Brother Elsey’s indie folk rock roots run deep within their musical family tree.
The Detroit-based band of brothers credit their family with planting a love of music from one generation to the next.
Together, twins Brady Stablein (vocals, guitar) and Beau Stablein (harmonies, bass), both 21, and their 23-year-old older brother, Jack Stablein (harmonies, guitar), changed their band name from Fifth and Main to Brother Elsey last year to pay homage to their great-grandparents, Elsey and Mary Prater. They also thought the new moniker would resonate more with fans.
“Everyone in that family respected Mary and Elsey on a very deep level, and they really loved who they were,” Brady Stablein said. “Our grandfather, Elsey’s son, he got us into music. He was in a country band for a long time, and growing up around him, he always had us playing guitar, singing old country songs and stuff like that.”
The Stablein brothers’ love of music also grew while spending time with their father. Known for his eclectic music taste, the senior Stablein played everything from America to Enrique Iglesias to 50 Cent to musical theater for his sons.
“There were more genres such as folk or stuff that I don’t think a lot people got into as kids like we did,” Beau Stablein said. “That kinda pointed us in the direction that we’re in now.”
Starting Out in Music
While growing up in Lake Orion and Rochester, the Stablein brothers played guitar and developed an immediate connection with their first acoustic instrument. It served as a strong foundation for playing cover songs by Never Shout Never and the Jonas Brothers and impressing neighborhood girls.
By their early teens, Brady, Beau and Jack Stablein started writing their own songs and did their first recording session at a local studio.
“It was cool to get that experience really early on. There’s a lot of people who have never been in a studio who write songs close to our age,” Brady Stablein said. “It’s a totally different thing to be able to write a song, perform a song and record a song.”
After their first recording session, the Stablein brothers developed a strong local live act and added more band members. They played their first live show at Static Age in Romeo and learned how to build a loyal fan base.
By high school, they were opening for local and national acts at The Pike Room, The Crofoot Ballroom, The Shelter and Saint Andrew’s Hall.
“We opened up for Better Than Ezra at Saint Andrew’s. We got really lucky, and we got to skip our senior year homecoming, which we weren’t even mad about because it was such an awesome thing,” Brady Stablein said. “The funny story is I lost my voice that day. I never lose my voice. I lost it. I couldn’t even talk to people. It was gone. Jack had to sing all the songs.”
After graduating from high school, the Stablein brothers teamed up with Fusion Shows to perform at more local venues and shifted their six-piece band to a family-fronted trio.
Becoming Brother Elsey
As Brother Elsey, The Stablein brothers experience a different dynamic when playing with siblings. It’s easier for them to be open about the music they’re writing, recording and performing together.
“You’re not really afraid to say what’s really on your mind. Because if I’m in a band with some people that I’m friends with or I’m an acquaintance with, then I’m not really going to say exactly how I feel about something,” Brady Stablein said. “I think that’s kinda true for a lot of people. You’re a little bit more honest and blunt when it comes to family.”
Like his twin brother, Beau Stablein said there are no hard feelings when musical disagreements do occur.
“We’ll get in fights on the verge of punching each other out, but as soon as we get in the car on the way home from rehearsal, or we get home, everything is OK because we’re brothers,” he said. “We know subconsciously that it’s going to be OK, and that we’re doing it. I think it’s awesome being brothers.”
That strong brotherly love is apparent in the band’s debut five-song EP, “Matador,” which dropped in February. Matador features Americana folk rock mixed with introspective ballads about relationships, coming of age and life lessons. Brother Elsey’s lush three-part harmonies serve as their musical signature and sonically surround fans in a memorable listening experience.
While recording “Matador,” Brother Elsey sought musical inspiration from Ryan Adams, Mumford and Sons, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, First Aid Kit, Colony House, Kings of Leon, Mandolin Orange, Jason Isbell and Bruce Springsteen.
“(Our dad) always used to say Bruce is like an amazing painter. He paints a picture every time he writes,” Brady Stablein said. “That kinda was a really great foundation for us as being songwriters. We kinda strived not to just talk about how we’re feeling, but to paint a picture in a way and be descriptive.”
Brother Elsey paints those musical pictures sonically through each of the “Matador” tracks:
1.“Drive” – Brother Elsey sought inspiration from Colony House while writing this song two years ago as a full band. The band finished the song’s lyrics, melodies, chorus and guitar tones in one day. “I was forced to write a happy song, and it came out really well. We needed an upbeat song on that EP. It was a little bit happier so we just decided that’s one of the good ones. We might as well throw it on there to see what people think of it,” Brady Stablein said.
2.“Sarah” – This track is a collaborative effort between the Stablein brothers and was recorded at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit. Together, Brother Elsey wrote “Sarah” acoustically and added a drum part by Dalton Thomas, who performs with Adventures with Vultures and Flint Eastwood. “We wanted something a little bit like Tom Petty, like Ryan Adams, like ‘80s in a way. I think (Dalton) nailed it for us, and that was after ‘Wildfire’ came out, and we were like, ‘This one needs to be the second single,’” Brady Stablein said.
3. “Matador”– Brady Stablein wrote the EP’s title track last summer and collaborated with guitarists Ryan Meadows and Noah Martis and producer Jake Rye. “The writing, the melodies, the guitar parts just sound incredible,” Brady Stablein said. “I think that sorta sparked the idea for the EP and made us believe that song was important, not just to play for people, but for us and the band.”
4. “Wildfire”– As the band’s first single, “Wildfire” was originally written as an acoustic piece. Drums and other instrumentation were added to the song later. “We got it done before everything else, and there’s just no question, we needed it to be out first … we know that’s where our sound was really gonna go,” Brady Stablein said.
5. “Notice” – Matador’s closing track has a nostalgic feel and evokes a raw sense of emotion from the band. Penned by Brady Stablein, the song takes the vocalist and guitarist back to a certain moment in the past. “I think that’s why I love it so much, and that for me, I’m just going to put that out there, is my favorite song on the EP that I did, that I wrote,” he said.
After releasing “Matador” earlier this year, Brother Elsey has toured extensively throughout Michigan and the U.S. The band continues to strengthen their following statewide and gain new fans in Chicago and Austin as well as other major markets.
“There are just so many incredible people in this music scene,” Brady Stablein said. “People talk about bands all the time around here. It’s a big part of it. We’re very lucky. It’s an environment for growth and really allows for people to just hone their craft.”