Music comes naturally to brothers Casey and Jesse Cooper. It’s in their blood.
Their mother, while not a musician per se, is a musical person with a gifted singing voice. Their aunt used to sing on cruise ships. And their dad — unbeknownst to them until a couple years ago — played the drums.
“We definitely know where Jesse gets his sense of rhythm,” Casey said.
Jesse plays drums and sings for The Receiver, the band the brothers formed in 2005. Casey plays keyboard and bass, and sings.
The band was formed as the brothers expanded on ideas Casey had composed for his senior thesis at Ohio State University. The band began performing live, and needed a name, Casey said.
The name had to be three syllables and easy to remember, Casey said. They read signs, looked through books and even flipped through dictionaries for inspiration.
Out of the blue, Jesse called Casey from his car; he had just looked down and saw the words “stereo receiver” on his car stereo.
“What about the name ‘Receiver’?” he asked his brother.
They liked it, but after discovering another band already used the moniker, they added a “the,” and The Receiver was born.
“I like the simplicity of ‘The Receiver,’” Casey said. “Calling it ‘Stereo Receiver’ would have been way to obvious.”
The band can be described as “dream pop” with a progressive influence. The boys grew up listening to classic rock and love Pink Floyd and Radiohead.
When crafting their own music, they try not to alienate listeners, and work to craft a good chorus, Casey said.
“What really influenced our sound was trying to write songs with a listenable melody, but also the music kind of takes a few twists and turns the listener might not be expecting,” he said. “It’s not your simplistic dream pop. A lot of dream pop focuses on just a few chords and a melody and a real hazy feel. We kind of have a hazy feel, but it’s not limited to a few chords.”
Prog Magazine called their sound “dream prog,” a description Casey said he “kind of” agrees with.
“I don’t think we’re a proggy band, but some people interpret it that way to a degree,” he said.
“We try to draw from our influences, but also not sound derivative,” Casey continued. “It does become difficult to describe yourself.”
The band usually gives one of two answers when asked to describe its sound: They tell older people they’re like Pink Floyd meets Radiohead; they tell younger people they have a dreamy, electronic sound.
The Receiver is signed to KScope Records, but Casey said the band is on the lower end of the totem pole as far as the record label’s hierarchy goes. In fact, The Receiver is the only U.S. band on the label, making them something of a Guinea Pig, Casey said.
While beginning bands would see being signed to a label as a sign of success, Casey said success is a relative term.
“For bands starting out, we might seem successful, but it has been truly a labor of love and one that has never really been easy for us,” he said.
While the band is making a living through their music, they still hold down day jobs, he said. On their current tour, the band takes breaks to head home, back to their regular jobs.
“I would say we are successful to the degree we’re able to do this right now; we do have fans in different cities and people are listening to us on a small scale, but if you were sitting in the van with us, you probably would have quit already and wanted to go home,” Casey said. “A lot of shows are disappointing. A lot of shows are suprisingly good. It’s up and down. It’s a roller coaster. It’s not for the soft-hearted or easily discouraged. … Our mindset is to play through regardless of the circumstances, to try to earn fans one at a time.”
If it’s not easy, what keeps the brothers going?
“Just the fact that we don’t want to do anything else,” Casey said. “We’re not passionate about anything else. We threw all our eggs in this one basket years ago and when we started to get discouraged, to question our commitment to music, we’re always reminded at the right time there are people out there that enjoy what we do.”
Just a couple nights ago, the brothers met a couple who said they’d been fans of the band since 2008 and played one of their songs during their wedding.
“To us, that was crazy,” Casey said. “It’s exactly what we needed to hear at that moment.”
The band’s current tour is the longest The Receiver has done. Although there have been breaks here and there, the brothers have been on the road since mid-February.
“Right before we released our first album in 2006, we toured for like two-and-a-half months,” Casey said. “It felt like an eternity. It is fun looking back on that tour, because you compare the two tours, this one is much more successful. … There’s still days where it does not seem like it’s going well at all, but when we take a step back, it’s going much better than when we first started out. It’s a very positive sign for us.”
The band has played all sorts of venues on the road. In February, the band played a “teeny, tiny” diner in Charlottesville Virginia. The band was relegated to a corner just small enough for people to walk by.
“There was no room to move,” Casey said. “It was really interesting. The crowd was really small, but we gained a couple new fans.”
Casey was hesitant to name the other most interesting venue the band’s played: A bowling alley.
The band was set up in a bowling lane on the far end, facing all the bowlers.
“We played, like, a two hour show, with people bowling. It was ridiculous.”
The Receiver is playing two shows in the area:
7:30 p.m. June 25 at Laurel B. Johnson Community Center, 923 Hazel Point Road, Coyle, WA.
8 p.m. June 28 at The Charleston Theater, 333 N. Callow Ave., Bremerton, WA. Cost is $5
For more information on The Receiver, go to www.TheReceiverMusic.com