- Duality: Br'er Fox's Aaron and David Bubenheim, from left
In their band's four years of existence, brothers Aaron and David Bubenheim have played under no fewer than four names. The one that finally stuck for their guitar-and-drums duo, Br'er Fox, sounds at first like a simple reference to a character from the Uncle Remus folktales. But the meaning runs a bit deeper.
"Br'er is a 19th-century word that was used to mean 'brother,'" explains David Bubenheim. "And the car I drive is a 1988 Volkswagen Fox -- our dad has had a few of them, and fixes them up. 'Fox' was the name of our first dog, too." Such quirks seem indicative of the personal bond underlying this band, which started as a trio in the Bubenheim's hometown, Mars. Their original drummer moved to Rhode Island for college, and the band has since undergone a number of lineup augmentations and deletions. "To be honest, every time we've had a bass player, it hasn't worked," David says. "It makes it not interesting, it kind of kills the edge."
In his eyes, the band is based on a certain minimalist aesthetic -- and, as he puts it, a lack of technical proficiency. "We're limited in skill, a lot of these songs are two chords. A lot of it is about what you can do within that framework."
Now Br'er Fox is releasing its first record, a vinyl LP called The Bitter Struggle with Duality, on Sun., Feb. 22, at Brillobox, a show headlined by indie stars Tapes 'n Tapes. The songs the brothers have produced lean toward raucous bluesy rock reminiscent of early '00s bands like the White Stripes or early Modey Lemon. At times the progressions are downright Sabbathy; the album's lightest moment is a cover of "Victim Is a Saint," a song by another local band, Lohio.
The brothers trade off songwriting duties as well as instruments; a typical set sees them starting out in one formation and ending on opposite instruments. But David says they collaborate on the majority of the songwriting. "Even if one of us writes a whole song alone, that doesn't mean he necessarily plays guitar and sings on it. For the song 'Take Me Home' [the album's closing number], my brother wrote it, but I sing it and play guitar on it live. And on the record, he played guitar but I sang it," David says.
That collaboration is part of the meaning the band reads and writes into the album's title; the Bubenheim brothers' duality seems to be that of two people working as a unit in contrast with the rest of the world, rather than a dualism with one another. "It could be that too, though, in a way," David adds.
Br'er Fox, however, is above all a brother thing. Or, a br'er thing.
"We're brothers before anything else," says David, "and we'd never let anything, even music, come between us."
Br'er Fox album release, opening for Tapes 'n Tapes and Wild Light. 10 p.m. Sun., Feb. 22 (doors at 9 p.m.). Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $15. 412-621-4900 or www.brillobox.net