to see. And you guys will also be heading off on a stacked Victorian tour starting next month, what can fans expect from a 2021 Pierce Brothers live show? Any secrets hidden up your sleeves after a fair while of not playing? Or do we just have to wait and see…?
PATRICK: At this stage we’re playing it close to the chest, but we’ve definitely got some irons in the fire to take our live shows to the next level. Some massive things are definitely on the cards for 2021…
TIANA: On the topic of live shows, let’s trip down memory lane for a moment here, take me back to the first ever official Pierce Brothers gig. Where was it, who was there, and what was the most memorable moment of the show?
PATRICK: We were 15 years old and we booked a show playing covers at the Dorset Gardens. It was a sports bar in Croydon, Victoria, just down the road from where we grew up. It was it was a pretty rough venue and we had to have security guards and our parents accompanying us, as we were minors. I remember we were halfway through playing Hotel California and a fight started in front of us. In a flash a bottle was broken over another bloke’s head and it was on for young and old. The security guards jumped in and broke it up and we just kind of stared and stopped playing. While being held back the man with the bleeding had piped and said, “keep going boys, it sounds great!” to which his rival agreed. As we were packing the car the man was being treated by paramedics with a cut on his forehead and Dad exclaimed “welcome to the music industry”.
INTO THE GREAT UNKNOWN FROM THE PIERCE BROTHERS IS OFFICIALLY DUE OUT TOMORROW, PLUS YOU CAN CATCH THE GENTS ON THE ROAD WITH SOME SHOWS AROUND VICTORIA THROWING DOWN LATER THIS MONTH.
FOR MORE INFO, INCLUDING PRE-SAVES AND PRE-ORDERS, HEAD HERE.
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BY TIANA SPETER