Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
I was fifteen years old when I was first introduced to the world of Infinity Cat Recordings. I was immediately enamored with the punk DIY aesthetic presented by a group of young Nashville punks. When I say “young,” I mean YOUNG. Like only a few years older than me at the time young. Brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, in their late teens at the time, formed the indie label with the guidance of their father in 2002. A host of psychedelic and grunge-tinged punk bands emerged from the label right from the get-go, leading publications like The Guardian and Billboard Magazine to name it one of the best indie labels in America. JEFF the Brotherhood, a two-piece psychedelic garage-rock band also formed by the Orrall brothers, acted as a sort of nucleus for the label, guiding the overall sound and feel of the rest of the bands that make up the collective.
In a way, the band has always been a source of centering for myself as well. Maybe they aren’t guiding my life choices, but they do have a way of bringing me back to my suburban teenage rebellion years – a time when I was determined to take the world by storm and (pardon my French) fuck shit up, Nashville punk style. JEFF The Brotherhood serves as a reminder to do what I want, and how I want to do it. Every now and then, I will go back to one of their first singles, Noo Sixties, and be reminded of that seemingly contradictory hard-working-punk ethos.
Despite their wünderkind beginnings, both the band and the label have had moments of uncertainty. Jamin left as the drummer to the one of the label’s breakout acts, be your own PET, back in the fall of 2006. He dabbled in college while Jake continued to work on other musical endeavors and build up the label. Eventually, the two brothers continued work on JEFF the Brotherhood and built it into the low-fi staple it is today. With JEFF the Brotherhood, you come for the riffs, and stay for even more riffs. The brothers have a way of rounding out their songs, filling out guitar-driven aesthetic with fat analog synth and earworms of hooks.
Since forming in 2002, the duo has released nine studio albums. They have worked with the likes of Ty Segall, Best Coast, and Screaming Females. They have provided live instrumentation for an Insane Clown Posse single released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. And they’ve always done it on their own terms.
In 2014, JEFF released Dig The Classics, a six-song covers EP that showcases that self-rule to a tee. When they say “classics,” they aren’t talking about the Beatles and the Stones – rather, they visit the catalogs of semi-underground legends like Beck, Teenage Fanclub, and the Wipers, dress these artists’ songs in some Brotherhood clothes, and step back to admire the fit.
JEFF The Brotherhood – Gouge Away (Pixies cover)
It may not be the most punk thing to follow tradition, but no self-respecting psych-rock band would be caught dead without a Pixies cover under their belt. Most bands opt for the live cover, but JEFF opens up their covers EP with the Doolittle classic “Gouge Away,” putting their own stoner-garage spin on the influential jam.
JEFF The Brotherhood – Come In Alone (My Bloody Valentine cover)
It’s difficult to cover a shoegaze-laden jam, especially a pioneering one such as My Bloody Valentine’s “Come In Alone” off the iconic 1991 album Loveless. The Orrall brothers manage to strip down the song where deemed necessary by a two-person band, but still capture the textured moodiness of the original. In fact, the Nashville duo’s somewhat stripped version is downright charming.
JEFF The Brotherhood – Cujo (Colleen Green cover)
One of the greatest things about this covers EP is the extensive, almost esoteric song selection. Five of the acts covered reached their cult peak in the late ’80s/early ’90s, but the sixth is Colleen Green, a still-rising star in the LA indie-pop scene. Choosing to cover one of your contemporaries isn’t exactly unheard of, but transforming a stoner-bedroom pop ditty into a crunchy psych tune without coming off as ironic or detached is something I consider a feat. The boys are earnest with all of their covers on the EP, but this one somehow feels the most tender, despite the subject matter.
And then, like a fuzzy, halo-visioned morning after a night of a little too much, the covers EP is over, just when it felt like it was getting started. Dig The Classics ties perfectly into what the brothers are producing musically: honest and raw words over emotional, fuzzy guitars. While it may not scream poetry to everyone, it is earnest. It’s pretty punk.
Dig The Classics contents and original artists:
1. “Gouge Away” (The Pixies)
2. “Mystery” (The Wipers)
3. “Come In Alone” (My Bloody Valentine)
4. “Cujo” (Collen Green)
5. “Mad Dog 20/20” (Teenage Fanclub)
6. “Totally Confused” (Beck)