When Brother Cephus came into Jacksonville this winter, we had a chance to sit down with them in a scuzzy bar on Edgewood Avenue. I don’t even know if it had a name. It certainly felt nameless. Radio rock crackled through the speakers, and I asked them how they got started as a band.
Seth Davis: We really just wanted to write songs together. In the last year or so, it started to shift from “Oh, we want to get drunk and play home shows,” to gaining a little momentum and deciding maybe we don’t want to work in coffee shops, you know, forever. Normal life is good, but we were stoked to get these songs we have out there.
Perversion Magazine: Was it when you were writing for your most recent EP, Noise, that you realized there was something here?
SD: I think it was after Noise. That was our third collection, and we were gaining momentum. We really wanted to focus on releasing as many songs as possible over a year, without necessarily releasing a full-length record. That was the idea with the collections.
Gabe Davis: I think Noise was probably the first collection that we worked through back catalogs of stuff we had written over the years. Noise was the first time that I thought that maybe Brother Cephus is forming an identity, as opposed to just having songs.
PM: How would you describe that identity?
SD: Coming from where we started, it was just about daily life. When I try to look at it lyrically, or what we try to represent through our music, it’s more of a raw, daily life thing. We’re not a band that feels like we write pretty music or poppy music. If there was a goal, it’s just being a couple normal dudes. Most of our songs are about—and especially with the new stuff we’re writing—what it’s like to be mid-20s, paying taxes, figuring out how to pay your rent, and not trying to get drunk every night. You know what I mean? I think there’s not a lot that we can write other than our normal lives.
PM: You write what you know.
GD: I think part of it, too, is that we’re very concerned and active about what we believe in, but to us, [music] is sort of an escape, so we do speak towards daily life and how the societal temperature at any time affects us.
SD: I think that’s why the word “Noise” fit the collection so well. When we think of noise, it’s like all the shit that’s going around.
PM: Do you still work while you’re in the band?
SD: Yeah, we all have day jobs. We’d like to actually keep it that way. I think that’s one thing that we were sick of. When you’re touring and you don’t have a normal job, there’s no normal life. Your home isn’t home. And traveling’s sick and stuff, but I think for us, a normal job to keep in a routine, forever, would be sick in some form also.
PM: There’s something to this idea of people in their mid-20s wanting to be creative and put something out there, but also still sticking to this sense of normalcy—having a job and living a “life”—and then in their free time, trying to make the creative thing. Rather than trying to make the creative thing the normal life.
SD: Yeah, because the creative thing just turns into a job. I was listening to a podcast yesterday where Reggie Watts was saying that when he was playing music through college, all his friends would be like, “Man, you get to relieve stress by playing music.” But the practice can become stressful when it’s the job. I don’t want to go out to the mountains in Denver and write a record, because that’s not life.
PM: So if that isn’t the goal then, to make the band highly successful—though, certainly you would be okay with that—
SD: Of course.
PM: But if that isn’t the goal, what is? A form of stress relief? Because it’s fun?
SD: I think it’s a mix of that. The talks of it was wanting to play music together with my brother. It sounds cheesy, but making good art and saying what you want to say.
GD: That’s been the goal from the beginning. Making and releasing as many things as possible. That’s been a trap we’d seen in previous bands where you do the traditional cycle of doing a full-length every year, then you tour the shit out of it and then you’re sick of the songs. We’re all sick of our songs by the time we release them almost, so for us, a big key is figuring out the ability to continually be creative. We haven’t put something out in months, but of the nine songs we’re playing tonight, only three of them are already released.
GD: I feel like every day, I’m trying to find the positivity in it, but it’s not always about being a positive band or hopeful. Trying to find the silver lining and yearning, that earnestness.
PM: It feels like a form of therapy almost?
GD: Oh, Absolutely.
SD: It goes back to what we were saying because it’s not a job. This is a comfortable place. We practice and fuck around with writing for a bit. It’s like a meaningful video game. What you’re putting out is something you need and want to do, but you can kind of zone out for a couple hours for it.
PM: What does the band name mean?
SD: We take ourselves seriously and try to be careful, but we also like to bullshit and hangout. “Brother Cephus” was initially some funny character I did when we were drinking and stuck in vans for hours just to lighten the mood. Then we booked our first show and didn’t have a name, so our friends just named us that after the character. And it stuck.
PM: It sounds almost religious.
SD: Some people have asked that, and some people have thought it was a deliberate play on the fact that we’re brothers, but we’re not smart enough for that.
GD: We’ll take the credit, though.
Brother Cephus will be playing at the Mockshop Music Exchange on Thursday, April 27th with BOYTOY and The Mother Gooses.