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The Brothers Creeggan
At ages 16 and 17 respectively, Andy and Jim Creeggan rented their first four-track and learned how to use it over March Break. With their voices on the brink of changing, the brothers recorded several fledgling teen anthems, "Fast Love" and "Steam Train," ? odes to the boys' gruffer voiced heroes, James Brown and George Thorogood. From these humble forays into the savage woods of rock 'n roll, the brothers emerged seven years later as seasoned band members of the Barenaked Ladies.
It was 1992, while Jim and Andy were on tour with BNL, that they played their first gig together. Van Creeggan opened for Bob Wiseman in Halifax and it was a rough and ready ride. In the words of Andy Creeggan, "We were raw and all over the map." Never mind a few tumbles off key, the two jumped at every opportunity to play a live show until they took advantage of a chance to record their first album in the studio in 1993.
With a spiffy new name, The Brothers Creeggan, they called their first album by the same name, lest we forget. On their first recording, they follow their nose. Songs like "Opening the Windows" smell like Steve Reich whereas, "'Takin' out the Garbage' sounds a bit like the Sex Pistols smashing their instruments," says Jim.
By the second album, The Brothers Creeggan II, recorded in 1996, Andy had left the Barenaked Ladies to take a short break from pop music. Compelled by the siren songs of composers like Jaco Pastorius and Toru Takemitsu, Andy was drawn to explore far away islands of instrumental compositions, some of which appear on album two. Although Andy initially brought many of his instrumental projects to The Brothers Creeggan, Jim and Andy gradually discovered that as a duo, they loved to tell stories to each other and to their audiences. So Andy later founded his own solo project, Andiwork, which is entirely dedicated to his pursuit of instrumental music. Later that same year, Andy also enrolled in a five-year degree in musical composition at McGill University.
By the third album, Trunks, recorded in 2000, Ian McLauchlan had become the newest member of the band. As a drummer and crack tree-climber, Ian swings his limbs with the grace of the softwoods he climbs (a page about Ian). The addition of Ian to the duo, as well as encouragement from live audiences, solidified The Brothers Creeggan as a pop trio. Trunks is a carefully crafted album. The pie throwing spirit of the brothers? early days was replaced by well-honed tunes. From the finely woven sounds of Trunks emerged the band?s latest album, Sleepyhead.
The fourth album by The Brothers Creeggan, Sleepyhead, has one eye on the waking world and one eye on the world of dreams. Recorded in the fall in an old stone house on a windy patch of land; raw, melancholy moods temper the band's more familiar explosions of joy. The album opens with a farewell. Both love song and goodbye song, "You Will Be Adored," is a sending off song filled with good wishes. But "You Will Be Adored" is not a goodbye package tied too tightly. Rather, the song rolls along and then catches on tiny snarls of yearning and frustration.
With guest appearances by Sarah Harmer and the Barenaked Ladies' Ed Robertson, "Anna on the Moon" asks what is home? "As a constant traveler, I often wonder if home is a person, place or symbol. In the song, I realize that home is where the heart is," explains Jim. "Vote for Beauty" is the third song in the album's opening dig into the rich and fertile ground beneath relationships. Says Andy, ??Vote for Beauty? is a humble nickel tossed in the pot." Inspired by the melodies of Julie Doiron, the simple piano chords rake the listener with a feeling of fragility.
The next two songs "Coastline" and "Ali Baba's" hurl the listener back into familiar Brothers Creeggan territory - joy with no second-guessing. Says Andy, "Joy is light and fleeting whereas depression is heavy and lingering. To write songs about joy, we have to catch the moments quick." "Ali Baba's" is an ode to the brothers' favorite falafel shop in Toronto. According to Jim, "I wrote 'Ali Baba's' before September 11th, and now, when issues in the Arab world are so weighted, the simple celebration of what this family brings to my neighborhood is that much more valuable."
On the second half of the album, four songs plunge the listener into the world of dreams: "Sometimes," "Long and Slow," "Bye Song," and "Grey". "Bye Song" evolved from a very real topic, the death of Andy's mother-in-law, and musically describes the indescribable, her departure from this world to the next. "I would play the guitar while she slept and the riff for this song was practically the only thing I could play that seemed to work in that atmosphere. Then lyrically, I tried to document the whole experience.?
Documentation is a big theme for Jim and Andy. The fact that they are brothers definitely influences the band. It allows them to musically explore the nooks and crannies of their lives in a way that they might shy away from if they were playing with unfamiliar people. Perhaps Ian?s greatest strength as a drummer is that he is always game. Whenever the brothers venture into new musical territory, Ian follows without missing a beat. Brothers Creeggan audiences also influence the band. "Reactions from live audiences, comments via our web site, and reviews are invaluable to us," says Andy.
In terms of musical heroes, Jim refers to Neil Young as a big source of inspiration because of Young's ability to create communities around his music. Jaco Pastorius is another important figure for Andy and Jim. "The complexity and fearlessness of his music opened up a whole new universe for me," says Andy. And then there is Johnny Cash, the great storyteller, the Kingston Trio, and Simon and Garfunkle, all of whom have made their mark on their fair share of Brothers Creeggan ditties.
Perhaps the band?s biggest lesson from the Barenaked Ladies is the way they approach a live show. Like BNL, The Brothers Creeggan are acrobats on stage. They stomp or croon, depending on an audience. They scoop up their listeners and stroke their ears until the whole bar starts purring.
Written by Anna Hill
Other bands they were in: Backstreet band: High school project spanning from Elvis to Weather report. Jim: funky electric bass, double bass, and vocals. Andy: drums and vocals.
Tuna Straight: A highly experimental high school jazz experiment. Jim and Andy.
The Synthetics: An a capella quartet. Jim-Bowzer guy. Andy-high guy. Won the National Rising Star talent contest at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1987, beat out 13 yr. Old Alanis Morisette!
All-Scarborough Wind Symphony: Zits and Xylophones. Andy only.
Bobby Brown and the Scottish Accent: A Scottish country dance band. Accordian madness, Jim only.
The Young Virtuosos: Chamber orchestra of little people. Jim only.
Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra: Jim-bass in 1988-89, Andy-timpani in 1989-90.
Barenaked Ladies: Pop-rock fantasia. Jim-current member. Andy-member until Feb?95.
John Millard Experience: Post Polka Dog recording project. Jim only.
Clam: Jim and Andy teamed up with Vancouver based brother/sister combo Nettie and Burnie Boulanger.
Widdershins: Vancouver based brave new folk orchestra. Andy only.
Seeing Red: Jim?s own inner orchestra. Jim current/founding member.
Think Tank: Andy only, Daily Performances.
Other Places You Can Find Them:
Do You Feel the World? Mike Evin's fifth due out in 2011, Andy did a string arrangement for the song Seagull Spell.
CQU4 or Championnat Québécois d'Ultimate 4X4 theme music. Here's a link to an earlier and shorter version of a tune on Andiwork III (due for release in October 2010)-you may also see A.C. throwing a hammer and executing a footblock if you look closely.
Jake and the Leprechauns second album, A Long Dash. --Andy plays piano on 3 tracks. Go to Their myspace page
Stephane Morin's 2nd album Chambre Forte was produced/engineered by Andy. soon we'll have a link to him.
Mike Evin's fourth album, Good Watermelon--Andy sings plays some sandblocks and some wicked organ on cover of Runaway which may appear somewhere as a b-side or something.
Jim and Andy produced Mike's second album, I'll Bring the Stereo. Go to Mike's page
the theme and in/outs to and from commercials for CBC television's Royal Canadian Air Farce.
-GAS CD project. an album raising funds for Québec summit protestors' legal fees. Jim and BNL
-Dr. Tom's Leather--Everything We Make. Andy produced the debut album of this bunch of McGill students.
-Sarah McLachlan's album Surfacing. Jim plays bass on four tracks.
-Kevin Hearn's 2003 album Night Life, Jim sings on 3 tracks, On Kevin's first album, Mothball Mint. Jim plays bass on many tracks and Andy showed up for a little jam they had in the studio.
-Coco Love Alcorn. Andy plays percussion on 3 tunes.
-Honor the Earth tribute CD - Jim and Andy help accompany Jane Siberry on "My Mother is not the White Dove".
-Veda Hillie's latest album. Jim plays bass on a tune.
-Pet-Kout-Koy-ek, Songs for a river. A benefit CD for the Petitkodiac river in Moncton, New Brunswick. The last track on the disc, which includes many east coast artists, is another collaboration between Andy(on piano) and percussionist Jean Surette (on marimba).
-Meryn Cadell's first album Angel Food for Thought. Jim plays bass on a tune.
-Mia Shead. Andy has a little itsy bitsy piano appearance.
-Katherine Wheatley. Andy plays a little bit of accordion on one tune.
-Ray Montford (known for his guitar playing with the Rankin Family). Jim plays some bass on Ray's latest album.
-King of the Hill Soundtrack. Jim (with Bare Naked Ladies). A single titled "get in line".
-Luba's latest (Back on Track). Andy played percussion (not sure if it was used)
Sarah McLachlan's 2006 Christmas album. Once again there`s Jim on bass.