The Teskey Brothers are a rare musical gem. Honouring that old-school Motown sound and working it into something of their very own, the band have received widespread acclaim for their gorgeous debut album Half Mile Harvest. A raw combination of soul and blues, the record has warmed the hearts of listeners everywhere with its melancholic, analog tones. The Melbourne outfit is headed up by Josh and Sam Teskey, but it’s the country that has their heart.
‘Warrandyte was where we all grew up; it’s only half an hour east of the city, but it’s pretty bushy out there. It’s the north end of Warrandyte, so it’s got a bit of that country feel. But we have always been in and out of the city, which is really nice. It’s a beautiful place to grow up right by the river there, and we all grew up there so we – the drummer, the bass player – we’ve been playing there for ten years, and we grew up around pretty much the same street. And now basically it’s a back fence, yeah. So, we’ve always grown up together, always been playing music together since we were barely teens really,’ says Sam.
After creating a sensation at Bello Winter Music and Mullum Music Festival this year, Teskey Brothers return to the region for their first Bluesfest. For those unfamiliar with the band, Sam gives the lowdown.
‘We have my brother Josh – he’s the lead singer, and he plays guitar, mainly rhythm guitar, and I’ll probably play more of the lead to the stuff, and I play lead guitar. And Brendon Love is on the bass, and he is a very core member of the band. When recording the album actually he took part in producing it, and engineering it and putting stuff together, and Liam Gough’s on the drums. So it’s a four-piece mainly, but at our bigger gigs, which we will be bringing up at Bluesfest, we bring a Hammond player, and a three-piece horn section as well to beef up that soul sound. And we love doing that as well, but on the smaller gigs we usually just have the four of us. And on international touring it’s just the four of us too; it makes it more financially viable.’
The Teskey Brothers have found themselves a bit of an overnight sensation, but they’ve been working at it for some time.
‘We’ve always been kinda lazy musicians,’ says Sam. ‘That’s probably a good way to put it. We’ve always played since we were 14, 15; we were always playing – it was busking over at St Andrews Market, and doing various things. And we never really had an online following or anything like that. We never made CDs. We did a few things, but nothing really substantial. We never pushed anything. And I guess we always just… well we never said No to anything as well, so it ended up that the last 10 years we’ve just been playing every weekend for anything, really. It could be anything you can think of.
‘We played at swimming pools, or parties, or weddings, or bar mitzvahs, or whatever it would be. We’d literally get a phone call, and if the price was right we’d just do the gig. It’s just how we rolled through it for those 10 years. We just played every weekend. And then it wasn’t until we released this album that people started booking us for one. And probably the first time we booked a show was our single launch, which was sold out, which was awesome, which was our first soldout show. And then it just seemed to keep going from there, which was cool. And kept selling out the album launch, so the two nights at The Gasso (The Gasometer Hotel), which was cool, and then it’s just been snowballing, which has been amazing.’
The debut album Half Mile Harvest showcases the Teskey Brothers, touching base more with Neil Young and Crosby, Stills & Nash in their style.
‘We’ve always been very heavily influenced by those guys – Neil Young and those,’ says Sam. ‘They are huge for us – apart from from the soul guys we’re right into the Southern rock stuff. The 60s and 70s we are really right in to. So yeah, I guess it kind of represents a part of who we are. So, yeah it’s good to do that. And it was actually cool; we played over in London just in October, and we had a couple of sold-out shows in London, which was pretty awesome. But, we’d never done this before where we actually had encores. The Monday night gig was a really special little gig. They’re small intimate venues, so it’s good. But it was a really special gig. And we decided to just sing that song acoustically at the end of the night, which went down really well. And I think we’ll try to pull that out for the really special gigs as well. That song just seems to work well.’
However, the band stays true to their core influences, old-school Motown.
‘Josh has always always loved Otis Redding and he’s always sung like that, and I think that’s why this album’s worked so well. Because I think up until that album we hadn’t really written any songs that were in that vein that worked so well with Josh’s voice, and when we started writing songs like in that old Stax sort of way, I think he just found a pocket, so I think that’s probably the main reason that it works. But I guess we still love that album Harvest. I guess the music didn’t really come across as like Neil Young, but I see the ways it’s looking, and we just love that album, and I guess in a roundabout way that influenced us a lot.’
The Teskey Brothers play Bluesfest this Easter. For tickets and program information go to bluesfest.com.au