The Blood Brothers

Their music may be an exercise in near chaos, but The Blood Brothers’ tour “strategy” is based on a few simple ideas: create an intimate atmosphere in small clubs, connect directly with fans and play with bands they actually like. And finding a place nearby for some good vegan eats probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

In the last couple of years, the young band has grown from a simple creative outlet for the east Seattlites to a full-time touring and recording outfit, largely thanks to interest from an unexpected source, nu-metal producer Ross Robinson.

Robinson, known for his work with Korn and Limp Bizkit, helmed the sessions for Burn, Piano Island, Burn, the band’s debut for ARTISTdirect Records. He seemed a strange fit for a band that has more in common artistically with the conceptual noise bursts of Mike Patton and John Zorn than the fratboy shenanigans of Fred Durst.

“Obviously, from an outsider’s point of view, there’s going to be a lot of misgivings because the style of music we play and the style of music he’s notorious for producing are incongruent,” co-vocalist Johnny Whitney told POLLSTAR. “He turned out to be a really caring, open person who was in no way going to turn us into someone we didn’t want to be.”

The album and ensuing deal allowed The Blood Brothers, Whitney, co-vocalist Jordan Blilie, guitarist Cody Votolato, bassist Morgan Henderson, and drummist Mark Gajadhar, to expand their tours beyond summers.

“It’s not really financially possible to tour all year round when you’re a small band and have no label support, unless you’re willing to sleep on a floor every night of the year. And some people do,” Whitney said.

The new record “made it so we had the opportunity to tour all the time, being on a label that has money and all that. That was sort of a breaking point where everything changed.”

Over the last year, the band has traversed the country, in both headline and support slots, and hopped over to Europe three times.

“[Europeans are] fantastic … especially if you go to a place like Spain or Italy,” Whitney said. “I get the sense that American bands don’t come there very often. People were just incredibly excited. All the promoters were super-accommodating to us.”

One place fans aren’t likely to find The Blood Brothers is on a traveling fest like, say, the Vans Warped Tour, on which they were mistakenly advertised as playing a few dates last summer.

The Blood Brothers

“We show absolutely no affinity for those kinds of tours,” Whitney said. “They have the Marines there recruiting people. That’s not punk rock. That’s corporate horse shit.

“And it’s not fun to play festivals, generally. Festivals in Europe are fun. But it’s not fun to play outside, it’s not fun to play in the middle of the day, and there’s no sense of community when you’re just a fucking sideshow in a big crappy circus. I would rather just do a tour where we’re playing shows with bands we actually like.”

According to Whitney, there’s a long-term strategy behind the band’s decision to stick to small venues, at least for now.

“It makes for more longevity in a band. It definitely takes a longer time. We’ve been touring for a year and a half. It’s not instant gratification. But I think if you do that, you’re more in touch with the people that come to your shows, and people won’t forget about you in two years when the style of music you play isn’t cool anymore.”

The dilemma, though, is that fans sometimes have to be turned away from sold-out small club dates. Whitney said that means the band has to be extra vigilant in choosing tour stops.

Fata Booking’s Eva Alexiou, who books the Brothers and frequent tourmates Pretty Girls Make Graves, said finding the right size venues isn’t as difficult as it would seem.

“If anything, it’s more difficult to explain to bigger promoters why they’re not getting the show,” she told POLLSTAR. “We have a lot of great production companies that have smaller, more personal, quaint venues as well as the larger venues. Sometimes we use the same people.

“And a lot of times, people that don’t have smaller venues want to get them in the big places. So it’s kind of the opposite effect where like 90 percent of the time, it’s kids calling the booking agency trying to get bands to play smaller places, and me saying, ‘I can’t; I have to put them in a bigger place.’ But the Brothers love that.”

Also important for the band is touring with acts that have a similar outlook on their art, whether it be supporting indie darlings Cursive or giving a chance to a young band like Texas Chainsaw Mass Choir.

“We try to go out with bands that are coming from a similar place, not necessarily stylistically, but you can get a sense that you respect what they’re doing and they respect what you’re doing, playing music for similar reasons,” Blilie said. “Other than that, we try to go out with our friends as much as possible.

“We try to keep a sense of a tight family when we’re out together with bands. When we go on our own tours, we don’t take bands that we don’t know or aren’t our friends. … I can’t spend a month with someone I can’t stand.”