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The Something Brothers Go Big

The Something Brothers released 3-disc, 60 song album "FLAK" in May
The Something Brothers
The Something Brothers released their 3-disc, 60 song album "FLAK" in May

The Something Brothers dropped a new album in late May.

Nothing the legendary Bloomington-Normal rockers had done prior - including their 2018 comeback album "Apollo - prepared fans for this 3-disc 60-song behemoth known as “FLAK.”

As you might guess, it was a product of COVID-19.

We can’t play any shows … we’re in no rush to get this thing out,” said lead vocalist and lyricist Scott Wilson. “So, we kept recording … and recording … and the next thing you know we’ve got all these songs and go, ‘Well there’s nothing here we want to cut … and so … there you go.”

"FLAK" opens with the instrumental “Daffodils.” It eventually moves into a fanfare of sorts before segueing into 1970s-inspired space rock — seemingly signaling this album is going to be big.

I think there was a little bit of, ‘We’ve got so much material and it’s good material, I think we can pull this off,” said producer and guitarist Edwin Pierce. “Tommy (fellow guitarist Tommy O’Donnell) … he was skeptical, going, ‘Really, a triple? I want this all to be good.’”

“Yeah he said, ‘How many good triple albums do you know of?” added Wilson to laughter. “And I thought, well … ‘All Things Must Pass’ but that was really only two records, so maybe you got a point.”

The 60 songs include many short interstitials, including the 8-second title track on disc 3. Wilson and Pierce call them ‘FLAK’s connective tissue.’

“When Ed and I first met 40 years ago we would just do these weird experimental recordings on Ed’s boombox. A lot of it’s really silly, but we thought, ‘Let’s go back to that mentality … just fun making noise.’ And I think it kind of paid off,” said Wilson.

Following “Daffodils” is the album’s lead single “Blind." The straight-up rocker sounds like it could have landed on the band's excellent 2018 comeback “Apollo.” Pierce said O’Donnell brought the riff to a rehearsal and drummer John Ganzer dug into it.

“And then ‘pow’ there they go … off and running and I’m just holding onto the handlebars for dear life,” said Pierce.

Old days have fallen away
My memories are only passing glances
- “Blind” by The Something Brothers

Wilson said “Blind” touches on aging issues including dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“Lyrically on this whole project I kind of wanted to come to grips with being 61. You know … our bodies are changing and deteriorating.”

“Bounceback is not quite what it used to be,” added Pierce.

“A lot of the record is about coming to grips with your eventual demise … but in a lighthearted, happy way,” said Wilson to more laughter.

That wistfulness continues two songs later with the pop inflected “Money Socks.” Wilson said O’Donnell brought the music and the two split the lyrics.

“So, I’m not 100% sure what that one’s about because I only wrote half the words. I know what half the words are about.”

"I think there’s some interpretation on that one," Pierce interjected. “I always think of Tommy walking his daughters … “

“I think that’s what it was then I steered it into an old guy looking at a young girl and thinking, ‘Well I’m too old for her,'" Wilson finished.

No I just can’t stand
The pages from blowing away
- “Money Socks” by The Something Brothers

The album cover with the WWII era bomber hints at the overall album concept. “FLAK” in this case refers to incoming gunfire, and the captain of the bomber is having his life flashing before his eyes as he is going down with the plane.

“And each one of these songs is just a little snippet of his life as he’s going in flames down to the ground,” said Wilson.

“I thought he was lying in a coma or something,” Pierce added.

“Well the original one was a coma but this one’s more exciting,” said Wilson.

The bold decision to make “FLAK” 60 songs over three discs garnered astonishment from fans. But the meticulous and laborious production that producer Pierce brought to the project also entranced fans.

And the only way to do the weirder stuff along with the pop stuff … was …. you’re going to have to travel through this. You’re going to have to be a music lover,” Pierce explained.

When asked if much Brian Eno was consumed leading up to the recording, Wilson offered that he was a huge Eno fan.

“More like ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’ and the early 70s vocal-like Eno. That’s just a killer record. And of course, John is really into ambient now and I know he’s an Eno fan from the later ambient stuff.”

“With the vocals too, Scott and I would have discussions like, ‘We have three records. We can’t just have the same vocal things. Get snotty like Johnny Lydon … do some Bowie. Grab some Iggy,” said Pierce.

“Yeah think ‘Alice Cooper’ or something so it’s not like imitating … it’s kind of like … how with my mechanics do I get that attitude out? And it was a heckuva lot of fun,” said Wilson.

“Years ago, we would not admit we were being influenced. And now we are the opposite … that sounds like … “ Pierce trailed off as Wilson jumped in.

“That sounds like you’re ripping Iggy Pop off,” said Wilson. “Well as a matter of fact I am,” they said simultaneously to huge laughter.

Reflecting on the original audacious album concept, Pierce said he is quite happy band members agreed to dive head-first into the project.

“Getting that idea in your head ... the scope of it … is like … ‘no way dude.’ And when you actually say ‘no we’re going to stick with this, we’re going to do this, we’re going to get it done and really try hard and come up with a pretty damn good record,’ I thank God we did it,” said Pierce.

“I think we’re all kind of in the same boat, where everyone is thinking, ‘Well this is probably the coolest thing we’ve ever done.’ I certainly think it is," added Wilson.

Not bad for a band with some members now north of 60.

“We had so much fun with this. I tell people this is personally the most fun I’ve every had creating any sort of art. It was just … a blast,” said Wilson.

Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.