New bromantics: boy bands celebrating the power of two

Here’s a friendship fad far from Taylor Swift’s ritually scorned “squad[1]”: the mystical male duo. Two men, one bond; a format that’s an emergent, centre-stage spectacle in music this year. Instead of the collective rivalry and riotousness of a band, there are crops of curiously close duos whose music revolves around the secret intimacy of two.

The collaborative efforts of two men making music is of course nothing new; some of the most pivotal artists in history – the Everly Brothers, Daft Punk, OutKast, erm, Chas and Dave – have fitted this format. And it’s a different dynamic to the basic, primal noise-making of rhythm and guitar duos such as Royal Blood[2], Slaves[3] or Death From Above[4]. These are tactile, tender types recalling the ill-feted, mic-sharing romance of Pete and Carl[5]. Partnerships earmarked by in-jokes, possible telepathy and an intangible chemistry. Essentially, a nightmare for potential lovers and journalists. Here’s some of 2016’s new-bromance pioneers:

Soft Hair

Kings of the contemporary kooks, Connan Mockasin[6] and Sam Dust[7] (LA Priest / Late of the Pier) recently launched their collaborative project, Soft Hair. Their eponymous album’s recording took place over five years in-between their individual solo careers and, as the press release states “outside lives”, which suggests they shut themselves in a shed for a month and only emerged for air in serious emergencies (more baby oil). Their debut song – Lying Has to Stop – evokes this sense of escapism: their video is a lost weekend of surreal sensuality. The pair, as if high on brotherhood and hallucinogenic chemicals, leer and loom around tin foil rooms, leaders of a pioneering psychedelic slow jam movement and makers of semi-pornographic scenes in which nobody is turned on but the shower. Still, somehow it works.

The Garden

In some cases, of course, these new-bromatics are literally brothers. Los Angeles siblings Fletcher and Wyatt Shears of the Garden are the Burger Records-signed, Hedi Slimane[8]-adored musical eccentrics whose connection is deeply instinctive. “It’s not necessarily that we have twin telepathy moments, but its more like we’ll be driving in the car with one person we don’t know, something really funny will happen, and we’ll know that we saw it together, but we don’t say anything about it,” Wyatt Shears told Interview magazine last year.[9] “I’ll make a certain beat on my leg and he knows what I’m talking about.” Their music, a clatter of Cramps, new wave posturing and adolescent aggression, was described by the Guardian as occupying a “Venn diagram intersection of genuinely amazing and completely terrible[10].” Perhaps only the Shears will ever truly understand: they have described their music as Vada Vada – “An idea that represents pure creative expression, that disregards all previously made genres and ideals.” They also like to dress up as court jesters. I’m not entirely sure what they’re doing but I get the impression they probably don’t want me to.

The Lemon Twigs

Again, these two have[11] literally shared the same womb, a guaranteed bond-giver. There is a soft, secretive majesty and mysteriousness about their performance however, the sort of synchronicity that stems from a whole lifetime of performing together. “We were singing with each other first before we could play any instruments and our mum was having us sing harmonies,” Michael D’Addario recently told Loud and Quiet[12] of his bond with brother Brian. “There are videos of us where she’s saying, ‘Put your fingers in your ears Michael,’ so it’s kind of intense.”

Whitney

I paid personal witness to Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich’s committed friendship earlier this year: there was lots of quiet whispering and giggling. There is obviously a certain level of cliqueyness that stems from sitting on a tour bus for months on end, but during the interview they were explicit when it came to comparing their immediate musical bond to an obsession: at the start of the album writing process, both boys would disappear to listen to their music, shirking social events in favour of zoning in on their new venture. “It’s really selfish,” Ehrlich said back in May[13]. “Our relationship is such that we can do whatever we want and not worry about what people are going to say.”

The Last Shadow Puppets

No feature about impenetrable male relationships would be complete without the Last Shadow Puppets, whose whole love affair is the stuff of memes and Metro blogs[14]. While their debut album[15] seemed like a sincere attempt to create the cinematic soundscape of 60s pop and Scott Walker[16], the intentions of 2016’s Everything You’ve Come to Expect was a bit more blurry. Was it a parody of a cocaine-fuelled, poolside Hollywood tragedy, an accidental representation of their present reality or just one long, laborious in-joke? Having watched their Glastonbury set [17]this year, essentially an hour-long mutual love-in, I’d say they are lingering on the latter.

References

  1. ^ ritually scorned “squad (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ Royal Blood (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ Slaves (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ Death From Above (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ Pete and Carl (www.theguardian.com)
  6. ^ Connan Mockasin (www.theguardian.com)
  7. ^ Sam Dust (www.theguardian.com)
  8. ^ Hedi Slimane (www.theguardian.com)
  9. ^ told Interview magazine last year. (www.interviewmagazine.com)
  10. ^ Venn diagram intersection of genuinely amazing and completely terrible (www.theguardian.com)
  11. ^ these two have (www.theguardian.com)
  12. ^ recently told Loud and Quiet (www.loudandquiet.com)
  13. ^ said back in May (www.theguardian.com)
  14. ^ Metro blogs (metro.co.uk)
  15. ^ debut album (www.theguardian.com)
  16. ^ Scott Walker (www.theguardian.com)
  17. ^ their Glastonbury set (youtu.be)

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