San Diego, California, USA


People say there’s something about brother music, an ingredient that makes the harmonies soar higher and the beats slam harder. It’s not really something you can pin down or describe in words—it’s something you have to hear. Whether it comes from siblings growing up sharing a room, or from a listener hoping for something different, Writer has it. The duo of brothers Andy and James Ralph, bashes, crashes, strums and shouts its way through songs that are scummy cement floor odes to real life, sung through aquarium glass to the prettiest girls they’ll never meet.

The band wasn’t always just the brothers. The sonic limitations of being a duo didn’t fit with their heavy vision, so James and Andy enlisted first one, then two, fellow musicians before realizing that they could make all the noise they needed on their own. This is perhaps most evident in their ultra frenetic live show, with James slamming away at a floor tom with a tambourine while pounding at the kick and playing a synthesizer—a true one man rhythm section—and Andy wailing into the mic and strumming his guitar or putting in time on keyboards. The brothers say they struggle with having only their own two hands to play with, particularly because they “try to record everything as close to live as possible,” according to Andy, on a 4-track recorder in their house.

Clearly it’s worth the struggle. Writer’s debut record (as a duo, that is) is aptly titled, Brotherface. From the rolling, thumpy drums and appropriately underwater-sounding vocals of “Miss Mermaid” to the anthemic “Cash for Gold,” which flies along on a synth line and careening, caterwauling harmonies, the record is a sweaty, jangly, pounding collection of recollections from the brother’s lives. “Almost every song has someone’s name in it,” Andy says, “it’s all nonfiction…and it really happened.”

By day, Andy Ralph is an emerging contemporary artist, recently showing work at the 2010 California Biennial in Orange County, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. James owns and operates a recording studio called Space / Jayme.

California natives through and through, the brothers have lived in San Diego for the past decade, give or take a year or two, but don't let that fool you—they aren’t making surf music. Instead, they make the kind of rock and roll born out of late nights with nothing to do but fill up the silence and make something of it. “When you have two people in a room with silence, you have to work it out,” says James. “We have to be honest with each other,” Andy adds, “I often tell James what kind of beat to play and he does the same about what I play on the guitar, at some point the song works itself out.”

Andy and James agree about brother music. Not just because it adds a shine to the grit, and a spark to their banging and wailing. It has other perks, they say, “Besides really digging the music we are making, brother fights are always short lived.”




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