Brothers Of the Sonic Cloth are the Seattle doom-weavers led by none of than grunge hero Tad Doyle. Sophie Sparham is the Louder Than War writer who was absolutely obsessed by grunge back in the, you know, day, something we only learnt last week. Armed with that new knowledge, a proposition was immediately put forward to Sophie – how about we try to hook her up with Tad to chat about Brothers Of the Sonic Cloth and the excellent album they released earlier in the year. And yay, verily, so it came to pass. Over to Sophie…
So, it’s not every day that you get to meet a musical legend, and yet here I am on Skype, having a casual chat to one of the founders of grunge, Mr Tad Doyle.
After thirteen years, he has just released a record with his new band ‘Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’, which they celebrated via a gig launch show in Seattle only nights ago.
The album is going down a storm and it’s no surprise really. Tad remains one of the most respected names in music and has achieved so much throughout his career, yet when I speak to him, he is still so humble, so down to earth.
In the interview I thoroughly enjoy picking Tad’s brain about the art, lyrics and meaning behind his new project.
But first, here’s Unnamed by Brothers of the Sonic Cloth…
Louder Than War: Tell me about the Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – firstly how did the solo project start?
Tad Doyle: It was just me messing around in our basement studio that we had at the time. I was writing new stuff again. I come from a background of playing drums, being a multi-instrumentalist. So I just started putting together some songs and using the recording equipment. It was more just for me to have fun with it and make things happen, make my art. Then I realised that I wanted to do more with it and knew that I had to put together some form of a band.
Initially I posted songs on Myspace, when that was a thing, and posted anonymously. No one knew who Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were and I had various fake names for band members because I didn’t want anyone to know it was just one person. Eventually it evolved into a full on band with Peggy and Dave. We’ve also added another guitarist for live shows Pamela Sternin.
Did you not want people to compare Brothers to Tad, is that why you went anonymous?
Yeah and actually one of the other reasons was I just wanted it to be neutral and not have any bias that people coming in to hear it would have. And it was kinda like a fresh seedling type of thing.
Was it intentionally heavy?
Well I’ve always been a fan of the heavy stuff, I think that’s where my heart goes. But I guess that would a concerted effort to move in that direction, so yes it was intentional. But I wanted to explore other things, like the psychedelic end of things which I never really got into that much and the more quieter, lush, softer stuff, which I kinda delved into with Tad but didn’t take it as far as I wanted to.
It’s been thirteen years since you’ve released your last record, what was going through your mind before the release?
It was great to have that much time between a release. For me, I was very excited about it, because I was hoping that preconceived notions would die off, but there are still some people around my age that remember what I did in the past. But it’s just inevitable that people are going to want to reference past works and draw conclusions from that.
The art work – you say that you were really interested images from the sun? – why, what started that interest and how do you think it represents the record?
Well I’ve always been interested in expansive spaces. I’m pretty much a nerd and I love the thought of physics and outer space and exoplanets and things of that nature. The sun has always fascinated me with its coronal mass ejections and I just see it as being this immense power and you know it’s magnetic and static and noise and heat and it makes sound. It’s just where the direction of the album was going. We wanted to have huge stark images of elemental things; winds, sky, stars, water, earth. That’s just kind of where the inspiration came for the cover. I’ve worked with Sean Schock before and we spent some time going back and forth and he captured the image.
It’s so powerful, I think it really reflects the record.
Yeah, me too. I was real excited to see it on a twelve inch vinyl. A big huge image. That’s the way art work is supposed to be viewed in my opinion. Not on some thirty by three hundred epi image on a computer or even on an I pod screen. It’s big and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Another thing I really like about the cover is that most of the heavier bands steer away from bright colours, but I was like man, I want bright colours. It’s contrary, it’s not the usual black and white dark imagery. Who would think you could make something look heavy out of a picture of the sun?!
The lyrics are a lot more personal and kinda about the realisation of mortality – did you find them more difficult to write?
Well not necessarily difficult but I was definitely putting it out there. I was being real honest, laying it open and saying how I perceived things. That’s not what a lot of people do, they always have these fronts up, they have a costume they wear in life. I wanted to be transparent and say what was going through me in this stage of life.
When I was younger I thought I was going to be lucky to live past twenty one and who wants to live past twenty one, you know? That’s the way I used to think. Christ, now I’m near fifty five years old I feel like I’m just getting started, it sounds corny but that’s the truth!
Yeah but the older you get, you go through different stages and you rediscover yourself again and again.
The funny thing is that we will all go through this unless we die young. The cycle of life happens to everyone.
I read that Lava was inspired by a Native American folklore story and though it was awesome – are you a reader of folklore or mythology?
You know I’m all over the place with my reading and I get hooked on something for a while and I read bits and pieces but I rarely commit to a full book. I’ll read things that I’m interested in until I’m bored and then I’ll grab something else. To be quite honest I’m pretty busy with the studio and the band and I don’t have a lot of time to actually delve as deep as I would like to in the reading.
I’m a disappointing reader as far as my wife’s concerned. She’s an avid reader and goes through so many books each week that I am just disappointing! I usual read stuff for fact finding or for educational purposes that are valuable for me.
Do you get annoyed when people keep asking for Tad to do a reunion?
No I understand where they’re coming from and that’s their point of reference. I take it as a compliment that anybody even gives a shit anymore! It’s kinda cool, but it’s not likely to happen. It’s a part of my history that I’m very proud of and wouldn’t have done it any other way but at the same time a ham sandwich is only good for so many minutes you know. You’ve got to find something else. I just like to be creative and move on and keep looking into the future instead of looking back in the past.
Finally, what’s it like to be Tad Doyle?
That’s a loaded question! Most of the time it’s pretty good. I come from a middle class to lower middle classic family, United States and that in mind, I’ve never had a hard day compared to some of the citizens of this planet. There’s nothing to complain about, everything to be blessed about and celebrated. I wish goodness for everyone in this planet and beyond.
As long as I stay out there and involved in music and with other people’s lives and not become a hermit and start listening to only my own voice in my head I think I’ll be fine. A lot of things can happen to people if they don’t connect with others.
So it’s a good place to be, I love my life and I love what I’m doing it’s just a good thing!
Preorders for the CD and LP are now available via Neurot Recordings.
All words by Sophie Sparham. More of Sophie’s work can be found at her Louder Than War Author’s Archive.