It was late, well past midnight, and the four members of the Brothers Lazaroff had just arrived in Austin, Texas, for the SXSW music festival. Over the next three days, the St. Louis rock band was scheduled to play eight or nine gigs. The tired musicians probably could all have used a little sleep, but first, they had to find some food.
They ended up in a small Mexican joint north of town. The restaurant was almost completely empty, but that didn’t stop the staff from blasting Norteño music from a video jukebox in the middle of the dining room. The bandmates didn’t recognize the music — it didn’t sound anything like the artists that they were familiar with — but by the time their food came, the four of them were singing along loudly.
“It was all this amazing Mexican music with high-def videos,” says David Lazaroff, who fronts the band with his brother Jeff. “The music was unlike anything we had ever heard, with big bass and synthesizers. It was almost like reggae, but with this rootsy Texas Mexican influence.”
“Even though it wasn’t a genre we were familiar with, there was a lot of stuff within it that felt familiar and we were able to connect with,” remembers Jeff Lazaroff.
When it came time for the band to get started on its new album, Day and Night, its members still hadn’t shaken the memory of that jukebox. As any Brothers Lazaroff fan already knows, the group plays a style of music that is hard to label under one genre, pulling from elements of bluegrass, jazz, blues, Americana and, of course, rock & roll. Jeff and David say they are not particularly concerned with defining their genre. When they hit the studio to record Day and Night, they set out to tap into the energy that they had felt that night in Austin.
“I think when we started playing, when we were really young, we would love to play a bluegrass song or we would love to play a Stones-y rock song. We liked those genre divisions,” says Jeff. “Now, the songs that feel the best are the ones that feel genreless. They kind of feel like they have just become a Brothers Lazaroff song.”
While the group has created an impressive discography over the past ten years, its live show is where it truly shines. When they perform, the two brothers share the stage with their long time bandmates Grover Stewart on drums and Teddy Brookins on bass. About a year ago, Nate Carpenter joined the band on piano, expanding the quartet into a quintet. The group is not a jam band — it's members tend to keep their soloing to a minimum — but there is an exhilarating spontaneity to its live sets, with each member silently drawing from the momentum of the others.
The Brothers Lazaroff
Unlike previous albums, where the band has gone into the studio with complete songs and a clearly defined vision of the final product, on this record, the group wanted to replicate the spontaneity of its live set. To do this, Stewart and the two brothers went into the studio with only vague ideas for the songs. Then they wrote the compositions on the spot, allowing them to form naturally. When they left the studio, they didn’t have a finished product, but they had laid just enough groundwork to complete the record from home.
“We took the tapes into our home studio, which we just built, and we were able to not be on the clock for a lot of the overdubbing,” says David. “Working in the basement was really cool because we were there every week — it’s where we’re most comfortable. When you’re in a studio it’s a really artificial environment — it’s like, 'OK got to perform' — but when the mics are always on and all you need to do is press record, you can afford to be more experimental.”
In the end, the brothers agree, it all comes down to that same feeling they tapped into at the Texas bar.
“I think with our past records we did a little bit more of what felt like genre, but this felt more like energy,” says Jeff. “We always view music more in terms of energy exchange with each other. Everything has to keep the energy.”
At 1 p.m. on October 3, the Brothers Lazaroff will celebrate the release of Day and Night with an album release party at Vintage Vinyl. The event will feature sets from Tom “Papa” Ray, the Bottle Snakes, Bella & Lily and Thelonius Kryptonite, as well as free beer from Urban Chestnut.