STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
Brothers & Sisters, the blues/rock band from the Berwyn area, released their CD “From Earth” in November. They will celebrate the release with a special homecoming show at Hard Rock Cafe on Jan. 9.
The band was founded by guitarist Conor McCarthy and his sister, vocalist Hannah McCarthy just over 3 years ago. And the name of the band stems from more than just their family ties.
In a telephone interview from his home, Conor McCarthy discussed the naming of the band, which has relevance beyond him and Hannah being siblings.
“It was definitely inspired by one of my main influences – the Allman Brothers – and their hit album ‘Brothers and Sisters’ from 1973, which is one of my favorite albums,” said McCarthy. “And (also) the idea of… togetherness. We want to make music where people can feel like they’re part of it, and we want to create a musical environment when we’re putting on shows that’s very accepting and open and where (we all) are brothers and sisters.”
Conor McCarthy grew up playing guitar along to recordings of the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. When he entered 9th grade he began studying at the Main Line School of Rock. It was his first experience with formal musical training and it had a tremendous impact on his growth and development.
“I joined School of Rock at a time when I was ready to learn a lot more about the guitar and learn a lot more about what it means to perform in a group and play together with people. It was my first time playing with other people and I wasn’t really used to that,” said McCarthy.
“School of Rock is an incredible learning environment in a lot of different ways, but I think that the best thing that it has to offer is the performance aspect of it, where you’re put into groups of people and you put on these shows. You have to learn about staging and putting together a set list and being able to interact with other musicians. You have to be open to playing with a lot of people who have different styles. Being exposed to a lot of different bands in all the music I was studying there was incredibly helpful. And getting to play with so many great musicians… it really lays the foundation of being a bandleader.”
The McCarthys are the bandleaders and also the primary songwriters for Brothers & Sisters. He said that he and his sister write both separately and together and are always supportive of each other.
“Her lyricism is much stronger than mine and my musical and harmonic capabilities are stronger than hers so we end up helping each other out where we each have weaknesses, which works out very well.”
Last year the band underwent lineup changes that promoted Hannah to the position of sole front woman. The other band members include CJ Nave on keyboards, Brendan “Bubba” McShane on bass and Brendan Bird on drums. They are all close friends and also alumni of Main Line School of Rock, where they first met.
The biggest challenge for them is maintaining a connection due to their different locations. Conor is studying music at the University of Miami. Hannah is studying music at the University of Southern California. Bird is studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Only Nave and McShane remain local to the Philadelphia area during the school year
Yet even though they have moved to disparate locations the band is alive and well. They are, after all, brothers and sisters and their connection is solid. They simply need to maximize the time that they have together on school breaks and during the summers.
Last summer the band recorded “From Earth” at the McCarthy family cabin in the Endless Mountains, about 30 miles from Scranton, Pa. The album was recorded by noted engineer and producer Steven LaFashia.
“It’s a big log cabin… a work of art, really,” said McCarthy of their recording space. “The main living room of the house is all wood floors and 25-foot (high) ceilings so it’s this big, ambient room that’s beautiful for recording. It’s a perfect live room.
“We did everything live inside the house and it was an incredible experience. It was amazing to live in this space and to be constantly focusing and working on making this album and pushing it as far as we could.”
Beyond the upcoming CD release show, the band is looking forward to a busy summer. They’re planning an East Coast tour and recording another album up at the cabin. They’re also planning an even bigger Summer Jubilee Music Festival, the festival that they created and which was held at Wilson Farm Park in Wayne.
So for a rockin’ good time join Brothers & Sisters at Hard Rock Cafe for some great homegrown rock and blues. It’s an open invitation to join the family.