Music is a communal activity. It’s a dialog that exists between musicians, or at the very least between a soloist and their audience. The analogy is often made between a band and a marriage or a brotherhood, and while that’s certainly true in a figurative sense, often it’s true in a literal one too, with many bands formed in teenage bedrooms by siblings forced into musical collaboration by sheer convenience. And the kind of musical language developed between brothers seems to be particularly eloquent, driving the classic material of plenty of great bands. Bands such as…
Van Halen have had two bass players and three singers (four if you count Mitch Malloy, who never recorded with the group) but they’ve only ever had one guitarist and drummer. Eddie and Alex Van Halen’s styles as so very in sync that it’s almost impossible to imagine one without the other. “Eruption” would still be great if it was a completely unaccompanied Eddie Van Halen solo, but Alex’s thunderous drum rolls helped to signal Eddie’s arrival as the guitar god for a new generation. And although Eddie’s lead work is history changing, his locked-in rhythm with with Alex is just as unorthodox and revolutionary, and couldn’t have happened if the two hadn’t developed their styles in tandem.
Inspired by Van Halen, KISS, Metallica and ZZ Top, Pantera introduced the concept of ‘groove’ to metal. Guitarist Dimebag Darrell and drummer Vinnie Paul each had incredibly distinctive, individual tones - Dime’s was a scooped-mid, heavily-distorted stop-start jagged bandsaw of metal aggression. Vinnie’s was a punchy, dry, solid approach to metal drumming. Together Dime and Vinnie created a new sound, one that kept metal in the upper reaches of the charts during the metal-deficient 90s. Heck, 1994’s Far Beyond Driven crushed the Billboard 200 with a #1 debut, probably the most brutally antisocial album ever to do so. After Pantera, Dime and Vinnie went on to form Damageplan, the band they were playing with when Dime was tragically murdered onstage in 2004.
Things pretty much always seemed tense within the ranks of The Kinks, with the band finally calling it quits in 1996 in part due to friction between brothers Ray and Dave Davies. There has recently been talk of a reunion though, as the band approaches tits 50th anniversary. Ray Davies recently told a BBC Morning Show, “I spoke to [Dave] two weeks ago and said that as long as we have some new material we can move forward.” However, Dave had recently told Rolling Stone, “I can't face the concept of days and days in the studio with Ray, I just can't do it.” However even with that in mind, Dave told Rolling Stone the chances of a reunion were “50/50” which is better than zero, right?
Another for the ‘brotherly tension tearing apart a band’ file, Oasis’ creative core of guitarist Noel and vocalist Liam Gallagher shone brightly, weathered a particularly jarring line-up change, and then burned out in in a backstage fight in 2009 moments before a show was due to begin in Paris. A few hours later Noel issued a statement that “with some sadness and great relief...I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.” Fans will always hold out hope that Oasis will one day return, but we probably shouldn’t hold our breath.
Oasis - “Wonderwall” -
Michael Amott has the unique distinction of having played in three hugely influential bands: death metal pioneers Carcass, melodic death metal band Arch Enemy and stoner metal band Spiritual Beggars. When Amott left Carcass he formed Arch Enemy with his brother Christopher, and the two formed a formidable guitar duo, with Michael embodying a classic European metal sensibility and Christopher adding a more neoclassical element - although both guitarists are capable and flexible enough that their roles could sometimes reverse. Christopher has had an on again/off again tenure in Arch Enemy, leaving the band in 2005, rejoining in 2007 and leaving again in 2012, but Arch Enemy lives on with guitarist Nick Cordle serving as Michael Ammot’s foil, while Christopher released his solo album Impulses in 2012, and reformed his old band Armageddon.
Allman Brothers Band
Would slide guitar be the same without the influence of Duane Allman? No way! Players were already mixing blues, rock and a psychedelic-inspired approach to improvisation before the Allmans came along, but Duane’s inventiveness and expressiveness - as a slide player as well as a conventional one - added a whole new chapter to the rock guitar playbook. And Gregg Allman’s keyboard playing meshed naturally and intuitively with Duane’s guitar. In fact, Gregg had initially planned to become a dental surgeon, but followed Duane into music, thinking he’d go to dental school after a little while of trying to make it in the music biz. Almost 50 years later, Gregg still hasn’t had time to enrol…
Allman Brothers Band - “Whipping Post” –
The family guitar duo of The Darkness is Justin and Dan Hawkins. One might imagine the two sitting around after school jamming on Thin Lizzy licks, or maybe taking half a harmony each from Led Zeppelin's Black Dog, but that's not quite the case. "I think there's a culture of sharing music now, but in the olden days when music was more of a product - as opposed to a service - I think people were very selfish about it and didn't want to share it," Hawkins says. "Like, 'Those are my tapes. This is my Walkman.' It enabled people to just not share what they were listening to. To be in their own little world. So we sort of learned separately, really. I started on guitar and he started on drums. He became a very good drummer and then he became a great bass player. A really great bass player. He's probably the best bass player I've ever known actually. And then from bass to guitar, which is why his playing is more rhythm-centric while mine is more lead-centric.”
The Darkness - “Love Is Only A Feeling” -
This Aussie quartet helped to revive the 70s-influenced approach to bluesy, dirty, edgy rock in the 2000s with hits like “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” and “Rollover DJ,” and their musical engine room was staffed by the Cester brothers, Nic (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Chris (drums). Jet were never quite able to score a radio hit as big as those from 2003’s Get Born album, but they maintained a solid audience up until their 2012 break-up. “After many successful years of writing, recording and touring we wish to announce our discontinuation as a group,” they wrote. “From the many pubs, theatres, stadiums and festivals all across the world it was the fans that made our amazing story possible and we wish to thank them all. Thank you, and goodnight.”
Jet - “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”
The Beach Boys
You didn’t think we’d leave out the Beach Boys, did ya? The Beach Boys earn a special place in this list because they were formed by not two but three brothers, Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson (as well as their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine). And the finely-honed harmonies that helped to characterize the band’s sound the kind of thing is certainly easier to develop when you’re all sharing a house and a dinner table every day of your young lives. Brian Wilson proved to be the undisputed genius of the group, steering their creativity in previously uncharted new directions, but even in his most out-there musical moments, Wilson drew on the heavenly harmonies that he and his brothers developed together.
Brian Wilson - Gibson Guitar @ NAMM 2013
With so many line-up changes occurring within the ranks of the Big Four thrash icons throughout the years, it was pretty much inevitable that eventually a pair of brothers would drift through the band. Interestingly enough, it almost happened twice. Brothers Glen and Shawn Drover brought their symbiotic interplay to Megadeth on the album United Abominations (and the tour for the preceding album The System Has Failed), with Drover’s fusion-influenced metal proving him to be the heir apparent of both Marty Friedman and Chris Poland at the same time. But Dimebag Darrell came within a hair’s breadth of becoming lead guitarist in Megadeth prior to the recording of Rust In Peace. The sticking point: ever loyal to his brother, Dime said he’d only take the gig if Vinnie was behind the drum kit. Dave Mustaine had already settled on Nick Menza for the drum throne, so Dime and Vinnie stayed with Pantera and made metal history.
Who are your favorite family bands? And if we were to make a list of great bands featuring sisters, or brother-sister pairings, who would you include?
Photo: Scarlet Page