London-based band The Arthur Brothers is composed of brothers Matt and Danny Arthur and producer and instrumentalist Julian (Jules) Wright.
Their sound is described as expansive and dramatic, qualities largely driven by their shared love of pushing creative boundaries and constantly experimenting. Their debut album has been nine years in the making. It draws inspiration from their lives’ ups and downs over the decade while still incorporating innovative ideas and immense creative sound depth.
Danny and Jules spoke to Skyn8 about their creative process and what it means to them to have their long-awaited album out.
How did The Arthur Brothers come to be?
Danny: My brother Matt and I have been in bands together since I was 12 years old. Legs 11 was our first ‘big’ band and we ended up doing fairly well. We didn’t have a management team or agent. We were 18 years old and excited about where our music could take us. We played in Camden every night and even played support acts for the BabyShambles, Pete Doherty, and the Noisettes.
After some time living and playing in London, our drummer quit. Begrudgingly and grumpily, we played what we thought would be our last gig.
Jules just happened to be in the audience. He caught up with us after the show and talked about wanting to produce us. When Jules, Matt, and I sat down for a drink (the pub, now closed, was called The Bree Louise) I remember instantly being sold on the man.
It was immediately clear that the three of us enjoyed the same kind of music, and there was a connection there. A week later, we ended up at Jules’s living room, recording demos of a few songs we had, and it was awesome.
Today, Jules is our brother in all but genes.
Jules: Thank god!
Danny: He’s the mastermind behind our production. He comes up with some of the more ambitious ideas and the tenacity with which to pull them off.
The band couldn’t forever operate out of Jules’s living room. We found this old building up for rent in Tottenham (North London). It had no central heating, had holes in its walls and windows, and unsurprisingly, was dirt cheap.
We put a desk in there and started recording. It was a really intense time for us, but also some of our best recording work. We’d just lost our drummer and but in turn, that gave us a lot of creative freedom.
What made you decide to wait to release your music in an album vs track by track?
Jules: No one seems to really care about albums anymore. Everyone is obviously streaming all their music. Artists release singles a lot more than they do whole albums. Albums are what I personally love about music. It’s a complete work of art, where each track has meaning and purpose – not just a disparate playlist on shuffle.
The way artists go into creative silos to make albums, spending months writing, playing, recording I find it utterly fascinating. There’s an entire documentary of the Beatles and Pink Floyd doing this. To me, the album is the thing.
So the goal was always a proper, complete album. Tell us about your creative process.
Danny: We had, in effect, an unlimited time to finishing the album. It’s not every day as an artist you have this luxury. We explored just about every kind of sound we could come up with. We played around with microphone placement, layering sounds, and then switching up those layers entirely, trying new and innovative ways of recording. There were no rules.
So we spent the first few years finding our sound, then going back and tweaking and adjusting. For example, in one of our songs (Watson), drums and percussion have been replaced with a typewriter.
For good measure, we added a harp to the song as well. These were overnight decisions! That’s the way we went about creating this album, getting more and more ambitious with time. No idea was too ridiculous.
Working on the album for 9 years must have meant a lot of ideas.
Jules: Oh yeah. We probably could have finished the record in 4 years, but we went through some rough patches. One of our closest friends was diagnosed with cancer with very little time left, so we spent all our time living it up with him. Things like this happened often and life got in the way of the album now and then.
When we were recording, the album started to become a bit of a monster. We kept pushing our boundaries in terms of sounds and didn’t rein ourselves to exploring ideas. Sometimes we didn’t leave the studio for several days at a time – the same studio with no heating and holes in the walls.
There was a time we ran out of tracks on Pro-Tools (no one ever runs out of tracks on Pro-Tools). What kept us going was the belief this was going to be an incredible record. And on the odd days, we could chill outdoors because the outside would be warmer than the inside of our ratty old building.
What happened next? How did your release plan work out?
Danny: We finished the album and Covid hit. We couldn’t play live, couldn’t go on tour. All these years trying to finish the album and now we were at a loss on how to release it.
We decided to focus on tweaking our production and gearing it towards a digital release. We had help from some incredible engineers like Mike, Sam, and Aaron. We finally released the album on September 25th, 2020.
We decided to call the album NINE after 9 years of work, and all the life, love, and heartbreak that continued alongside. NINE is our baby, with the world’s longest pregnancy. The name is a constant reminder of the years of work spent on the album, and our ambition and persistence to stick with it.
Listen on our website: https://www.thearthurbrothers.com/