The Brother Kite – Make It Real (Q&A)

‘Make It Real’ is overwhelmingly good. Nine songs that you could immediately categorize as Alternative Rock after a single listen, but if you listen carefully you will hear beautiful pop melodies, jangly guitars and sparkling harmony vocals.

This is a candidate for the best record of 2020.

Sweet Sweet Music Blog in conversation with the members of The Brother Kite.

What was the moment you knew you were onto something?

Patrick Boutwell, vocals/guitar: It’s hard to think of a definitive moment that I thought “you need to keep going”, but it was most certainly in late 1999/early 2000; I’d written several songs before then, but around that time my writing had begun to change and find a little bit of focus, and I enjoyed it more than other stuff that was around, so I kept my head down and plowed through songs as best I could until it was obvious that they needed to be played by a band.

Jon Downs, vocals/guitar: It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I felt like we were onto something immediately. Pat sent me a cassette of demo songs with “brother kite” written on it, and it was obvious to me that if we formed a band, it would be good.

How did this record come together?

Patrick: We’d been working on this album on and off for years. Momentum is a tough thing to keep up when you have kids, so it had a lot of stops and starts.

Mark Howard, guitar/vocals/keyboards: We chipped away at recording the songs a little at a time, and then at the beginning of the quarantine, when it seemed like we had an almost-completed record on our hands and not much else to do with ourselves, we decided to finish it up and put it together. Turns out we had a pretty cohesive batch of songs!

Matt Rozzero, drums and percussion: It came together differently in that it wasn’t a big concept from the get-go… it was almost a compilation that works really well together.

Jon: When the pandemic hit, we decided to just release what we had. It wasn’t particularly well thought out…it was just clear that these songs needed to be released because if they sat around much longer, we might lose them.

When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?

Patrick: We have a tendency to be a little tight with letting people hear things before they are finished. It is pretty rare for even close friends to hear what we’re up to unless they are in the room with us while we are working, so I guess the answer is when we knew it was done and going to be released.

Crawling Back To Me sounds like the hit Robert Pollard forgot to write. Would you take that as a compliment?

Jon: Of course. I love Robert Pollard. I’d love to hear him cover it. Bob?

Andrea Downs, Bass guitar: I think that’s an association we’d all be happy with!

Patrick: It is a compliment, though one to be taken with a grain of salt when you know that “Glad Girls” exists.

Matt: The best compliment! See photo of Pollard stack hahaha. One of my heroes.

You can’t control the way people “hear” your music, but if you could make them aware of certain aspects that you think sets them apart, what would they be?

Matt: Pat’s way with melody will always set us apart. I feel like he’s more linear than modular and not a lot of writers construct that way.

Patrick: Hmmm… well, one thing that is an interesting tidbit is probably the extent of the DIY-ness of what we do. Jon does 98% of the engineering, and he also made nearly all of the microphone preamps we use himself, while he, Mark, and I like to make guitar effects pedals (and, in my case, guitar amplifiers). Pretty much all of “Don’t Ask Why” was played through amps I built, and it makes me happy to be able to point that out. It is gone now, but years ago, pre-Waiting For The Time To Be Right, we (with endless help and support from Bill Downs, Jon’s dad) built a studio in New Hampshire to be able to have as proper a space we could make to record our own music. We recorded all of WFTTTBR and Isolation there, and Jon recorded a few other bands there, as well.

How did you stay sane in the last couple of months?

Andrea: Working as a Nurse in an ER during this pandemic has been one of the most stressful times in my life, so relaxing at home on my days off has been vital. I’ve been doing a lot of normal stuff like swimming and LEGO building with our 4-year-old. And so much sewing!

Mark: A lot of running, a lot of movies, and a lot of records.

Patrick: As dumb as it sounds, focusing on my diet and lifting weights has kept me from going totally off the rails. The pandemic has certainly thrown me a few times. I take changes in routine kind of hard; it takes me a long time to settle into new general life rhythms, and it has changed so much over the last 6 months that it has been really difficult at times. That said, given that I had some terrible mental health issues in the years leading up to the release of the record, I’m doing okay.

Jon: Oh, I have no shortage of hobbies. And like many out there, I no longer have a job. So no stress there. My mental game is tight.

Matt: Listening to music and Utz Crab Chips.

WarwickOnline writes: “For over 15 years, The Brother Kite have been an alternative rock staple in Providence’s music scene. The songwriting partnership between guitarists and co-vocalists Patrick Boutwell and Jon Downs has produced fantastic music over the span of five LPs and three EPs.

They haven’t been alone in this artistic endeavor, with Down’s wife Andrea on bass, Matt Rozzero on drums and Mark Howard on guitar, keys and percussion rounding out the lineup.

Their fifth and latest full-length release is “Make It Real,” which came out Aug. 14 via the band’s own label Light Fighter Records.”.

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