Gabe Penner From “Her Brothers” Talks Musical Influences, Collaborations And What’s Next

Kat Harlton

Literally a trio of brothers – Gabe, Josh, and Levi Penner, have played together since 2006 when each picked up an instrument and just started to jam. After releasing their debut album “She” in 2015, they began touring extensively across B.C, became a fixture at WE Day events, and toured Alberta through a partnership with the organization Mighty Peace Youth for Change. They’ve shared the stage with artists Colbie Caillat, Hedley, The Barenaked Ladies, Francesco Yates, and SonReal.

Their new album “Tribe” is, at its core, a straight up rock record that fuses elements from 90s pop-punk, 80s dance, R&B, and old soulful jams. It all comes from the brothers’ range of influences – from Peter Gabriel to Jack White, Maroon 5 to U2. Her Brothers has the unique ability of playing within the canon of contemporary hits while recalling the timeless tradition of musicality.

We had the opportunity to catch up with front man Gabe Penner to talk musical influences, collaborations and what’s next.

Kat: Can you tell us a little bit about Her Brothers?

Gabe: We’re an alt-pop band of three brothers from Vancouver BC. Just recently we played a show in Vancouver and these girls came up to us afterwards thinking we were a band from the UK which, incidentally enough, is funny because so many of the bands we’ve listened to and have loved over the years are from that neck of the woods. All of us listen to a variety of stuff but up at the top would be Peter Gabriel for sure, Sting, then a hard left into Prince, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Brown to Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down, Roger Waters and then back over to guys like Brian Eno, Keith Kenniff.

We’ve been called a rock band or a pop band before but don’t really feel like we fit into any of those categories. We certainly don’t fit the rock band stereotype or the magniloquent rhetoric surrounding the majority of pop artists. We do whatever we do in the studio, certainly taking it seriously but for us as a band the most exciting is the live experience. Peter Gabriel has probably had the biggest influence on us from an early stage with his constant pursuit of putting on concert experiences that connect and engage with the audience. It’s where the songs come to life, where they’re no longer just our songs and where we get to share an experience as a collective of people in a space in time; We wanna move from point A to point B, not just play a couple of tunes.

Kat: You recently released a new album ‘Tribe”, can you talk about the inspiration behind it?

Gabe: When we finished up the touring of our last album my wife actually suggested this book Tribe, by Sebastian Junger, and it really had an affect on me. Go out and get the book if you haven’t read it, it’s one of my favourites. Analogous to the book is the albums struggle with identity and connection throughout, the title track being a song addressing the pursuit of belonging. I have come to believe that in many ways the ever increasing digital world I find myself in is anathema to human connection. Laughter, tears, sex, joy, doubt, and so many things that shared in person and experienced together create deeper bonds.

Kat: Can you talk about the band’s songwriting process?

Gabe: It’s all over the place. Sometimes I’ll have an idea lyrically and bring it to Levi and josh and we’ll put something together from that or Levi will bring a musical piece to the table and that’ll inspire something. I think probably one of the most important “processes” we’ve developed over the years is having as much output as possible and and not worrying about sounds and production up front but really letting the ideas flow and letting the magic happen and instead going back later to refine and cull through finding the best. I think it’s something like for every three songs there’s one good one and for every nine there might be one great song. Adam Grant has actually written extensively on the science behind and connection between prolificacy and quality.

Kat: Who would the band like to do a collaboration with?

Gabe: Peter Gabriel, Rostam Batmanglij, Brian Eno, I know Levi would love to work with Hans Zimmer, actually all of us would. Christian Stonehouse is another, though we’ve worked with him before, he’s just such a great energy to collaborate with.

Kat: What ’s on your playlist?

Gabe: I’m an albums kinda guy, Levi’s tastes are changing all the time and Josh really listens to a massive amount of stuff himself. For me, currently I’ve been listening to a lot of Vampire Weekend (every album of theirs gets me going) as well as The 1975, I do love their most recent record but their second LP is still one of my favourites. I’ve also been diving into a lot of work by Olafur Arnalds as well as Radiohead, that Iggy Pop album he did with Josh Home, Post Pop Depression, and also Peter Gabriel and his album Scratch My Back, which is incredible! One of my favourites.

Levi has been listening to a lot of Peter Gabriel too along with The Japanese House and her latest album, Rage Against The Machine, U2 and Borns stuff. I happen to know he also listens to a massive catalogue of soundtracks. Josh has been spinning Lady Gaga’s Artpop, Anonymous – Black Bear, everything by Logic, Childish Gambino. He’s been really into the new Billie Eilish album which has some great stuff along with Billy Talent I and II. Actually both those Billy Talent records are favourites of all three of us, everything about them, the writing, the production, superb records that not enough people know about across the border because their label screwed them. Fine guys too.

Kat: What’s next?

Gabe: Another record, some touring. We’re working on some American dates and to head across to the UK when it works, both places being the home to our largest fan bases. We just finished doing a soundtrack for a film as well which was super fun and a totally different experience than making a record. We’ll definitely do that again.

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