The first time brothers Cameron and Devin Thistle performed for an audience, they belted out Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Devin, a second-grader, handled vocals, while Cameron, a kindergartner, played the drums.
Since that long-ago debut at their elementary school’s talent show, the siblings — now students at Berklee College of Music — continued to play and perform, though not always together. In 2018, they formed the Thistle Brothers, and have been composing, recording, and performing as a duo ever since. This month, a tour stretching from Boston to Virginia includes a show at Osborn Triangle in Cambridge on Wednesday and a date at the Institute of Contemporary Art on Aug. 12.
The brothers, who hail from northern Virginia, make music inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan, blending folk, R&B, and rock. And each time they release a single, they donate the proceeds to charity.
“We are happy to give up revenue from recording and give all that to causes we believe in, causes that our fans believe in, and create a community around that,” Devin says.
Whenever possible, the charity linked to a single correlates with the song’s lyrics or message. For example, the revenue from the duo’s latest release, “Afford,” goes to the Pine Street Inn, the Boston shelter for the homeless. So far, the Thistle Brothers have raised nearly $4,000 for charities.
Devin, 21, and Cameron, 19, grew up playing music, learning different genres and instruments from their dad, who played in a ‘90s grunge band. Cameron says they were allowed to create their own paths. Both can play multiple instruments, but Devin is primarily a guitarist and Cameron a drummer. Both brothers handle vocals.
While the two write songs separately, they produce with one another, at times staying up until the wee hours figuring out backing vocals and other components that may best serve a tune. They are currently working on an album they plan to release next year.
“The song doesn’t exist without the person at all,” Cameron says. “It’s just an idea, even if it’s a finished song, but it’s just a voice memo on our phones. It doesn’t become what it truly is and what it can be in the future until it gets brought to the other brother.”
The duo played shows around Los Angeles and New York the past couple of weeks, but they are also a part of Berklee’s Summer in the City series, which includes this week’s show in Cambridge.
The Thistle Brothers have been focusing on cultivating a community where they can genuinely connect with their fans. In their apartment, a banner hangs with the duo’s name written out in large, bold letters, surrounded by smaller signatures and notes from people who have played with them or come to see them.
“It’s never gonna be me and Cam are like the stars,” Devin says. “We just want to be a part of a big family of a bunch of people who participate, come up and sing and play with us.”
Go to thethistlebros.com for more details about the band and dates for upcoming shows. Their music is available on all streaming platforms.
Riana Buchman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.