Three far-flung brothers, one obsession
If not for music, Wyndham Lewis wouldn’t have much of a relationship with his siblings. Maybe none at all. He and his two half-brothers — one from another mother, one from another father — are a couple decades apart in age and scattered geographically.
But over the past several years, the three have found a way to stay in touch, engaging in what they call “the world’s longest three-person text chain,” a conversation devoted to their shared obsession: music. They continually trade links and swap recommendations — “The new Cloud Nothings tune is really polished, really good!” — and along the way they’ve grown closer than they ever were before.
Now, Wyndham and his siblings have launched a weekly podcast, “Brother Brother Brother,” on which the self-described music nerds talk — sometimes argue — about their favorite songs, albums, and artists. The show, recorded in Boston, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn, is entertaining because these unconventional kin are voracious, discerning listeners with tastes that span generations. New episodes are posted every Thursday on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.
Wyndham, the podcast’s creator and host, is a 48-year-old TV writer — his credits include “Nurse Jackie” — who splits his time between an apartment in Boston’s South End and LA. The oldest of the three, he cultivated his half-brothers’ interest in music at a young age, subjecting them to the stuff he treasured, everything from ’70s nuggets like Paul Davis’s “I Go Crazy” to the Scottish band Big Country. Equipped with this “music geek starter-kit,” they took it from there.
The branches of their family tree go in all directions, which accounts for their difference in age. Try to pay attention: Wyndham and half-brother Jeremy Sartori, who lives in Hingham, have the same mother but a different father, while Wyndham’s younger half-brother, Christian Lewis, who lives in Brooklyn, is a child from his father’s fourth marriage. In other words, Jeremy, who’s 40, and Christian, 28, are not actually related and didn’t even meet until a decade ago. (Of course, they met for the first time at a music festival.)
“On the podcast, Jeremy and Christian are sort of still getting to know each other,” says Wyndham.
The brothers’ common bond is an interest in music that borders on fanatical, but their tastes, and the way they began listening to music, vary. Wyndham was raised on records and the radio, which was still relevant in the late ’70s and early ’80s; Jeremy was weaned on MTV; and Christian discovers new acts online. They discussed this progression on an episode of “Brother Brother Brother,” wondering if algorithms might someday determine what people listen to.
“You don’t have the nerd oasis of the record store anymore to find new music,” says Wyndham.
There is no shortage of music podcasts — KEXP’s “Song of the Day,” NPR’s “All Songs Considered,” “Song Exploder,” and WBEZ Chicago’s “Sound Opinions,” are a few popular ones — but Jeremy finds many of them to be “too critic-oriented.” He says “Brother Brother Brother” — the title is a nod to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” — is intended to be informative, but also accessible.
“We definitely have opinions, but we’re not critics,” says Jeremy, a sales and marketing consultant for organic food companies.
“We’re just three guys that have a unique family story and three different perspectives,” says Christian, who works for a political-risk consulting group.
Because the siblings are rarely, if ever, in the same place, the podcast requires some assembly. The brothers have a weekly, three-way conversation on their cellphones, and each of them records his side of the conversation on GarageBand, the Apple music-creation app. MP3 files of the recordings are then e-mailed to an engineer friend in San Francisco, who edits and puts them together.
The episodes typically have a theme — Best Albums of 2016, WTF is New Wave?, Songs of Winter, etc. — and the brothers do some preparation beforehand. But they mostly just have an unscripted, hour-long conversation that includes plenty of personal stories and anecdotes. On a recent episode, Jeremy recalled Wyndham’s habit of calling Ithaca College’s WICB-FM to request a song — the family lived in upstate New York at the time — and making Jeremy, who was then in elementary school, sit and listen to it.
Likewise, Christian credits his half-brother for exposing him early on to music that wasn’t age-appropriate but nonetheless proved to be important to him.
“When I was 13 or 14, Wyndham sent me an audio care package that included ‘Hearts of Oak’ by Ted Leo, ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine, and ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ by Interpol,” says Christian. “The Interpol record got me through high school. It was to me what Joy Division was to Wyndham. I could talk about it for hours.”
He can do that now on the podcast. But Wyndham also has learned from his younger siblings. They’ve clued him to hip-hop acts like A$AP Rocky and Vince Staples, indie bands Dilly Dally and Sheer Mag, and singer/songwriters like Lydia Loveless and Moses Sumney. The brothers don’t always agree; some stuff is too noisy, some too milquetoast.
“I don’t like R.E.M.,” says Christian. “I know they were formative for Jeremy, but I don’t get them.”
For now, the podcast has a modest audience, but they’re hoping, through social media and maybe an occasional concert to showcase new bands, that “Brother Brother Brother” will catch on. And if it doesn’t, no big deal. They’ll keep talking about music.