American pastoral: Brothers Gillespie release new album, plot summer tour
Within its upcoming sophomore album, “American Pastoral,” rising Haywood County-based Americana/rock act The Brothers Gillespie has cultivated a vast, vibrant landscape of sonic and lyrical textures.
At its core, the album encompasses the emotional sentiments and cultural climate of our modern society, one which continues to wrestle with its identity in the 21st century, especially in a post-pandemic world. The 19-song rock odyssey careens across the entire musical spectrum, making additional stops in the alt-country, indie, soul, psychedelic, grunge and folk realms.
Regardless of its intent on this latest release, the band itself remain a steadfast, hardnosed rag-tag bunch of genuinely talented musicians, each as hungry and determined as the next to prove themselves in studio, but more so onstage — the setting by which The Brothers Gillespie have truly defined and set themselves apart from local and regional counterparts.
Real talk? It’s this deep, perhaps renewed, sense of self, that passion and purpose at the foundation of The Brothers Gillespie that will only nurture and yield the fruits of the honest labor put forth by this quintet.
Smoky Mountain News: Why the title “American Pastoral”? From the first listen, it’s definitely a sonic landscape of where we are — not only as a country, but as a society. The album starts out very sad and pessimistic, but there’s this weird optimism that you come to by the end of it.
Aaron Gillespie (guitarist): Exactly. We were in the thick of the pandemic [writing and recording songs] and I suggested [the name for the album]. I had just read the book “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth.
[The book] is the story of a guy who grows up living the “American Dream” in the 1940s and 1950s. Superstar athlete. He’s got everything going for him. Marries the beauty queen and has a kid. It’s pastoral.
But, then Vietnam comes around [in the 1960s] and things happen that shift the whole lifestyle and the landscape of their lives. And then they have to kind of learn to recover from it and pick up the pieces — to continue their pastoral.
SMN: It’s symbolic of where we’re at.
AG: Yeah. I mean, it mirrored [our modern times] with me because — for a lot of us — this is our “American Pastoral,” you know? For our band, you’re bearing your art. You’re bearing your [music], wanting to give it to people and use it as something that you can make a living [from]. Then, boom, something happens, and it shifts; it completely turns everything around.
But, you don’t ever want that pastoral to die. You never want that to go away. You want to continue working and striving for it. I mean, things aren’t great. But, at the end of the day, we’ve all got to learn to do what we can to make it better for ourselves, to make it better for everyone else that we’re around — our communities, friends, families, and whatnot.
SMN: With the pandemic, there were a lot of shifts in perspective. It’s like when you’re swimming in the ocean, and you think you know where you are. And then when you pop up, you’re nowhere near where you thought you were.
AG: That’s a great analogy, because midway through recording the album, there was kind of a turning point, where we saw what it could be or where we wanted it to be and where it was going [musically and lyrically].
We started looking and paying attention to things that were made during [previous] pandemics or during times of strife, the “what came after” of art, music and culture. That was our mindset while we recorded “American Pastoral” — what can we create during this time of chaos?
And so, being in the band during “all this” has been a crazy experience, just knowing that everyone was kind of in that situation. Everyone’s trying to keep the ball rolling in the ways they can. It’s going to be crazy to see what comes out of this.
Like many people, we had the mentality that if we can make it through this, we can make it through most anything. I feel if your band was able to survive the pandemic, then I think you’re in a pretty good spot where you can do things.
And that’s how I feel about us, where some good did come out of [the shutdown]. We got more justified in our intent. We’re not giving up. We are going to do this. And really the great thing is that now we’re on the cusp of releasing the album and getting back on the road — we can do this.
Want to go?
The Brothers Gillespie will perform from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 24, at New Belgium Brewing in Asheville. The show is free and open to the public.
Aside from numerous concerts to held around the Southeast, the group will also hit the stage in Western North Carolina on July 7 at Isis Music Hall in Asheville and Aug. 26 at 185 King St. in Brevard.