Getting to know the brothers behind the band

The Abrams discuss the release of their new EP

The Abrams brothers, Jonn and James.
Credit: 
Supplied by The Abrams
In their mid-twenties, the Abrams brothers have seen the inside of bars and music venues across North America, been the youngest Canadian musicians to play the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and been signed to Warner Music. This, all while completing degrees at Queen’s. 
 
Their new EP, entitled The Abrams, marries their childhood of bluegrass and gospel with their desire to reach out into the pop country audience. With a new EP released in May and their homecoming performance on June 24 at The Grand Theatre, The Journal sat down with the brothers and talked about their musical growth, their tour and what tools they would use to keep themselves safe in a zombie apocalypse. 
 

Q: With coming home to play the Kingston Grand, what is the biggest difference between a hometown show and being on tour?
 
John: There’s something so special about looking out at a crowd and being able to see family and friends everywhere and that sense of support from them. As well as the new fans we’ve managed to make through the record. That’s a really wonderful thing. There’s a different kind of energy that’s created in the room because of that. 
 
We felt it was important to do a homecoming, especially with the new record and the music getting farther and farther out. Again, it goes back to that balance of keeping your roots and expanding. Just as we expand, we want to keep a hold of our roots. We love playing Kingston for that reason.
 
Q: Were there any specific people that you met or stories from the tour that impacted you guys as a band?
 
John: I remember one story where James and I were in a town. It was a bit of a difficult night because James and I didn’t have a whole lot of the equipment we needed on stage. But after the show, one lady came up to the table and she was so positive about the performance. This lady came up to the table, and afterwards we called her the whistler, she started showing how well she could whistle. So we joined her. It was this really beautiful, almost emotional moment that one person went up to the table and was so connected with the music that she wanted to make music with us. 
 
James: One of my favourite stories was that there was a brother act we used to listen to when we were younger, called The Louvin Brothers, they were brothers who did harmonies, like us. One of the brothers had passed away, and this other brother, Charlie, who was still around was at one of our shows. 
 
John: We actually grew up listening to their tapes in my grandfather’s station wagon — and that story isn’t embellished at all. That’s what we would do to learn our harmonies. So we sang the show, singing harmonies, and after the show Charlie comes up to us at the CD table — we didn’t really know that he was there — he had tears in his eyes and said “Boys, watching you on stage reminded me of my brother and I when we were young” and that was the moment that we went “Wow, clearly we’re still connected to those roots and we’re still doing something right.” That was a great motivation for us to keep going.
 
Q: So, moving on to your own music, did you ever get inspired to try out other genres like punk-rock or metal, or has it always been bluegrass and country?
 
John: As funny as that sounds, we certainly are influenced by a lot of stuff. Especially throughout high school and onward into Queen’s, we listened to a lot of different styles of music. We definitely have an eclectic inspiration. And this new record with Gavin Brown, who produced bands like Billy Talent and Three Days Grace, really pulls together our family history of four generations on the road touring and playing music, then bringing it into the context of the new pop country world.
 
Q: With a variety of musical influences, if you were stranded on a desert island and you could only bring one band or songwriter’s discography, what would it be?
 
John: For me it would be Gordon Lightfoot. His music just makes you relax. I’m thinking that would be a good way to go out.
 
James: Maybe I would do some Bryan Adams. Some fast-paced, hopefully get you going kind of music. 
 
Q: So James would be the one trying to get off the island, and John would be the one just accepting his fate? 
 
John:  I’d be talking with Wilson back in the cave. James would be out making the raft.
 
Q: What if the two of you were stuck in a zombie apocalypse together, would you work together then?
 
John: Teamwork for sure. We would be on stage, James would have a fiddle, bashing heads in with it. Or the banjo — it’s heavier. 
 
James: It would probably depend on the situation.
 
John: It would depend on the situation if you pummelled me to death?
 
James: Well if things weren’t looking too good for you, I don’t know.
 
John: If our mother ever heard this, she would be horrified at the thought. Brothers and teamwork — just like on stage. That’s our official answer. 
 
The Journal has modified the answers for clarity.

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