Writer creates vast, wistful sounds @ the Echo- LIVE Review
Shrouded in almost utter darkness except for a hint of blue lighting, Writer (bother’s Andy and James Ralph) tore into “Miss Mermaid”, a song seemingly about a man drowning and whose only salvation is a mermaid. Appropriately it washes over you full force. Andy’s electric guitar was effected up as was his vocals and James skillfully handled the drums and a small synth that droned out powerful bass tones with undertones that I could only describe as a cross between the low hum of a pulsing laser and an air raid siren. This is to say, they produced a chunky sound for a band of two while creating music that at it’s core is earthy roots - meets indie - meets southern rock music.
The use of a healthy dose of reverb on vocals is nothing new and with the advent of noise pop bands it is gaining popularity. It can also get old. Thankfully it fit the sound scape that the brothers Ralph were creating. Their songs are full of sustained melodies that hit emotional chords. Coupled with the dramatic downbeats and double time beats their songs evoke travel, movement, tumble weeds and those among us who have not set down roots. Some of the songs made me think of suped up Wilco or even Fleetwood Mac. Mid way through their set, Andy switched from guitar to dirty synth keys and they created a jammy prog rock song this side of The Royal Bangs. A departure that surprised me. Another nice departure was seeing James come from behind the drum kid to share a mic with his brother on one of the more quiet and tender songs.
Writer’s sound is wistful and vast. I look forward to discovering more about their music. One thing that must be said about their Echo performance is that the lighting guy did them no favors. For the entire set they were mostly in the dark except for a shade of blue that caught the drum kit. Mood lighting is a wonderful thing but when a band like Writer is bearing their collective soul onstage it would be nice to see the emotion on their faces.
2,763 miles separate San Diego, CA and The Glasslands Gallery, an art and music venue on Kent Avenue in Brooklyn, NY—a perfectly intimate space. A relic of pre-highrise Williamsburg, Glasslands has kept its street cred by continuing to attract both the generically weird and inarguably cool hipsters alike. For brothers Andy and James Ralph the location is both a creative outlet to celebrate a Gotham City arrival and a job, the first of many to hopefully come, as new residents of NYC.
There’s a Honda Element with California plates parked in front of a small group of smokers who have, in turn, parked themselves in front of the entrance to Glasslands. For the Brothers Ralph, or Writer as they’re known on tonight’s scheduled lineup, I imagine the mileage count is closer to 4763. The brothers, who left behind sunny San Diego weeks ago (their home for the last nine years) have been playing venues state-to-state as they made their way to the East Coast. I make my way inside.
Tonight, Glasslands—as strategic locale or accidental gig—is a proving ground of sorts. As a few thousand feet of converted warehouse it’s equal parts connection and separation to things the Ralphs have left behind—a devoted San Diego fanbase, a national tour opening for Cults—and the opportunities that lay before—their full-length debut Brotherface, a “ghetto-tech garage-rock” sound that fits quite nicely into their new neighborhood.
E. B. White wrote that “the City is always full of young, worshipful beginners.” Andy and James, who have been gifted musicians and artists from childhood, are hardly beginners to music or playing in bands or moderate success, but, as they take the small stage as Glasslands in front of a gauzy textured and glowing wall, they shine with the fresh exuberance you really only get to see in a new New Yorker, and, as a girl in the audience pulls out her Moleskine and starts to live-paint their set, it’s obvious they’ve made a step 2,763 miles in the right direction.
ANDY AND JAMES RALPH, WRITER | writertheband.com