An Interview with Peter Bothum of Brother of Monday
Peter Bothum (of Von Hayes fame) quietly released his “don’t care if people hear” Brother of Monday solo project to absolutely no fanfare on Bandcamp in mid-January (oh, it seems so long ago now as Xmas morphs into Valentines and my wallet sheds tears of desperation) upon which all at JanglePopHub towers (i.e. me in my mancave) fawned all over the album like a schoolboy with a Wendy James crush (…showing my age their Transvision Vamp fans!).
With it’s core sense of obtuse alt.jangle I quickly became hooked on the album and tracked him down despite the whole enigmatic no social media thing, to chat to him about Momma obsession’s, Spotify disdain, his love for the physical format release, his weirdness, his favourite tracks of last year and boring stuff like recording /songwriting processes, influences and his favourite tracks off the album, to which he answered in a decidedly more interesting way than my lazy journalism could ever muster the questions…we hope you enjoy the interview and Peter if you can stop being so bloody cool for just one minute to read this, thanks for the opportunity and the music !.
What has been your musical journey up to Brother of Monday?
I started out recording some pretty embarrassing songs using a karaoke machine with two tape decks but didn’t get serious about music until I was 29 and put together my first band, Terminal Lunchbox, which for some reason had this aggressive rock sound that all but covered up the hooky British invasion and alt-rock I really wanted to do.
Just as that was ending, I met my long-time bandmate/ best buddy at the last Terminal Lunchbox show at the Khyber Pass Pub in Philadelphia and we started the indie rock outfit Von Hayes.
Aside from a sabbatical in the 2010s, we’ve been cranking out music on four-track since 2006. But with families and life it’s tough to get together these days, so I just started doing Brother of Monday as a side project. A neighbor recently gave away a drum kit so I had all I needed to make tunes whenever I had the time.
Why ‘Brother of Monday as a name?
When Von Hayes was first starting out we would lift lyrics and song titles from the text at the bottom of spam emails. I guess you could say we invented ChatGPS (haha).
I’m pretty sure Brother of Monday was one of the phrases buried in the gobbledygook and I used it as the title for a song that we recorded but never put on an album. I thought it would be kind of cool to use that as a band name as well, kind of like Talk Talk or Big Country.
Who are your influences and how would you describe your sound?
The obvious influences are the bands that I’ve listened to the most – R.E.M., Big Star, Guided By Voices, Superdrag and The Replacements.
But even though I don’t listen to him religiously, I’d say Robyn Hitchcock is probably my biggest influence. I just love the way he puts words together, and his whole aura, and I subconsciously try to emulate the way he sings. Not sure I succeed by I try.
You cannot use the words, weird, obtuse, original…how would you describe your sound?
I would say the sound of Brother of Monday, and Von Hayes, and artists like the affiliated Graham Repulski, is best described as “real.” We do what we want, and what we think sounds best.
When we work together in Von Hayes there’s never a rejection of ideas, it’s mostly just like, “OK man that song (or that part) sounds rad let’s do that.” There’s never really a thought of what most people might like – I’m not really sure we’re capable of making music like that anyway.
For some reason our music seems to find the people it’s supposed to reach.
Are their any general lyrical themes on the album and if so, what is your inspiration for exploring these?
I would say the themes are about loss, and family. Without being melodramatic I think the loss of my brother last year kind of inspired the whole thing. But it’s not all sad, there’s some moments of encouragement and hope.
Early on my lyrics were pretty obtuse and non-sensical and only really had meaning to me, but these days I usually write about what’s going on in my life and have been trying to make it sort of universal to everyone, whether it’s chaos or sadness or happiness or whatever. My bandmate in Von Hayes is really great at that.
What is the song writing and recording process for Brother of Monday?
The project started around Ken Tremendous, which is about my brother. I wanted that one to sound as slick as you could get on an old Tascam four-track, so I played drums to the best of my ability – I’m aware that it’s obvious that I am self-taught on drums! – and put some solos on there, made sure there were no obvious mistakes in the production (usually I leave those in).
From there it kind of flowed. I wanted there to be some other “singles” but also a lot of weird stuff. A couple are actually demos from my iPhone that I fed into the four-track and used as the base of the song. I really hustled to crank out the last few songs, like Code Zero Imagination and Uncle Sprout.
I wanted to get it done so I could start working on the next Von Hayes album, but I don’t think it sounds rushed. I think some of the last songs sound kind of inspired and relaxed because I wasn’t overthinking it.
What are your two favourite songs on the album and why?
I really like Look It In because it hits the sweet spot on the sound I like – power poppy but not too clean, kind of like Big Star with rougher edges. Also, it’s about my middle kid, who plays guitar and is super talented but kind of hides it sometimes, so I like that it’s positive and hopeful and not melancholy. There’s not really any sad minor chord moments in there.
Oddly I really like Wickedy Splits, which is one of those tunes that started as a demo from my phone. I never intended to use it but for some reason lyrics and vocals came to me when I went back through all of the discarded songs in my voice memos.
At the end the recording of four pianos playing random keys breaks in – I was going to use that as the opening song or an interlude and forgot it was there on the tape. That’s the accidental magic you get from using a four-track.
What were your favourite releases of 2022 and why?
Momma’sHousehold Name was far and away my top album of 2022 and my favorite in quite some time. The band is fronted by two mega-talented young women, Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten, who are clearly obsessed with the early ’90s and they just nail the vibe and the sound.
Whenever I put that album on I can’t help but get happy. They knowingly lift from some of the legends, and there’s definitely a sense of awareness and wink-wink going on there – if you see them live you will “get it.” The guy who produced it, Aron Kobayashi Ritch, makes it sound like Steve Albini or Butch Vig was behind the boards.
They became a major bonding experience for me and my daughter – we saw them four times last year. The other favorite from last year was Alvvays’Blue Rev, which is getting all the hype. Their Easy On Your Own? is up there with Snail Mail’s “Headlock” and Momma’sMotorbike as my top recent tunes that I’ll play over and over.
You have no real bio’s on your Bandcamp / Spotify etc, no mention of your name and no social media pages? Is the concept of enigmatic important to you or your vibe?
As mentioned earlier, this was intended as a side project, and I really just made it for myself. I didn’t really care if anyone ever found it.
I do think I will make more Brother of Monday releases since I have all the instruments here. I hate Spotify. My kids keep telling me to put it on there but I’m not really into it.
Your album is a digital release only. Is the concept of the physical format dead these days?
On the contrary, I think it’s back in a big way, and has been, or at least last time I checked it was. In my little basement area I have a record player, tape player and CD player that are hooked up to old speakers and ready to play.
I prefer the physical thing to digital 100 percent. In this case, it is expensive to make a CD, and I didn’t really want to have a closet full of unsold Brother of Monday discs. If enough people were interested I’d make one.
We lend you the famous JanglePopHub time machine. You can go back in time to any decade and be successful as a musician. Which one would it be and why?
The early ’90s. How cool would it have been to be an artist on an indie label who could make whatever kind of music you wanted and have financial backing to get it distributed, with no interference? Plus you had 120 Minutes on MTV, which would play all kinds of weird stuff.
I remember when I bought Guided By Voices’Bee Thousand having no idea what to expect and feeling like – as the first song implies (see below) – I had been lifted off by a U.F.O. and placed in front of an alien band on another planet. I’m sure the 1960s were more mind-blowing but I believe you had a better shot at getting your music out there and heard in the 1990s.
What is next for Brother of Monday?
There is nothing specifically planned, although I am contemplating digging through some recent tapes because I think there are some things on four-track I either never finished or didn’t put on Bandcamp. It’s possible those could lead to writing more side tunes and then quickly putting together another release.
I played everything on this album, so I’d like to do something different on the next proper release and get my middle kid and other collaborators involved. But my main focus is on writing tunes for the next Von Hayes album, which we’re hoping to get done this year.