It's been one hell of a year for the Bros. Landreth.

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This article was published 4/12/2014 (2556 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's been one hell of a year for the Bros. Landreth.

Ever since the Winnipeg roots-rock act founded by brothers Joey and Dave Landreth -- sons of veteran Winnipeg sideman/studio musician Wally Landreth -- released its debut album, Let it Lie, in 2013, the momentum hasn't slowed. In 2014 alone, the band, which includes Ryan Voth and Ariel Posen among its ranks, inked a deal with American label Slate Creek Records, was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award and had its praises sung by none other than First Lady of Blues Bonnie Raitt, for whom the Bros. Landreth opened on the mainstage at this year's Winnipeg Folk Festival.

The Bros. Landreth

The Bros. Landreth

"I haven't liked a band as much as the Bros. Landreth in a long time," the Washington Times quoted her as saying. "To hear this kind of funky, Southern-style rock played with such originality and soul will knock you out."

High praise, indeed. And the band's profile will doubtless be bolstered by the U.S. release of Let it Lie via Slate Creek Records in January, which has already been advanced with a write-up in Billboard.

"It's been an incredible year," says Joey, 27, over a warm lunch on an unforgivably cold day in West Broadway. "We couldn't even begin to entertain the possibility of a thought of the idea that this year was going to be what it wound up being. It's just been fantastic. I think it's pretty well known that we were working musicians long before we had our own band. We've watched every artist that we've worked with struggle and really work hard. We work very hard --but we've also been very fortunate. We're incredibly grateful."

Joey and Dave are quick to credit their recent successes to serendipity. Take the U.S. record deal, for example. "We went to Nashville just because I played a lot of country music," Joey says, referring to his days as a sideman. "An opportunity presented itself and we went down there for three days at the end of a tour and came back with a record deal."

"It's not supposed to be that easy," Dave says. "It's supposed to be so much harder."

To hear them tell it, a lot seems to simply "fall into place" for the Bros. Landreth.

"It's less bombastic, but there's all these integral building blocks behind the scenes that people struggle and fight for forever, and those people just sort of found us," Dave says. "One of the top booking agents in the world was like, 'Let's work together.' Then we got one of the top publicists in the biz... Now we've got a machine behind us."

But there's some humility at play here, too; after all, it's not the sheer power of the cosmos or horseshoes in uncomfortable places that have put the Bros. Landreth on the path they're on. Their combination of raw talent and business-minded pragmatism counts for a lot; often, it's the brothers who have put themselves in the right place at the right time.

The brothers's personalities and skill sets complement each other well: Joey is the dreamer; his older brother Dave, 29, is the planner. When Dave says, "When you start a band, 90 per cent of the time it's..." both brothers finish the sentence at the same time with different conclusions. Dave says "administrative work," while Joey says "songwriting."

"You can tell who crunches the numbers in this band," Joey laughs.

"I saw a sticker on the soundboard in Newport, Kentucky, and it said 'This sticker will last longer than your band,' which is so hilarious because it's perfectly true," Dave says. "Bands are the messiest combination of family without blood ties. There are so many things that have to come together. It takes the perfect mix of people and I think we have that."

But of course, this band does have blood ties. Despite living under the same musical roof, it wasn't until adulthood that the Landreth brothers began playing music together seriously. Both had careers as sidemen during the bulk of their 20s; Joey has played guitar for country act Doc Walker, Alberta's Emerson Drive and Winnipeg singer-songwriter Steve Bell, to name a few. Dave played bass for everyone from Imaginary Cities to Romi Mayes.

They were relatively content with this setup, until Joey had an epiphany onstage at the MTS Centre playing with Doc Walker. "I love those guys and it was cool -- hometown band playing the hometown arena," Joey recalls. "But I remember feeling like I might as well be playing Whiskey Dix. It was cool, but it doesn't mean anything to me."

It was time to realize his own musical vision instead of contribute to someone else's.

For Dave, "I didn't think I was a songwriter. I didn't think I could. I was a bass player and I was happy with that." His epiphany came later when the first iteration of Bros. Landreth was performing a gig at Times Change(d) and the front row was singing his words back to him. "In that moment, there was this little switch that flipped. I'm doing the same thing -- I'm playing bass and I'm entertaining an audience -- but it couldn't be more different. I was hooked.

"We're baby songwriters -- I'm almost 30 and I'm just starting to write songs," Dave adds. "That's really exciting. And then there's this whole other trip you go on when the songs you write become part of other people's soundtracks."

Of course, a successful debut also creates expectations for a followup. "That's scary as hell," Joey admits with a laugh. "When Let it Lie first came out, it was like, 'Hey, people are really digging this thing.' Like, we didn't know. We knew we liked it. But when it started gaining some momentum, I remember talking to our dear friend Steve Bell and saying, 'I don't know, I'm pretty scared to start thinking about the second record. I'm thinking maybe we should--"

"--go out on a high note!" Dave interjects.

"And he was just like, 'Here's the deal. People are probably not going to like it because they're used to the first one. But you have to bite the bullet and put it out.'"

The Bros. Landreth have begun work on a sophomore release, but they are not the same band they were two years ago. "We're changing," Dave says. "We have a slightly different lineup. We're better musicians. We play as a band better now. It changes things. I'll be excited when we play on Dec. 6 to a hometown crowd with what is kind of a new sound for us."

 

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

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Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.