The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank continue the Americana tradition of great brother duos.
Playing in a band with your brother can be a dodgy thing.
Doubt me? Ask Noel and Liam Gallagher, of Oasis, or Chris and Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes. Those two pairs of brothers are nearly as famous for their feuds and fisticuffs as they are for their stunning songwriting.
Of course, not every brother band seems fraught with sibling rivalry. I live just miles from where the harmonies of Carter and Ralph Stanley and Jim and Jesse McReynolds focused national attention on Appalachian music, and I haven’t gotten wind of any booze infused brawls between these brother duos.
So, like with any pairing, playing music with a sibling has a lot to do with chemistry. If that is the case, Teague and Ian Alexy – The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank – have found the right formula.
The two brothers, who grew up playing music together, came together in Minnesota to form The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank in 2005 after pursuing musical interests on opposite coasts. Since then, the duo has released five records, with American Shuffle, the most recent, dropping in April.
I recently chatted with Teague Alexy about making music with a sibling, life on the iron rails, and one of baseball’s most infamous personalities.
BRO – You two are a brother duo. What are some of your favorite songs written and performed by other brother duos?
TA – I really like The Louvin Brothers. Their records are so perfect. Towards the end of his life, Charlie Louvin and Hobo Nephews were both with Bucket City Booking Agency. We were going to open one of his shows, but he fell ill and passed away. Ian and I are both Allman Brothers fans, and I am a bit partial to the Audio Two track “Top Billin.”
BRO – Is playing music with your brother easier, or more difficult, than playing with someone else?
TA – Ian and I playing together makes it a completely different experience than playing with someone not related because we are not just playing for ourselves or for the two of us but on behalf of our entire family. Not only do we have an Uncle Frank, but our mom’s father is named Frank. Frank and our Grandmom Nora were born in Ireland and met in Philadelphia as young adults. So I don’t know if it is easier, but we both have some depth that cannot be manufactured.
BRO – I love the track about Billy Martin on American Shuffle. You guys big baseball fans?
TA – I was a baseball fan as a kid. Our dad was a baseball fan and really into the history, the characters, and the language and poetry of the game. He presented “Casey At The Bat” to us as classic American literature, and I still view it that way. He took us to the ballpark as kids and his dad used to take him. I’d wanted to write a baseball song for years, and I settled on the idea of creating a character who was an old school baseball manager with troubles off the field and a bad temper that often led to kicking dirt on the umpire. Soon I realized that character already existed – Billy Martin.
BRO – We are featuring “Low Flying Bird” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
TA – Somewhere between love and a low flying bird. Love and dreams will make you do foolish – and even reckless – things. The other side of that is that not pursuing your love and dreams is an absolute crime to your own soul. Sometimes the soul speaks loud.
BRO – If you had to hit the road and live in a boxcar, what one item would you make sure is in your bindle?
TA – Magic beans in my bindle and a toothbrush in my pocket.
The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank have a slew of dates across Minnesota coming up in late July and early August. Fans in the land of a thousand lakes can catch the brothers in Ely, Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, Minneapolis, Minocqua, and Duluth over the next couple of weeks.
For more information on The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, when they are coming to a stage near you, or how you might be able to snag a copy of American Shuffle, dash over to the band’s website.
Also, be sure to take a listen to “Low Flying Bird” on this month’s Trail Mix.
Photo by Joshua Priestley