The Brands, a soul band made up of IU Jacobs School of Music alumni, has its first full-length album coming out this month.
The Bloomington-based group’s sound is self-proclaimed neo-soul from the heart of Indiana.
The album, titled “Clearance Aisle,” was inspired by the band members’ favorite groups, like Hiatus Kaiyote, Robert Glasper and D’Angelo, saxophonist Jonah Tarver said.
The Brands consists of Tarver, Nathan Feler, Quinn Sternberg, Richie McCarthy, Tim Fogarty and Clay Wulbrech.
“Our new album is really cool because it is so collaborative,” bassist Sternberg said. “I’m excited for people to hear it.”
Sternberg said being involved in the music school and jazz program at IU influenced how the Brands wanted its project to sound.
“I started playing jazz because it seemed like the most challenging style of music and I wanted to get better at my instrument,” Sternberg said. “After I learned and listened to and played enough jazz, I ended up loving it, which was a very pleasant surprise.”
Sternberg said being in a band is a collective effort. Every member of the band contributes to the recording sessions and the writing process.
“Since it’s a very collaborative project, I’m able to write my own bass parts and also give ideas for other instruments,” Sternberg said. “During the recording of our album, I attended many of the sessions that didn’t even involve bass to add an extra set of ears.”
Tarver, who was brought into the group after one of the band’s songs, “Greatest Hits Collection,” needed a horns section, first started playing music when he was nine years old.
“I read a book called ‘Bud, Not Buddy’ that had a part that described each member in a jazz band,” Tarver said. “When the saxophone player was described as making the saxophone talk, I was hooked.”
Aside from jazz, Sternberg said the band is influenced by rock, hip-hop and soul music, which makes its live shows spontaneous not just for the crowd but also for the band as performers.
“The main thing that I enjoy about jazz in general, and the main thing that I enjoy about the jazz influence in the Brands, is that anything can happen at any time,” Sternberg said. “We have a lot of great songs, but I don’t think we ever play them the same way twice. It’s exciting to go into a gig not knowing exactly how things will play out.”
Tarver said he thinks each member of the band brings their own set of influences from the non-jazz music they listen to.
“We all agree that after all the music school we’ve been through, we just want play to the music we constantly consume and cherish outside of our studies,” Tarver said.
Since all of the band’s members attended the Jacobs School of Music, Tarver said its music is influenced by what the members were taught in college and what they experienced.
He attributes the relatability of their music to guitarist and vocalist Feler’s lyrics.
“We chose our sound because of how Jacobs pushed us,” Tarver said. “But as well you can hear in Nathan’s lyrics that our message is a sobering one about the state of affairs that college students in our position experience.”
Tarver said his favorite part about being in a band is the ease of it.
He said he and his bandmates are doing what they love, and people like listening to it.
“There really isn’t much negative stress or bad moods when all you have to do is show up for the gig or at the studio and play music in the most unfiltered way,” Tarver said.
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