On an energetic Saturday night at The Bearded Monk, groups of locals gather around to hear the band Brotherhood’s set. As the band starts to play, audience members bop their heads to the beat. Suddenly their tempo quickens and the crowd immediately cheers. A man raises his drink while a pair of adults dance to the tune from the back of the patio.
“I definitely hope to see more of them in the future, their music is very lively and evokes an energy that just makes you want to dance,” Denton resident and audience member Logan Strong said. “They are very nice people, they actually talked to me before their set, and personality matters.”
The band, Brotherhood, is comprised of actual brothers. English sophomore at UNT, George Bernard, sings and plays guitar while mechanical engineering freshman, James Bernard, sings and plays bass. Their younger brother, David Bernard, is the band’s drummer, while Hector Fontanez, an electrical engineering freshman who joined the band in January of 2018, plays saxophone.
In 2011, at the ages of 13, 10 and 7, the Bernard brothers started off as a reggae band. Later on, in 2013, they switched over to ska because they wanted to play at a faster tempo. In 2015, they made the transition from general ska to ska-punk.
Fontanez said ska is like a combination of several types of music. The genre emerged in the late 1950s in Jamaica and is a cultivation of rhythm, blues, American jazz, Caribbean mento and calypso. However, Brotherhood has developed their own definition of ska.
“It’s like fast reggae, played with a leading bass and has the traditional use of instruments played with horns in the past,” George said.
The band is still developing their music, constantly tweaking their style and adding new influences to their songs.
“The ska scene is kind of dead, but we’re trying to set our own scene,” James said.
The band’s first album, “Call It What You Want”, was released earlier this year on March 22. George said the recording process was simple for them, and they were able to record the entire album in one take at the studio.
“Our first album is called ‘Call It What You Want’ because even we have trouble defining our music,” George said. “We don’t like the music today because [artists] use the computer to make their music, but we actually play our own instruments.”
The band is in the process of creating their second album now, which will incorporate more genres and styles.
“We’re continuously changing,” George said. “In the second album we are recording soon, it is going to have more blues and funk, with a little bit of ska. Even though we say we are a ska band, we have a huge blues and funky style to our music.”
Because of how fluid Brotherhood’s musical style is, the band members said it is difficult to classify their identity and they only categorize themselves as ska in order to fit in.
“The biggest [problem] is probably that there’s so many classifications of ska that the people in the community have a hard time classifying them, so everyone just gets compared to well-established bands,” Fontanez said.
Another problem the band faces is finding a community among other artists. George said some genres don’t accept their style of music.
“The punk scene doesn’t really accept us, but we are always opening their shows,” George said. “However, the indie scene does accept us and we have incorporated some of their elements into our music.”
Despite this, the band has found support and community here in Denton.
“In Dallas, we’re probably one of the only ska bands that played in Deep Ellum, because they only like old rock bands,” George said. “In Fort Worth, it’s tough— you have to be strictly country. In Denton, people are very accepting of our music and no matter where we play, they accept what we do.”
Brotherhood is currently looking for a horn player to join their band. Because of the close bonds the current bandmates share, George said that finding a new partnership has been one of the most difficult things for him to do.
“It’s hard to find a bandmate,” George said. “You have to suffer together. It really takes another brother and you have to value each other. Finding a person to join your band, and to actually love them, is harder than playing music together.”
George and James said they want to use the many challenges they have faced as a band to help others find their identity and their place in the music scene. George said they enjoy giving young bands a chance to perform because he said they tend to feel like outcasts.
“I book shows at music venues around the DFW and Denton area and when I need some bands for the night, I’ll ask younger bands who haven’t had a lot of experience or who are dying to play their first show,” George said. “I’ll book these younger bands with us and at the end of the night, I split up the total money made evenly to all the bands.”
To the bandmates, Brotherhood means more than just a band name. George and James said there are many benefits that come with having brothers as bandmates and they are fortunate to live under the same roof and play music together.
“The easiest part about having brothers as bandmates is that sometimes you just really need to fight your brothers and throw hands,” George said. “Especially when a run-through sounds like a mess or someone plays too fast. But then we take 10 minutes to calm down and come back together. The bond of brothers is unbreakable.”
Featured Image: James Bernard, 18, plays the guitar for Brotherhood at The Bearded Monk on Sept. 7, 2019. Image by Hope Alvarez