Music Preview: Good brother Earl turns up the volume on 'Perfect Tragedy'

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Plenty of local bands take their wares to WYEP and plenty of them get turned away.


Good Brother Earl

With: Fooling April (from Philadelphia).
Where: Rex Theatre, South Side.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: $7 advance (at the Rex); $10 at the door.    

But the door opened wide for Good Brother Earl, an ensemble that showed up in 2004 with a full-bodied Triple A rock sound that can fall right into place between Counting Crows, Dave Matthews and the Jayhawks. The result was regular rotation on YEP and a growing following.

It has yet to be parlayed into a major-label deal, but that could change with the band's second CD. "Perfect Tragedy" is more of the same, with a bit more emphasis on the rock than the roots side of GBE's ledger. "6 O'Clock News," a song about selling fear, has a chunky Neil Young rhythm and the next-to-last track (which uses the male and female symbols) rides on a hard rock riff that would make Joe Perry smile.

Already, YEP has jumped at it again and even WDVE has added the driving first single "Fighting Gravity" into rotation.

"It was a very much a progression toward rock 'n' roll," says singer-songwriter Jeff Schmutz. "I think we tried to write shorter songs, more concise songs, get into choruses quicker, just to make them more upbeat. I think all of us were feeling that. It wasn't one of us saying, 'Let's be a rock band.' "

Schmutz, a singer with a warm, mature voice, says a couple factors came into play to make the band rock a bit more. "I went into record some demo songs and Paul [Fitzsimmons] let me borrow one of his electric guitars, so maybe that's where I started to write a little more on the electric."

Good Brother Earl also went through a personnel change during the making of the record, picking up Dave Throckmorton from the improvisational hip-hop outfit Beam. He rounds out the band with bassist-songwriter Dan Paolucci and keyboardist-engineer Skip Sanders.

"Having a really solid drummer behind us gave us all a charge," Schmutz says. "Dave is just this gem in Pittsburgh, this national caliber drummer. We were very fortunate to have him. It's like playing a pickup basketball game with an NBA guy, it just forces you all to play better."

But it wasn't basketball players who were driving the band's sound. While they were making "Perfect Tragedy," Fitzsimmons was particularly taken by a certain British guitar hero.

"When the U2 album 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb' came out, I know Paul was really influenced by The Edge and his massive guitar sound," Schmutz says. "And we all like Coldplay, so maybe a little British rock snuck its way in there. But, at the same time, we still like the old school stuff like the Johnny Cash and Neil Young and Lucinda Williams and that kind of thing."

The drummer change was just one of the factors in extending the recording process of "Perfect Tragedy." While they were working on it, the studio where they were recording closed, and Fitzsimmons became a dad, so that meant occasionally juggling baby Zoe in the studio.

They had lots of time to pamper "Perfect Tragedy," but resisted overdoing it.

"You kind of throw everything you have at it, meaning songs, guitar parts and vocal harmonies. It's really easy to over-produce things. You get to experiment and do a lot of things you can't do live, so it's really easy to put all kinds of little bells and whistles on it, like 'This needs more glockenspiel' or 'Throw a trombone on here.' But then, it's like 'Wait a second, we're supposed to be a rock band.' "

Weekend editor Scott Mervis can be reached at or 412-263-2576.


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