BROOKLYN BROTHERS BEAT THE BEST is currently touring the US in two fashions, one as they promote their indie movie, that we recently reviewed, and secondly as the band that’s become a reality after following it fictionally through the film. It’s the debut feature for Ryan O’Nan on directorial and writing duty and competently accompanied by Michael Weston, the more experienced of the pair in the acting arena, and both of them equally a little crazy.
We caught up with them recently, to delve a little more into the film and confirm their equal, yet brilliant, madness.
Tell us a little more about BROOKLYN BROTHERS BEAT THE BEST and how it came to be?
Ryan: It’s about two misfit musicians and they’re at a point where they’re about to give up and, instead and somehow, put together a make-shift tour and try to come out the other end.
Michael: I love that.
Ryan: Yes, we love it when things come out the other end… [Laughter]
Ryan: For me, the idea wasn’t autobiographical. I’ve played for years and years, my whole life, but when it came to writing this, I wanted to write a music movie but never really from my own experiences but it became autobiographical in the form of my inner struggle. Not only as an artist but from anyone when they feel that they can be greater than where they’re at. I had this dichotomy where one side is insecure and takes all the critics, and that other relentless side. Those characters became two different people to watch battle.
Did you think Michael [Weston] was the perfect soul to portray your other side?
Ryan: He’s my alter ego, as he’s smaller than me.
Michael: More handsome side, the more debonair, I was called up to portray that side. More modest, physically strong and intelligently more efficient.
And you have a wrestle in the movie between you two, was that all improv?
Ryan: They were stunt doubles; we spent the entire budget on CGI for our faces.
Michael: I won’t have another man touch my face. [Laughter]
Ryan: That scene was fun and much needed, I felt I really wanted to put him in a headlock. It was cathartic as I did really want to kick him out of the room and got to do it over and over again [Much laughter]
With such a music-based script, did the songs come first or did they merge progressively?
Ryan: They merged a bit; I kept writing songs for years and I wrote some of them beforehand and then others while I was writing the script, others actually developed just as we went into production.
Michael, I believe you’ve previously been on a soundtrack?
Ryan: No way!
Michael: Oh yeah, I have! I played with Hugh Laurie in HOUSE. He played some blues and weird guitar riffs and I, [Ryan: Did you actually play?] yeah, I played on that.
For British music lovers, I’d say you were a kind of indie lo-fi folk sound, what have been your inspirations?
Ryan: Michael doesn’t have any and stopped listening in the late 70s. The music that really influenced me for this – after I played in a punk band called Against The Wall, which was my scene – was when I was a kid. My dad would pick me up from school and drive me around doing errands and I was stuck in that fucking car forever. The whole time he would be listening to The Cure, Men at Work, Cyndi Lauper, The Cars and The Police. I loved that music as a kid and as an adult when I started writing [Michael: ...and dressing like Cyndi Lauper...] post-punk and dressing like Cyndi and Boy George [laughter] that’s the sounds that came out of me as an influence, especially The Cure and New Order.
Michael: I had nothing to do with this crap; I was shamed into it, then drugged and trashed and set up with baby toys. I was being asked to play them in front of people, I wasn’t prepared for this and I was forced against my will.
Did you have to collect them from various stores?
Michael: No, we mugged some children but that was the easy part. It was playing the instruments live in front of human beings that that hard.
Ryan: We had a lot of candy and nets. But seriously, luckily Michael is a graduate from the Fisher Price School of music.
Michael: I majored in the rattle and anything with colour. It’s like Julliard, you don’t even get tests, they just know you’re great.
That’s an interesting way in…
Michael: Yeah, well, being a prodigy of baby toy instruments is a hard straight from the womb, you’re beaten.
…beaten by children trying to steal their instruments back?
[Laughter] Michael: Yes, by children getting them back. They’re stronger than me, even into my thirties.
There’s quite the road trip in Brooklyn Brothers, have you both travelled across the US before?
Ryan: We actually shot the entire thing in Maryland which has such a diverse typography to it. It was all roaming farmland to urban sprawl. (Michael: Ryan’s been trying to get ‘typography’ into everything today) To give it a little more scope, we went on a five day cross country road trip across various states and filmed shop signs, state signs and all those and so it was fun. Now, as the band and touring, we played North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Seattle and we’re going to Portland.
Michael: A scenarios suddenly happened where we played it all live and at the start, we really didn’t know we’d end up playing it live. Ryan’s Gestapo tactics made me play, we’d shoot 14 hours, it was exciting and all the stuff you hear in the movie was all live. It all came out surprisingly well and one of studios got in touch and now, we’ve made a record deal out of it. It’s a crazy, brilliant tortured fantasy.
Ryan: He’s my puppet and yeah, Warner Bros have put out our record, it dropped yesterday and with a vinyl and I’m so excited, one of my life dreams.
How did you get Brat-pack legend Andrew McCarthy and the awesome Melissa Leo involved?
Michael: Melissa and I had done a movie (THE DRY LAND – 2010) where she played my mother, and she said ‘Whatever you need, I’ll be there!’ She was so sweet and with Andrew, I’d been a big fan forever and his name was bought up, it just ended up working out and he was brilliant in the movie.
Any final thoughts for your directorial feature debut?
Ryan: BROOKLYN BROTHERS BEAT THE BEST needs all the championing it can get to let it have a life, to get this little movie out there and we’re doing everything we can, man! It’s out in the US now and we’re touring with it, but we were out againstin the UK and that surprisingly won on release…but here we are, stashed away in New York, Philly, Portland, Seattle and everywhere and hopefully on the way up.
Michael: And our first tour is over here, the actual Brooklyn Brothers playing in this fantasy insanity world and eventually down to LA. We’re so excited.
UPDATE: We did also catch up with co-star Arielle Kebbel very quickly on Twitter and she had this to say:
“They are hysterical!!! They also love to give me a hard time. I just pretend they are the big bros I never had!”