Patch recently caught up with Ciaran and Finian Makepeace, two of the four founding members of The Makepeace Brothers. The roots, world, and folk music-inspired band is based in the Venice and Marina Del Rey area. On the heels of their new album release ‘Slow Down Feel Love,’ they were gearing up for a busy spring and summer tour that sees them criss-crossing the United States, spreading their earthy, positive messages of conscious community and sustainable living. What follows are some excerpted highlights from a lengthy interview.
Jonathan Trachtman, Patch.com (Hereafter, ‘JT’): So I previewed The Makepeace Brothers’ website and noticed how impressive and comprehensive it was in terms of the media aspect, and the wide variety of (performance) videos in particular. I’ve got to ask you, do you have a fulltime videographer?
Finian Makepeace (Hereafter, ‘FM’): No.
Ciaran Makepeace (Hereafter, ‘CM’): No.
FM: We have some very generous friends though, who are really skilled. And we’re gonna be having a lot more media coming out that’s way, way ‘higher end,’ that we’ve been waiting to release. A lot of the stuff that’s on YouTube, for example, was initially done by fans and random people, and now, we have a lot of friends who’ve been to many of the…
CM: We have a couple of really good friends…Chris Chelko, and umm…Peter, umm… [turns to Finian] what’s Peter’s last name? [laughing]
FM : Umm…Peter’s last name….I’m blanking right now.
JT [sarcastic]: But he’s a good friend.
CM: Yeah, he’s a great friend! [laughing]
FM: No, really…in my phone he’s ‘Peter Stronghold,’ so it’s…the last names in the phones, they get…
CM: Peter…Peter Harding!
FM: Harding…Yeah, yeah…
JT: Yeah, I know how that works, I also nickname people in my phone…people in my phone who ended up becoming good friends and then I still forget their last names.
CM: So yeah, it’s Peter Harding and Chris Chelko. They come to a lot of our shows. Most of that footage hasn’t been released, though, and we are…gonna be working on that. Much of that stuff you see is done by ourselves with a flip camera, or by random fans that post stuff on YouTube.
JT: Chris Chelko…hmm…that name sounds very familiar to me.
FM: He was a magician for a long time.
CM: And now he works on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He’s the Talent Coordinator, the random talent coordinator.
JT: I see...there’s also some higher quality video and media on your site, one performance at Beta Records—
FM and CM: Oh yeah.
JT : ----And the other from Project Rhythm Seed, it was an interview…
FM: Project Rhythm Seed? (laughing)
JT: Yes. Project Rhythm Seed. There was a guy interviewing you about you having played one of the larger shows, at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre?
CM: Oh…Oh Right…It was down [in Chula Vista, CA] at an event called ‘Sunset Sessions.’ Right.
FM: Right. It was at Sunset Sessions last year. It was the Coors Wireless Theatre...the Cricket Verizon Wireless…Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre!
JT: So that was the largest show you’ve ever done?
CM: Yea it was….we did a couple of songs with our buddy Jason Mraz. He invited us up and we sang a couple of songs, and yeah it was in front of about 20,000 people. But it wasn’t our show…
FM: Yeah, we didn’t get 20,000 people to that show!
CM: We weren’t drawing 20,000 people to the show!
JT: So how did you run into Jason Mraz?
FM: A friend of ours, Jon Marro, is an amazing, ridiculously gifted artist, who does a lot of the posters, album art, and media for a bunch of the people in our community-- Jason Mraz, Brett Dennen, Avasa and Matty Love, and us. And so anyway, he connects people and brings people together. Jon met us up in San Francisco when we lived there, and introduced us to Jason and Bushwalla, and we just became fast friends and everyone’s been hanging since. But, yeah, we definitely owe it to him to have introduced us to Jason and Brett. He’s been a really cool, generous person to offer his friends to his new friends.
JT: So, getting back to the performances. Cricket Wireless notwithstanding, the majority of your shows have been in small and mid-size clubs and bars, at moderately sized outdoor music festivals, and at backyard private parties. That wide range of playing out live seems to be from where you are cultivating most of your fan base, and where you seem most energized.
FM: Yeah. It’s been cool, because we’ve been doing it completely grass roots. We don’t have any label backing. We do a lot of the management and booking ourselves. And the most important part about that is how our fans have been relating to us and supporting us. We’ve done a lot of private parties, where the people throwing the party invite the guests. So whether 60 people come, or 120 people on the guest list come to the backyard party, you are really getting to understand those people. It’s not just a venue where people come and pay their ticket and they come in, and there’s a kind of separation between us.
So you really get to know people who become your fans, and then…turn into your community. It’s a big part of how we work and how things have worked, and how we’ve been able to support ourselves doing this. It’s awesome. We owe it to the fans. For the encouragement, and for getting us to various places all over the country.
JT: Do you envision continuing to keep all the management and production in-house, no matter how much acclaim and exposure you get as you continue to grow your fan base, your community, and as a band? Or do you foresee a goal of signing with an outside label?
FM: Yes and yes, basically.
CM: Oh yeah. For the long term, I see it all being in-house, and it being ‘family.’ Anyone who we work with, feeling like they’re ‘family.’ If that is a label bringing us on and we end up bonding like that, then that could work out. But I think the most important thing is to just be able to hang out and feel good around people and not have a battle between the label and the artists. Then the artists feel like they’re not being taken care of. Right now we’re building a team, including our own publicist and a manager, and all that. But if a label would like to help us out…we’re open to it.
JT: So, you have a new album ( ‘Slow Down Feel Love,’) that was just released.
FM: Yes, it’s been a slow release, since the middle of January (laughs). And it’s exciting, and it’s going really well.
JT: Is there any particular evolution from the last album (the first one you released) to this one?
FM: Well this is the first one where all four brothers (including older brothers Aidan and Liam) and Conor (Conor Gaffney, Bassist) were recording together, and we were down in San Diego. We got to spend a couple of weeks together just busting out the recording, and getting to process it as the 4 brothers and Conor. Whereas for the previous one, it was mostly just Ciaran and I doing it.
CM: We used more instrumentation on this album to fill out the sound. And whereas we used to tour as a trio, we’ve now added a drum kit and other percussion to our live sets.
FM: Yea, this one has a much higher level of production than the first one. We had much more time than we did with the first one. The first album we made, we did 11 songs in less than 4 days. So this one, having more time, and better equipment, allowed us to produce something we just felt better about ...
CM: So yeah, in a sense, this is our debut album—with all the members of the band working together, sitting down and creating an album together.
JT: Was there a conscious decision to take more time on this album than the last one?
CM: Well the back story is, technically the Makepeace Brothers have only existed since the fall of 2007. So while the ‘Makepeace Brothers’ under that name are relatively new, we, the 4 brothers, had previously been writing songs and playing together for many years as a band called ‘Oculus.’ Although I was initially too young to play out live with them.
FM: We moved down to LA in early September ’07, and by March ’08 we got confirmation that we were tapped to go on tour with Jason Mraz in April! And we did not have any recorded material at all (as The Makepeace Brothers), and we had to go on tour starting on April 4th. So we had to make a record and get it all done really fast. If you know about production time for a record, they need time to make the record, and send it back to you. So that month was really intense. We were completely broke. But we had to do this, and nothing else. We spent 4 days recording and mixing, and then went up to San Francisco and finished the mastering in 2 days with a guy up there.
CM: So even though (The Makepeace Brothers) is an 11-track CD, we still consider it an EP (Extended Play), more like a demo.
FM: We called it an ‘album’ mostly because we needed to sell it on the tour. It was tough but it paid off. Now we have fans all over the U.S. and if we hadn’t done it, that infrastructure wouldn’t exist.
JT: So now you’ll be touring to support the album, right?
CM: Yeah. And specifically, the music is allowing us to spread a ‘conscious evolution’ within an evolving community. Music is one avenue of the bigger picture. There are a lot of fundraisers, benefits, and festivals we wanna play because it’s causing a change, benefiting a community, etc…it’s like, ’so let’s tell you about something through the lyrics we choose to write.’
FM: Yes it’s purposeful. As performers, we share a voice and ideas with people. The community we’re growing around us is really supportive. And they are feeling the same way.
CM: Spreading consciousness of green living, sustainability …
FM: What’s also cool is that we can have immediate and direct interaction with our fans through social media. Someone from Brazil can contact us on Facebook and then we can communicate with them in real time.
CM: Yeah and they’re seeing events we’re doing here in L.A. and even though they may not be able to be here, they might be trying to replicate it elsewhere. Or bring us to, say, Brazil.
FM: We are all really involved in environmental sustainability, organic and raw food movements, and the like, and trying to not shove it in people’s faces, but to share some of what we’ve learned.
CM: We are doing a show in Santa Cruz at Cabrillo College (Saturday, April 16) with Whole Foods as the main sponsor. We’re partnering with them on that show, along with a documentary film called ‘May I Be Frank.’
FM: Which is like a reverse ‘Supersize Me.’ It talks about health consciousness and life transformation. Growing up in Ithaca, NY, a beacon of where many of the all-natural and co-op food marts started, we have been really familiar and aware of this movement since childhood. So it is really important to us.
CM: So we are teaming up with that documentary and Whole Foods. We’ll be playing music along with other bands, and there will be natural foods and healthy living booths. It’s a tour concept…
FM: …Which is in the testing phase, but if it works out in Santa Cruz it may evolve into a national tour, and that would be awesome.
(A lengthy portion of our chat followed, reflecting upon the current state of our broken political process. We talked about the negative choices being made by powerful individuals and institutions that are decimating the prospects for desperately needed development and repair of our civil society, education system, and physical infrastructure. We then turned the discussion back to the ultimate purpose of the Makepeace Brothers doing what they do. Here’s what they had to say.)
FM: Really, “integrity’ is the operative word here. We came into this for a reason, not just to become famous musicians who make a lot of money. That is not why we’re doing this. It’s to be able to make a difference in the world. That’s what our music is about.
JT: Kind of like building an alternative reality to the one we’re exposed to in public life and the media every day, which is somewhat ‘unreal,’ isn’t it? So by doing this, we have the power to construct an alternative reality within a society that is in dysfunction, one that is not serving our people’s needs right now, one that is not making the necessary investments in jobs, infrastructure, manufacturing, green energy, education, etc… We have an obligation to push for these things, perhaps?
FM: I agree. And I think it takes some contemplation. We made a conscious decision to move to San Francisco and start a band and spread music and a positive message of peace and love, and to serve the world and uplift people and their consciousness. We are still servants to everybody, all the people, in our art. And I know I will be working the rest of my life to do this, no matter how much money I make or how famous I may become.
JT: so what does the future hold for your music? Electronica? Beats? A re-mix album, perhaps?
CM: People wanna do it already!
CM: Currently, besides the folk/acoustic sound that we have, maybe melding that in with a more rhythmic dance sound, with stronger bass…
FM: Yeah, Ciaran has developed some stuff on Garage Band that’s awesome, though it doesn’t necessarily fit our music…but we want to be able to have these expressions that spring off of what we do. And these expressions are great.
CM: There are tools available to us today to make amazing sounds. Whatever sounds you have to use to inspire people and uplift them, by all means--do it. But for now, our main tools are our vocals and our acoustic guitars. That’s what we’re trained to do. In the future, I can certainly see us experimenting with electronic sounds, perhaps collaborating with people who have more expertise in that area than we do.
JT: So having the musical background you have, you could help write, produce, and arrange such a sound that may not be in your main area of expertise?
CM: Yes, arrangers.
FM: Yes, and the hooks. Our major skill is the hooks.
The Makepeace Brothers play locally this Thursday, April 14th at the Cal State Northridge Earth Fair, 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. For tour info and more, check out http://www.makepeacebrothers.com and www.facebook.com/makepeacebrothers .