The first thing you need to know about the Brothers Gow, a multi-directional reggae-rock band now based near San Diego but with roots in Flagstaff, is there is nobody named Gow in the group. This needs to be explained because the first thing you might ask is, which guys in the group are brothers?
The answer is none, although there once was a member of the band who had that middle name. He has since gone to lead a professional life out of music.
"The name came from me and Alex [Bastine], who I grew up with since the first grade," says singer and guitarist Kyle Merrill, one of leading songwriters for the group. "The idea came from a Ziggy Marley show I really wanted to get into but I was underage. I borrowed Alex's ID, and his middle name is Gow. We got into the show and we went around saying we were the Gow brothers ... He moved on in 2011, but he's the namesake. We thought about changing the name but decided to keep it, with his blessing."
The other thing to know about Brothers Gow is that the group history is a lesson in perseverance. Merrill says before they were even a band, they were just three friends who had grown up together in Tucson and decided to attend Northern Arizona University to "beat the heat" in 2007. They formed a band in Flagstaff, finding a well-suited incubator in the "bar scene, the mics and the camaraderie" among musicians downtown. Brothers Gow got a big boost of confidence in 2010, when their first "truly professional" album, Pond, was featured at the Orpheum Theater for an album release show.
It was kind of a going away party, as they announced they were going to move to San Francisco to make a name for themselves, but once they got there, the whole idea went splat. The San Francisco club market was too difficult to break into, and so they moved to an ocean side community near San Diego at the end of that breakout-outta-Flagstaff tour.
"We thought San Francisco was going to be the place, but then we played in Ocean Beach, and decided we should move here. We found that whenever we played on the beach, people would show up," Merrill says.
Which makes sense for the kind of music they play. Their songs are jam-length at six minutes or more, with reggae rhythms pushing effect-rich guitars and keyboards, and complex instrumentals reminiscent of progressive rock.
Drummer Nathan Walsh-Haines calls it a "real conglomeration of styles."
"The persona of what we have been has always been flowing artistically," he says. "Stylistically, we have never been a funk band or rock band. We pull from rock, progressive, a little bit of reggae and world rhythms, but we listened to classic rock as much as anything. For myself at drums, it's more like the Police--Stewart Copeland was a big influence on me. We are a rock band for sure, more than any other thing."
The past year has been a period of recovery and rediscovery after Walsh-Haines recovered from a serious back injury and new players were brought into the group. Brothers Gow now includes the lineup of Merrill on guitar and vocals, Ethan Wade on bass and vocals, Alex Mello on keyboards and Walsh-Haines on drums.
Being in Southern California wasn't all beach parties and surfing. Once they had moved there they had to branch out to make a living.
"We went out and focused on other things to make a living--I became a music teacher," Merrill says. "We did what we had to do to stay afloat."
From lineup and location changes and coming back with more passion than ever, Brothers Gow is a lesson in persistence.
Catch Brothers Gow tonight at the Orpheum Theater, 15 W. Aspen Ave., during their Peaks and Valleys Tour with opening performances by Pass the Butter and The Sap Dabblers. Tickets for the all-ages event are $14.50, plus fees. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 9 p.m. More information at www.brothersgow.com