Interview: The Drinkwater Brothers
Updated: 4 days ago
Written by Kiersten Gerard
The Drinkwater Brothers are a folk pop duo from Long Island, New York. Their music evokes the feeling of sipping a warm drink in a small town coffee shop on a cold, rainy day. After playing several renowned cabaret venues like Birdland and 54 Below, the pandemic has given the brothers a chance to slow down and work on some ambitious projects.
Hey guys, how have you been?
Matt: Doing pretty good, can’t complain.
John: I mean we can complain.
Matt: Well yeah everyone can complain right now, but we can’t complain too much.
How have you guys been spending your time over the course of the pandemic?
John: We ask ourselves that everyday.
Matt: It’s been nice in the way that we’ve gotten to do a lot of music stuff. Before the pandemic our music took a backseat to going to auditions and callbacks and such. Since that’s not really happening at the moment we’ve had a lot of time to work on music projects.
You grew up being involved in both theater and sports, was it ever stressful finding a balance between the two?
Matt: It was very stressful. A lot of people were very supportive, but early on there were also a lot of people that were not so supportive. They would say things like “You are really going to have to choose what you want to do.”
John: It was always stressful, especially when we got to college. We would have football practice from 5am to 8 or 9am, then we’d have class from 9 to some time in the afternoon, and then we would have rehearsal from for a show until midnight or so. The next day we’d start again at 5. Something was always happening so it was stressful in that way, but it also wasn’t stressful because we were doing what we loved. We took on so much because we couldn’t resist.
You studied theater in college but now you’re spending more time on music- which field would you rather pursue a career in?
Matt: Due to the pandemic music is definitely more accessible so we’ve veered toward that for sure but I think we’re still pursuing careers in acting.
John: Yeah, acting is kind of our main rub. Personally I feel like entertaining is entertaining, it’s all kind of a similar thing to me. Anything we could try to entertain someone with, we’ll do.
You were nominated for a MAC award- How did that feel?
Matt: That was very cool, obviously an honor.
John: Right before that all happened we were doing a lot of shows in the city at Birdland, and Don’t Tell Mama’s, and 54 Below and places like that. We didn’t really realize at the time the “fancy” people we were meeting. We just thought they were great and we were making friends. And then those people said “You should be nominated for this, I'm gonna talk to so and so about this etc.”
Matt: Looking back, that was a really cool way of keeping up with our music stuff throughout college. After seeing us in a production of Titanic, the booker of the Duplex approached us and asked if we had a cabaret show. We said “sure, we have a cabaret show!” We didn’t have a cabaret show. He ended up booking us and we realized it was a great way to keep up with the cabaret scene.
John: Through that we've met a lot of fancy people that nominate us for fancy things that shock us, so that's kind of how the award happened.
Matt: The MAC award was crazy, it was a great honor considering how many great people have won it and continue to win it.
What is your writing process like?
Matt: John said something the other day I really liked. He said “We don’t co-write, we co-revise”
John: We hardly ever write together.
Matt: We co-revise and I like that. Sometimes we write together but typically how it works is we go our separate ways, write what we're gonna write and when we feel like bringing it to the other one we’ll say “Hey this is a song, what do you think about this?” and then it'll either be met with “Yeah and we should do this,” or “Ehh I don’t know how I feel about that because of this.” We don’t really sit down together and say “Well whadda we got today?”
John: Sometimes they're done in 15 minutes which is rare but it happens, and sometimes it's a laborious thing where you’re battling with these songs and trying to fit this puzzle together. Usually each song of ours will generally have one of us that wrote it and the other one kind of aided with it...aided and abetted it…so that's usually our process.
When writing, have you recognized any recurring themes?
Matt: There are a lot of general themes that every songwriter goes to, like ‘the girl you used to love but now you can’t be together anymore,” and that kind of stuff. There’ll be times when I’ll be writing a song and think “I’ve written this song 10 times, I've gotta do something different”
John: Randy Newman said in an interview one time that the reason that he doesn’t write love songs is because everybody is writing love songs. I heard that and was like well... we write love songs too. But I think a lot of people write love songs because there are a lot of love songs to be written. But then we’ve written songs like “Chain Smoking Acrobat.”
Matt: It’s famously our weirdest song.
John: It’s up to you to make what you want to make of it. It’s not a love song for sure. We wrote it because it’s not similar to anything else we've ever done.
In “times like these” as people like to say, it’s pretty hard to find motivation. What’s been motivating you guys?
John: I would urge anyone who feels like not creating to know that that's fine. In this kind of situation everyone reacts really differently, and I think that there are some people who have been forced to not do anything and they've taken it very hard because they feel like they're not doing enough. I guess the first thing I’d say is it’s fine to do nothing. There are certain days where we feel like just relaxing and doing nothing. Allowing ourselves that gives us those days where we’re like “I just wanna work today.”
Matt: To more specifically answer your question I would say the motivation was at first feeling an obligation to do something. Then at the beginning of quarantine, people would send us messages in response to our weekly livestream saying things like “you guys are really helping me get through the quarantine right now.” Those messages definitely motivated us to keep creating.
John: We’ve also learned that you need to give yourself reasons to do things, whether or not that's just posting on your instagram story saying “I wrote a song, I’m gonna release it on Thursday” because then by Thursday you have to release something.
Matt: It's tough to find motivation these days. In these times.
What are you most looking forward to once you’re able to attend larger in person events?
Matt: I would say playing live again is the biggest thing.
John: It’s two things- I’d like to play in a club packed with people, but also an underrated thing you can’t really do these days is play with other people. It’ll be nice to play with our friends again.
Matt: That's a good point, I didn’t think about that.
John: Our friends will be glad to know you didn’t think about them.
Do you guys have any specific dream venue you’d love to play?
Matt: We’ve played a lot of different really incredible places. To pick a place we’ve played, we love playing at Birdland. There’s just something in the walls there, as they say “in these times.”
John: Well it didn’t work that time. There’s nothing specific about these times that have to do with the walls.
Matt: Well, in these times, ya know, it is what it is.
John: In terms of places we’ve never played, I guess we’d give Madison Square Garden a call.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would you pick?
Matt: That’s a good question, no one’s ever asked us that before. You’re very good at this. Put that in the article. I would probably say John Mayer.
John: I’m gonna throw a curveball at ya- let’s collaborate with Led Zeppelin. I think they’re our best bet at making a hit.
What do you have planned for the future as of now?
John: We just did a 24 hour charity livestream, which was psychotic, but it was great. We ended up raising almost $3,000 for Feeding America which is the nation’s largest food bank so we’re going to try to do more stuff like that. We’re kind of just going with the flow.
Matt: We have our Instagram shows we do every Friday at 5:30 EST. Before the quarantine started we made a plan to release a new song once a month for the whole year. Then quarantine happened and the world kind of fell apart so we figured we needed to step back for a bit. That gave us a chance to collect the stuff we already had and the new stuff we were writing and we saw that within that collection was our second album for sure. It’ll be released in 3 parts so we’ll have the first part out in February.
John: We’re also gonna do some pretty cool music videos for a few of the songs that I'm pretty excited about. It’s all pretty ambitious but that’s kind of how we’ve lived our lives- being a little too ambitious and sometimes you fly too close to the sun, but sometimes you make something happen.
Matt: You’re making me nervous about this whole thing now.
John: Well you should quit the band.
Matt: “The Drinkwater Brother” it’ll be called.
Any parting words or advice?
Matt: I would say, in these times, make sure that you’re washing your hands, wear a mask, listen to some good music, and enjoy the times.
John: And I would say or don’t. Well, do wear a mask and wash your hands, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to feel any certain way, whether it's happy or upset or anything. Just wake up in the morning and say “how do I feel today?” and roll with that.
Matt: That was much more articulate than what I said. But I still think mine was better.
Follow The Drinkwater Brothers on instagram @thedrinkwaterbrothers to find news about their upcoming releases as well as their weekly livestream every Friday at 5:30pm EST. And remember to take it easy in these trying times.