Brothers Born began in a bar, which might explain why it’s such a relaxed band with such an easygoing record deal. The two-man folk project gives heavy-metal guitarist Joel Stroetzel of Killswitch Engage a chance to exhale and not worry so much about typical record-production obligations.
Stroetzel and Mike Wyzik—whose wives bartend at the same watering hole in Easthampton, MA—became close friends about five years ago, bonding over a mutual love of Nick Cave and Tom Waits. They laid down some tracks for the hell of it.
“It was just two buddies hanging out, saying, ‘Let’s hit record and see what happens,’” Stroetzel says, in a slow-moving baritone voice.
They recorded for several months in Stroetzel’s small home recording studio, spreading guitar and vocals over a click-track and adding scratch bass too. Just like that, Brothers Born was ... well, born.
Stroetzel and Wyzik crafted 20 songs dealing with relationship, job and health issues. While they rerecorded some of them with live drums, the original versions held up.
“It was just two buddies hanging out, saying,
‘Let’s hit record and see what happens.’”
Stroetzel and Killswitch’s home, Roadrunner Records, mutually decided that the folk project wasn’t a good fit for the metal label. Meanwhile, Wyzik’s longtime friend, Nine Mile Records owner Rick Pierik, was sold.
“It maybe sounded mellower at first than [Pierik] thought it would be,” Stroetzel recalls. “But he later heard the whole record and liked it a lot.”
The three guys agreed that Nine Mile would have Brothers Born’s first album, Knife Wounds, for three years, and the band would commit to some promotion and touring.
While Stroetzel describes it as more of a licensing deal than a formal recording contract, he reveals Brothers Born “pumped the brakes” on a second record they had mostly written before striking the Nine Mile deal.
The low-key guitarist/vocalist has one more admission to make, amid the praise he’s received––even from insular Killswitch fans––for what began as a casual affair: “Mike and I are very psyched.”
– Kurt Orzeck