Playing together since December of 2017, Brother Earl and the Cousins performed their first show in upper Ojai during a fundraiser for victims of the Thomas Fire — and have since put out an eight-song EP called Maintenance Required.
“It’s got everything, from pretty straightforward country waltz to more rock and roll that has a heavy bluegrass vocal influence,” said Noah Berberea, lead singer and guitarist of the four-member band.
“We don’t fall into a single category,” he noted. “We’re about bringing authentic sounds to music again.”
The members are as eclectic as the band’s sound.
Berberea, who was raised in Thousand Oaks and lives in Camarillo, is an electrical contractor by day. Ventura resident Richard Ambrose, the band’s other guitar player, is a retired veteran “who’s just a badass all around. He’s just got a great heart,” Berberea said.
Drummer Geoff Kida, an Ojai resident who has a music degree, teaches history at Santa Paula Continuation School; and bass player Greg Prinz, also of Ojai, is a metal fabricator by day.
“We’re a bunch of blue-collar guys that have a good time and we want to portray that as much as possible, especially with the Americana and country genres,” Berberea said. “There’s a lot of people that are really big in it, but haven’t gotten their hands dirty in real life. We want our music to sound like what we are: a bunch of dirty rednecks.”
What’s in a name
Brother Earl goes back to February of 2017 when Berberea started performing songs solo around town.
As far as the name of the band is concerned, “It’s sort of a pseudo name — I wasn’t comfortable putting these songs out with just a normal name,” he explained. “The main reason I don’t use my ‘normal’ name and hide by a pseudonym is because all of this music comes from real experience. They’re lyrical songs; there’s a message in all of them. All of this music was written out of a very vulnerable place for the most part.”
The titles of tracks on Maintenance Required include “Devil and Angel,” “Goodbye Sister,” “Last Dance,” “Love Gets Me Down” and “Oh, Lord.”
“People can always relate to some of this stuff,” Berberea said.
“People always come up and say, ‘I really got that. You were right on,’” he continued. “That’s my biggest goal in all of this — to be able to put into words things that sometimes people can’t on their own. And hopefully through this music, as corny as it sounds, we want to make people feel like they’re not alone with these things. Shit happens in life.”
Riding the wave
Although the band has been “pretty ambiguous at this point,” it’s been quickly gaining momentum through word of mouth. In less than a year, Brother Earl and the Cousins have performed at the OakHeart Country Music Festival and the Ventura County Fair, and staged shows at The Saloon (formerly Saloon BBQ Co.) in downtown Ventura, Ojai’s Deer Lodge and Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, where the band opened for rising country star Drake White. The band has also traveled farther south for various gigs in Southern California.
“It’s just been such an organic thing and the momentum behind the band is going so quick, we’ve just been riding the wave,” Berberea said. “Our website isn’t even built yet … but we’re in a mode of getting ready to start recording our next album. We’re moving forward as quick as this whole thing will allow us.”
Maintenance Required is available on Amazon.com as well as soundcloud.com/brotherearl. Brother Earl and the Cousins will perform at Greater Goods in Ojai on Oct. 5, and at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks on Oct. 12. For other shows and more information, visit the band on Facebook.