Interview: Brother Lee & the Leather Jackals On Their EP Release Show
Brother Lee & the Leather Jackals started as a duo out of Collinsville, IL. After a few years—and a few member swaps—the Leather Jackals as we know the band today is a rock ‘n’ roll three-piece that takes on a much fuller sound. After releasing its first EP, “South City Blues,” the band held off putting out new recorded material—until now.
Friday, Dec. 11 Brother Lee & the Leather Jackals are throwing an album release party for “Boredom Leads To The Bottle” at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room. Ahead of that show, drummer Danny Blaies spoke with me about the new album, the band’s dynamics and the future of Brother Lee & the Leather Jackals.
How did the band get started?
It’s three years old. It started in the apartment I was staying at the time in Collinsville. Me and Josh Eaker, the singer, are the two who started it. He [Eaker] had just gotten back into town—he was doing some songwriting while he was living in Dallas. He had two other projects going on and then he was jammin’ with me once a week on the side.
How did you come up with the band name?
It was originally just called Brother Lee, and it was supposed to be a two-piece. The whole Brother Lee thing was that we’re just two friends who have known each other for a really long time. A lot of people think we’re brothers, which we’re not. Then we added a bass player and he came up with the leather jackals. It was a joke because he always wore a leather jacket. He wore it the first 25 times we hung out. He slept in it. He always had that leather jacket on and it became an inside joke. We also thought it was funny to be a small band with a really long name.
What genre do you often get?
We get kind of this ’60s, ’70s garage, bluesy, mostly these weird little key words. Having fewer people, we try to compensate for a bigger sound to try and play into the entertainment of it all. The garage style kind of stuck around because I like to play loud and we would jam on the same riff for 15 minutes. We’re not necessarily jammy in the sense of a jam band, but more of that bluesy, laid-back St. Louis feel for a rock ‘n’ roll band.
How did you find your style?
Josh has always been into the classics—huge into Hendrix, Dylan—he’s really into timeless songwriters. That’s where we kind of differ. He would send me snippets of songs from Dallas that were quiet and way more melodic. Also, this is the first band he played guitar in; he was playing bass before, so he was getting used to the role. And then I’ve always played loud so he would have to turn up because I can’t really turn down. We’re both really into Sabbath and power trio bands. I think part of the transition was that he [Eaker] finally had people backing his songs rather than him backing other people’s songs.
What was the inspiration behind the new album?
The title is a song Josh wrote. It’s full of references and inside jokes to being a server at Blueberry Hill. The joke is that boredom at work leads to drinking, especially when you work by a big beautiful bar. We also started out as party buddies and being out. When you’re in the venue/club scene you’re just around it all the time. When you’re sitting around waiting for soundcheck, you go grab a beer—it’s hard not to. The lyrics have a lot of little things, “I’ve got 20 dollars I’ve been waiting to spend.” The song is kind of the theme of the album. It reflects how the year has been. As far as singles go, that will probably be the first one.
How does this album compare to past albums?
We, as a band, only have one other EP. That one had a lot more heads involved. It was meant to be a bigger studio project because we weren’t playing a lot of shows. It was really doctored up, lots of layers, lots of glitter on top and we did it with an engineer who’s kind of more in that demographic. This one we did in one day, live in a home studio. We wanted our recordings to ring true to our live performance.
How do you typically write songs?
We write five or six at a time. There’s always a really loud trashy one, a really quiet doo-woppy love one, a really weird oddball one. We kind of just write and play a bunch, then write more and play a bunch, like most bands do.
What do you hope for the future with the band?
We’re just taking it in strides. I went to school for PR, so the arrangement we’ve had is Josh writes the songs and I look at the overall business direction of the band. We just want to do everything ourselves, see how it goes and see people’s reaction after this one. We might take some time in January and February to chill out. Then we’re supposed to start playing out with The Wilderness more, doing small tours here and there, and then keep pushing from there. I would love to go on the road. Getting out of town in the next major goal.
What is the biggest obstacle you face as an independent band in St. Louis?
I would say financial stability. Josh, Sean and I are all working jobs that make the band an option, but in doing that, we are making less money than we feel like we could. We want to be more accessible to switch our schedule to play out last minute or if we have to quit, then we can quit it.
Really there’s nothing about the city that makes it hard because the city backs local music more than I think most cities do. We have a huge collaboration, so there’s so many people in the same position. Nobody feels like they are holding their breath for like a big opportunity to take off and blow up, we just enjoy playing in a band. It’s a lot of fun and this is the time to do it.
Anything you can tell us to pump us up for the release show?
The biggest thing that will be extraordinary is we have the Blackfoot Gypsies in from Nashville, TN and they are just so good. We’re very, very lucky that they want to come down here and play because they are not on tour at the moment, so they are just making the trip to play the show and then driving back. All the other bands are local, so you already have a few other reasons to go, but that should be the icing. They are just wailing, slide guitars, solos every song, great harmonica player and they fit in well with us.