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Members include Christiaan Webb, vocals, keyboards; James Webb, vocals, guitar, keyboards; Justin Webb, guitar, vocals. Addresses: Website--The Webb Brothers Official Website: http://www.webbbrothers.com.
Looks aren't the only thing Christiaan, James and Justin Webb inherited from their father, legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb. In the late 1960s and early '70s Jimmy Webb wrote some of the era's most popular hits including "By the Time I Get To Phoenix," "MacArthur Park" and "Wichita Lineman," helping to make singers like Glen Campbell famous. Growing up in Los Angeles, Jimmy's numerous children were always interested in music, but it wasn't until their young adulthood that they began to truly follow in their father's footsteps. In the late '90s, Christiaan and his younger brother Justin enrolled in Boston University where soon music became more important than their studies. Although their shows were sometimes messy, it was clear that the famous offspring had their own talent. The pair soon left Boston and settled in Chicago, to make a go at the music business. From the very beginning, they were intent on doing things on their own, without their father's help or money. "...We've gone to great pains to really be independent and do things on our own. I never wanted anybody to even hint that we were riding on anybody's coattails--my dad's or anybody else's," Christiaan told Billboard.
Once they arrived in the Windy City in 1995, the brothers, then in their early twenties, took jobs at local bars and began to record a collection of demos. They eventually borrowed some money and with the help of drummer Neil Ostrovsky (who continues to perform and record with the band today) recorded a handful of solid demos in their rehearsal space in 1998. After their demos were completed, The Webb Brothers sent around their tapes to record labels across the United States, but, surprisingly, no one seemed interested. The band played shows in Chicago and then headed over to London, where they were so appreciated that in January of 1999, they decided to pack up and move overseas.
Soon after the band's arrival in London, record label owner Wyndham Wallace, created the independent label Easy! Tiger and released three of The Webb Brothers' demos as 7" singles. The limited-edition vinyl sold out in a week and soon a bidding war began amongst British record labels. The band eventually signed with Warner U.K. and decided to release their demos as an album. In the summer of 1999, Beyond the Biosphere hit record shelves in the United Kingdom via Warner, who also funded the band's own Mews 5 imprint and enabled the group to sign a worldwide deal to Warner Bros. A performance at the Reading Festival and gigs all over England made The Webb Brothers one of the hottest small bands in London. England's biggest music magazine, NME, often heaped loads of praise on The Webb Brothers, calling Beyond the Biosphere, "A low budget, hi-fidelity fantasia of clenched harmonies, borderline demented rock melodrama and sci-fi conceptualizing." No one knew exactly how to describe The Webb Brothers because they couldn't be compared to anyone else. American online magazine Pitchfork did their best to sum up the band's developing sound; "On Beyond the Biosphere, The Webb Brothers create a clever mixture of the sonic past and the sonic future..."
To support their new album and their growing fan base, the band toured the United Kingdom. The Brothers often found themselves having to discuss their father in interview, and though it got tiresome, they were proud of their heritage. "It's further than apples and oranges," Justin told Rolling Stone about the comparison between The Webb Brothers' music and their fathers. "It's like a steak and an orange. I mean, we to try to aspire to his quality of songwriting. But we also put on a big raucous rock show. I couldn't imagine my dad somehow flipping the metal sign and jumping off the drum riser."
After touring, the band soon began to work on their first proper studio album with producer Stephen Street, who had previously worked with British bands Blur and The Smiths. In the summer of 2001, The Webb Brothers released Maroon in the United Kingdom via Mews 5/WEA U.K. Shortly after, they released their first record in the United States when Maroon came out on the new Atlantic Records imprint Division One.
Maroon received rave reviews for its grand orchestral arrangements, a sonic vision well beyond their years and songs that teetered between lush pop, psychedelic sonic escapades and wrist-slitting ballads. "Maroon is one of the rare albums that seems to come out of nowhere with such dazzling songwriting ability and musical confidence that it will make pop converts of all who hear it," Ben Sisario wrote for the Philadelphia Weekly.
The songs on Maroon depicted the band's time in Chicago, a loose concept linking the songs together. On the band's official website, they called Maroon "...an ode to the Brothers' wasted early twenties in Chicago." In an interview with Billboard, Justin described the identity of Maroon; "From the time we got there in '95, we made more and more demos and played more and more gigs and gradually descended into being more and more desperate, angst-ridden people. It's the journey that you see on that record. You get into the whole thing, and all of a sudden it's exciting, because you want to go where the pretty girls are, and everyone's drinking and partying, and all the rock stars are there, right? And then, after a couple of years, you realize that you're sliding down the same slope as everyone else."
"We wanted to make a modern record, but we've always been fascinated and obsessed with late-'60s and '70s records--not concept records, but records that are able to have a mood that carries through the whole record and a theme to the album that ties everything together," Christiaan told Billboard. NME called Maroon "emotionally unsettling," and went on to praise the band's talent; "The Webbs' dexterity with arrangements--already impressive--has matured further, as minimal acoustic passages and alt-country flirtations plunge into supple, widescreen orchestration." Critics always took notice of the brother's impeccable harmonies that made every song shine.
While both American and British critics were praising their new discovery, The Webb Brothers American fan base quickly got shot down before it got a running start. As the band were embedded in an American tour with British band Doves, just mere months after Maroon came out, Atlantic made severe cutbacks and Division One folded, leaving the band without an American deal, publicist and much of a chance at all.
Supporting Justin and Christiaan on the road for Maroon were drummer Ostrovsky, bassist Zack Schneider and younger Webb brother, James. James dropped out of college to tour with the band around the world, and the sibling's new on-stage chemistry and harmonies breathed new life into the band; something they desperately needed at the time. Not deterred by their failure in the United States, the Webb Brothers continued back and forth between Chicago and London, where they began work on a new record.
In the fall of 2003, The Webb Brothers released the album The Webb Brothers in the U.K. on 679 Records/WEA. The band was so focused on keeping themselves established in Great Britain that they didn't sign a deal with an American label for distribution of the album in the United States. All of their fans had to scramble online to find a copy. Shortly after their new album was released, the band toured around the United Kingdom with British rock group The Darkness, who were musically nothing like The Webb Brothers, but somehow a good fit. They returned to the States with The Darkness for a small handful of dates as well.
On The Webb Brothers, Justin and Christiaan were joined, for the first time on record, by their entire live band, including now-permanent member James. With the addition of James harmonies and songwriting, The Webb Brothers expanded their sound. Real Detroit Weekly called the album, "A standout recording, on which the band explores synths, loops and programming ... All while keeping their delicate balladeer tendencies intact."
The group toured the United Kingdom and did a few American shows to promote The Webb Brothers, eventually settling back in Chicago for about a year. In early 2005, the band moved out to L.A. to start work on their fourth album.
by Shannon McCarthy
The Webb Brothers's Career
Group formed in Chicago, IL, 1998; recorded demos and released them as Beyond the Biosphere, on Warner U.K., 1999; recorded sophomore album Maroon, 2001; toured with Doves, 2001; released The Webb Brothers on U.K. label 679 Recordings, 2003; toured with The Darkness.
- Selected discography
- Beyond the Biosphere Warner UK, 1999.
- (Contributor) It's a Cool, Cool Christmas Jeepster Records, 2000.
- Maroon Division One/Atlantic (U.S.); Mews 5/WEA (U.K.), 2001.
- (Contributor) Total Lee! A Tribute to Lee Hazelwood Astralwerks, 2002.
- The Webb Brothers 679 Recordings/WEA, 2003.
- Billboard, May 12, 2001.
- Philadelphia Weekly, July 11, 2001.
- Rolling Stone, July 23, 2001.
- Real Detroit Weekly, February 18-24, 2004.
- NME, http://www.nme.com/reviews/5681.htm (August 23, 2005).
- NME, http://www.nme.com/reviews/2698.htm (August 23, 2005).
- Pitchfork Media, http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/w/webb-brothers/beyond-the-biosphere.shtml (August 23, 2005).
- The Webb Brothers, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (August 23, 2005).
- The Webb Brothers Official Website, http://www.webbbrothers.com (August 23, 2005).
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