Brohemian Rhapsody

The Makepeace Brothers don’t coddle each other’s songwriting

When you’re listening to the uplifting world music-influenced folk-pop of the Makepeace Brothers, you can’t help but feel you should be soaking in the trio’s new album, Slow Down Feel Love, on a California beach as you watch the sun melt into the ocean. And when you’re a writer interviewing vocalist/guitarist Finian Makepeace via cell phone and you hear the crash of the surf and cry of seagulls and he says, “I’m just hanging out at Venice Beach,” and, “Cool, I just saw a seal in the water,” you wonder: Is it a music career or a lifestyle for these guys?

“I guess it’s a lifestyle,” says Finian, laughing. “I mean, hopefully it’s not just a beach-bum vibe you’re getting from us.”

It’s definitely more than a Jack Johnson copping. (“We honestly had never heard of him until recently,” Finian says.) Once you dig into the Makepeace Brothers’ 10-track album, released back in January, you’ll hear how Slow Down Feel Love draws inspiration from ’80s-era pop progressives Sting, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. More accurately, these musically gifted siblings—Finian, 28; singer/ukulelist Ciaran, 23; plus childhood bud/bassist Conor Gaffney, 31—sound directly influenced by bands that used to back those major artists, such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

“We’re all about updating world music compositions and layering them with pop melodies and harmonies,” says Finian, who shares songwriting duties with his younger bro. “We love hooks. But too many bands today just copy Paul Simon or whoever without even investigating the music made by world-music pioneers and icons, before world music entered the pop realm.”

Finian speaks passionately about music and, to a lesser degree, politics, especially environmental sustainability and the organic and raw food movement. Music and community-oriented action were inseparable in the brothers’ lives growing up in Ithaca, N.Y. Finian says his parents have always been involved in politics. “We were kids that were respected and loved,” he says, explaining the upbeat, ebullient sound that makes Makepeace Brothers such a sonic pleasure. “We brought those values over here to California where we live today.”

You can hear the positive attitude in tracks such as “What a Day,” which is guaranteed to magnetically pull your ass onto the dance floor, and the slow-burning samba-reggae of “Breathe,” a plea for people to hold on to their dreams. ) It’s not the West Coast vibe that hones the brothers’ songwriting, though. “We’re brothers, which means we have a severe editing process,” Finian says. “Your brother is never afraid to say your idea’s wack.”

Sibling competition fades with age, Finian says. Their two older brothers, Aidan and Liam, 31 and 33, record with the band and only play live occasionally.

“I think we all appreciate each other enough so that there’s a sense of respect,” Finian says. “No one’s a genius, so that really helps. These are interesting times, so I think each of us just feels lucky and blessed to have a voice through music.”

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