Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Family Ties

Will Courtney brings his band, Brothers and Sisters, for a visit to his childhood home

Led by ex-Louisvillians Will and Lily Courtney, Brothers and Sisters is a charming folk rock collective from Austin, Texas, that makes music bubbling with sweet harmonies, irresistible hooks and fuzzy guitars. They’re making a tour stop at Skull Alley on Thursday, so Will took a tour break to chat.

Your influences include the Band, the Beach Boys and the Beatles. For people who haven't heard you before, how are you different from, say, Dr. Dog?

We're different in that I'm more influenced than most (people) by Jon Bon Jovi's Young Guns II soundtrack and Randy Newman's "Land of Dreams" LP. Who's Dr. Dog?

Your band has eight members, including your sister, Lily, and Conrad Keely, the singer in indie rock favorites ... And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. How did you pull this lineup together?

With my sister, it was pretty simple. When I moved from L.A. back to Texas about three years ago, I suggested Lily and I start a band called Brother and Sister. Then we added a couple of S's to the title, because as we started working on our first record I knew we'd have to find a band to pull it off live. I put ads on Craigslist for members and it started falling in place quickly. Each new player introduced us to other musicians. Conrad Keely and I became quick friends when I moved to town. My sister and I sang all over Trail of Dead's last record and we toured together. Conrad is busy working on their new record that I can't wait to hear. It's a special treat when he can play, but it's becoming rare.

Your mother is a Grammy-winning gospel singer, known for her Streisandesque theatrical flair. Your father is a playwright and composer. Do you think you or your sister Lily could ever work a 9-to-5 office job?

No way. Lily works a 9-to-1 job and I help run the family label from home, but there's no schedule. It's a lot of e-mails and phone calls mixed in with searching eBay and Craigslist and figuring out which piece of music equipment I can trade or sell for better things. I may not have a fancy car, but I've traded for some good guitars and amps and microphones, and I get to work in my underwear.

What are your memories of your Louisville youth?

I was born in Nashville, but got to Louisville when I was 5 years old and went to elementary school at Emmet Field (in Crescent Hill). I guess we moved to Texas when I was about 10 or 11. I miss Louisville all the time. Lily and I have this promise that we made to each other that we would one day move back. It hasn't changed a lot since I left around 1989. Every time I go back, it's like I'm walking into my childhood. I love Cherokee Park and Bardstown Road and the weird streetlights that look like a red or green "X." Feels like I'm in St. Elmo’s Fire for some reason. That theme song is always playing in my head when I think about Louisville.

You're a man with a large beard. You could fit right in here if you wanted to. What does Austin have that Louisville lacks?

I love Austin, but if I didn't have a band and if I hadn't just bought a house, I’d probably move to Louisville. Austin is so rad, but it's always 200 degrees. In Louisville, you have cold winters and hot summers and old houses with basements.

Brothers and Sisters, from left: Lily Courtney, Greg McArthur, Will Courtney, Ray Jackson, Daniel Wilcox and David Morgan.

c. 2008 Velocity Weekly

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