Open: An Interview with Grandbrothers

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By Jack

Grandbrothers released their beautiful second album Open last week. A duo from Düsseldorf, Grandbrothers have a unique sound. The melodies are played on piano, whilst the percussion and effects are all generated by manipulating and pitch-shifting those same sounds to take on new resonances. The result is thoughtful neo-pop, put to the beat of a ticking clock.

We spoke to Erol Sarp about their distinct style and how Open came to be.

HN: Your dynamic as a pianist-sound engineer duo is pretty unique. Did you start off performing this way or was it something you grew into?

ES:We knew about our individual strengths and knew that it would be Lukas’ job to come up with all these crazy technical ideas and mine to come up with melodies, harmonies, patterns etc. The whole thing then developed and still is developing.

We started from scratch and after talking about it for a while we had these ideas about working with live-sampling and these little hammers we built. After we did some first experiments we started writing songs and after playing our first concert, people told us that we had to make something out of it.

So here we are… we just released our second LP and we couldn’t be happier about it.”

HN: Would you describe Open as telling a story or is it more about capturing a tone?

ES:To be honest, it’s very hard to tell stories with instrumental music.

It’s not our approach to write music on a certain topic – at least not yet – but sure we want to spark some images and feelings within the listeners. And a lot of them do approach us and say that they feel or see something, when they listen to our music. So I guess it would be both.”

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HN: I love the cinematic feeling of this album. Who would you say inspired you on Open?

ES: “There’s not one specific artist, it’s more the combination of different people, who have influenced us over the years. The obvious ones, at least for us obvious ones, would be Steve Reich, Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto and John Cage.

But it’s more about their general approach to music, not individual pieces. Besides we try to listen to as much music as we can and that definitely also somehow inspires us in our writing. We try to be as open as possible to any sort of music and I guess you can hear a lot of these things when you are listening to Open.”

HN: Why ‘Grandbrothers’ as the band name?

ES:Well, it’s some sort of a wordplay. Grand is short for grand piano and Brothers, because… well, we aren’t related, but we’re pretty close. It wasn’t our idea to be fair. A friend had this idea and after sticking to it for a while we got used to it and now we’re stuck with it!”

HN: Is Open a continuation of Dilation? 

ES:Definitely. We also see it as a huge improvement compared to Dilation. We concentrated a lot on new sounds, new effects and new mechanical things. We have a new invention that we call bows.

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They’re able to set the strings into resonation and sound like an organ or a flute. The first sound you hear on Open is created by one of these bows. We also wanted to make the whole album louder and more intense. And we feel that we achieved that by using a lot of distortion, reverb, delays, LFOs and so on.”

HN: I love the video for ‘Bloodflow’, was that something you were involved in or did you just suggest some ideas?

ES:We wanted to have a video, that contained a story. We didn’t have that before and felt that it was about time. The director of this clip, Hugo Jenkins, sent us this wonderful pitch and we immediately got hooked on his ideas. Things went very quickly then and when we saw the first draft, we knew that we made the right decision.”

Read our review of Open here.

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