The Whiting Brothers may seem like an enigma, a figment of our imaginations. But once upon a time and really not so long ago, this group of experimental musicians had the potential of taking the alternative scene by storm. Third Outing caught up with Degnan, formerly of The Whiting Brothers, to find out what happened to the band, and what the members are doing now. Take it away...
The Whiting Brothers was originally a fictional band led by two brothers who differed creatively, each contributing a contrary part to the musical process. This was meant to belie different elements in my own personality, something exacting and something more romantic, or a similar split. In practice, though, The Whiting Brothers was a snapshot of what some friends and I were doing musically at the time before blossoming into more well-defined solo endeavours. The personnel was me, Degnan (now of Naked Days) and Will Toledo (now of Car Seat Headrest) and a few friends who popped in here or there when we were recording, each adding an instrument or some other piece to the whole mix. Music was something that all of us had been doing together since we started school, and somewhere along the line music went from something we were all doing to something that was a part of each of us.
When I was writing D’Urberville, I was almost fixated on the idea of narrative. I thought it was really important to write something that, even if only through suggestion, left you off somewhere different from where you began. So I had this musical structure in mind, but it became this mosaic of sounds because it was coming from so many different influences. Each of us grew up listening to different musical styles but we did share interest in a lot of “core artists” that we were the right age for. I think it’s true that at some level you gravitate toward what you know best, but I don’t know if there’s anything particular that gave D’Urberville its shape.
Naked Days and Car Seat Headrest continued to release music after working on The Whiting Brothers with me, but I never got around to putting much else out apart from smaller live performances for a few years. But the three of us still tend to appear in one way or another on each other’s music, and going forward, Will is mixing an EP of a few songs I've written over the years. I now perform under the name American Holly, and by the autumn I hope to have an album of new music out.
The Whiting Brothers will go down in years to come amongst the alternative hardcore and in their local community as the great band who did their thing, and then moved on to do their next thing. Genius songwriters are like that. Look at Thane Thomsen from The Figments, it's about the pursuit of the next great sound, not necessarily being the next great rock 'n' roll band. The Whiting Brothers, led by creative force Leo Francis with the help of Degnan & Will Toledo, now of Naked Days and Car Seat Headrest respectively, managed to create a unique sound for their masterpiece D'Urberville. It's an album which is less Tess and more 'hell yes', a sentence I've always wanted to say, but it rings true. A Victory For Love And Literature is the opening track filled with electric vibe and poignancy which makes one curious from the outset. In fact, it's the perfect predecessor for the big number 2 and stand out track, For Robert Browning's Monologues And For Those Who Knew Them. It's clear that poetry are a big influence on the group, and the more you listen to them, the less it will shock you to hear a song named after a rather obscure Victorian playwright and poet. Regardless, it's a wonderfully clear and explosive song.