Brother Moses

words by Liz Watts

oklahoma city, OK | September 2017

   Photo by Jake Ruth

Photo by Jake Ruth

We had never regretted being late to a show more than we did the night we first saw Brother Moses and they were the opening act. As people were pouring into the venue, it seemed like all eyes were immediately turned to what was happening onstage. Their presence was incredible and their raw emotion was basically tangible. To put it simply, they are the kind of band that makes you slap whoever is next to you because you're just so dang IN LOVE with everything that's going on- even if you only see ten minutes of it. After their set, I marched right up to the merch booth and snagged their Legends EP which has had a permanent home in the CD player of my car ever since.

They'll be your new favorite band, trust me.

Brother Moses is a four piece band made up of James Lockhart, Matthew Heckmann, Moses Gomez, John-Lewis Anderson, and their newest member, Corey Dill. The indie-rockers are based out of Fayetteville, AR and came together about four years ago at the University of Arkansas. Read below to get to know (love) them a bit!

our favorite tracks: "Please Stop" + "Pretend"

Did you guys study anything in music?

John-Luke: I was doing jazz guitar and then I switched it to a minor because I wasn’t very good at it.

Matthew: None of us really studied music as our thing. We all just really love music and love playing.

Are you all wanting to turn the band into your main gig? Your main job and career? Or do you want to be like...accountants?

John-Lewis: Ya know, an accountant is a very exciting job, I mean, personally, I’d love to do that. But I feel like in the market today it’s really hard to get into that.

James: All of us do kind of have a side thing- none of us majored in music and we all want to use our major at least a little bit.

Matthew: But to answer your question, this is ultimately what we want to be doing and we are very focused on making that a reality.

That’s so cool! I’ve seen that you guys finished up a new record, too!

Matthew: Yes! We did!

What would you say are some of the themes that the album plays on?

James: A lot of the lyrics are like split down the middle. I think half the songs are about romantic relationships and the other half is about familial love. A theme that sort of emerged from all that- and what this record is really about- is trying really hard to love someone and how it’s difficult. But, in order to have that love, you have to sift through all the things about that person and just love that.

What was the writing process like? How did you decided it was time to release a full-length album?

John-Lewis: That was really interesting. We had all been sort of writing all things separately and kinda working on them together but it got to the point where we were like “Guys, we have to kick it into gear and actually do something.” So, we went to this house on the lake.

Matthew: -and this is like a week before our booked studio time.

John-Lewis: Yeah, it was crunch time and we had a lot of song ideas but we hadn’t developed them into full songs yet. We went into that week just being like “Hopefully we have an album after this!” And by the end we had about 14 songs, and had to cut some out-which is a really awesome and hard thing to do.

Matthew: It was like a really intense week of like waking up, breaking into groups, and writing music for like 8-10 hours.

James: We literally only stopped to eat and sleep.

Matthew: -and at the end of every day we would watch an episode of Silicone Valley to decompress. It was SO intense.

John-Lewis: James even made like a schedule everyday that would say, “8am: Wakey-wakey eggs and bac-y, 9am this session, 10am this session..”

James: It was like an intense summer camp, which we needed. We all had so many ideas but when you have lives and stuff going on it’s hard to focus and so we just locked ourselves in a house by the lake.

John-Lewis: There was no wi-fi so that helped a lot.

James: -but we still ended up hot-spotting off of Moses so we could watch a whole season of Silicon Valley.

How do you put yourselves into a mindset for writing? Did you ever just draw blank?

Matthew: I think two things really helped with that. One was going into it with a lot of like 30 second clips to draw from. The other is having like 5 people in a room and being able to mix and match small creative units within the band. Everybody is going to have some kind of idea or direction.

James: If one person was super not into an idea, but the other four of us were, it was very easy to be like “I’m gonna go and come back in an hour.” Almost every time we did that, we came back liking it. It’s kinda just like switching people in and out helped a lot.

John-Lewis: At the beginning of the week, it was a lot of 2 and 3 person groups.

James: Everyone was trying to hog Corey though! We’d be like “Ok I’m doing a session tomorrow with me and John-Lewis and Corey” and Matthew would be like “Me and moses and Corey.”

Unidentifiable muffle: Someone’s not getting Corey.

James: All of us can play guitar and stuff but there’s a spot that Corey fills that none of us can fill!

Drums! 

James: Yes, drums. And a level-headed cheekiness.

Were there any artists or albums that helped inspire or influence this new record while you were writing? Or did you just lock yourself away completely from outside influence (except Silicon Valley)?

John-Lewis: I think it’s impossible not to, but I don’t think there’s anything specifically that we pulled from.

James: I’d say this is the least referential thing we’ve ever done. I was listening to a lot of music when we wrote this record for the most point, but I don’t think I used any of it.

Matthew: I think leading up to this, personally, I was trying to listen to music that was as different as possible to the genre that we do. I was doing a lot of hip-hop, and I think Moses and I can connect when I say like really early Bossa Nova stuff which you can maybe hear a little. But, I think it’s mostly what Jake said, like the least referential thing we have ever done. It really sounds like nothing else.

Are there any specific songs on the album that have a specific story or meaning behind them? Any favorites?

James: A lot of them, and that’s what I like about this record. There’s raw, honest emotion that you can feel.

John-Lewis: There’s one song and Matthew came up with a musical idea and James sort of like took it on and wrote lyrics and that’s the song that I still get chills listening to. It’s a pretty heavy song and James screams in a part and seeing him do that in the studio…I got like super…

Emo.

James: Yes, it’s an emo record and I’m proud to say that! I feel like everyone has their own songs that they feel personally connected to. When we came into the week of writing, me and Corey and Mosesmessed around for like 30 min and basically wrote the whole thing. We love the song and it’s not even a personal story but I’ll never be able to think about that song and not be like “Wow I can’t believe how fast that came together.” So, even the ones that aren’t deeply entrenched in personal mythology are memorable because of the environment we wrote them in.

Matthew: Every song definitely has a personal and emotional element that really comes through.

How would you say you all have progressed since your first EP Thanks for All Your Patience, then Legends, and now this new record?

Matthew: I think, speaking as a group perspective, making the Legends EP and making this, we’ve been on the road for an obscene amount of time and gone through innumerable amounts of highs and lows as a group. Doing that together, gives you this glue that nothing else can. Experiencing it the way we did bonded us together.

James: In a lot of ways I feel like the band is finally being born. When we started, I felt like we were documenting the band being started. We made our first EP and it was sort of just us recording as we were coming up with it. The second EP is us writing more songs because we wanted more songs and had been playing them on the road for six months so we recorded them. The task of setting out to make this album is the first thing that the five of us as a unit have made from the ground up. The band has been very migrant and it’s shifted and changed a lot since the four years it’s been around, but I feel like now that we’ve made this record together, we have become Brother Moses- which I’m really happy about.

John-Lewis: It feels less like we are trying to be something. We just are.

You mentioned high highs and low lows. What were some highs?

James: That’s a better question than the lows! There was this festival that our university put on and we got to play because we won Battle of the Bands and in the time that passed between winning and playing, a lot of progress had happened. When we played that big show, it was a really big first high. There were a lot of really popular people playing that night and it was cool to be lumped in with them.

Matthew: For me, a really great high was playing this house show called “The Steep.” It was one of the first nights that it ever happened, but like 100-120 people packed in. Even though it was a small space, we didn’t hold anything back when we were playing and it was super rowdy. It was the first time like everybody in the whole house was singing along to everything. It was so cool because when that happens, you see that your music is connecting with people on another level. It was super emotional for me.

Corey: The most memorable for me was the Island Party. It was a cool, rainy day and we were playing outdoors so it was constantly on the verge of not happening. We thought it’d be cancelled or moved and when it was show time, whoever made the call decided we were gonna play. We did it and it was fun and Matthew wore a flamingo floaty.

Matthew: There was like 500 people and half the band stage dove into the crowd, the crowd handed us cigarettes during a song called “Cigarettes” ..it was so much fun.

Moses: That’s a really hard question for me and like Matthew said, we’ve toured a ton and there were low points but I’m just grateful for being able to be traveling the country and hanging out with my boys. No matter what, if it were a bad or good show, we were all in it together. A high point is when we hit the lows and banded together.

John-Lewis: We were doing a west coast tour and got our guitars stolen and were super broke and tired. We were driving up the coast and on a whim, we pulled off to the side and started running to the ocean and it’s like a mile away but we are sprinting.

James: Half way through, we were like “This is a bad idea, it’s too far but we can’t stop!”

John-Lewis: -and we didn’t have swimsuits so we were just ripping off our clothes and we ran into the ocean, which is like 40 degrees, but it was just a moment of pure joy for us. 

Live photos by Blue Element Productions // The Root // OKC


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