Back in their busking days, the Pierce Brothers would swap spots on Melbourne’s subway platform with now-rising star/ one-woman-act Tash Sultana.
As the alt-folk duo—made up of twin brothers Jack and Pat Pierce—gained acclaim in their native Australia, they offered Sultana opening slots at their popular gigs.
And then, in 2016, a video Sultana posted of her mesmerizing peddle-looping technique went viral, attracting one million views in five days. (“Jungle (live bedroom recording)” currently has well over 18 million views.)
“I remember the week it happened,” says Jack. “She called us up and said, ‘My Facebook has gone up to 70,000 likes in a day.’ She said, ‘It’s finally happening for us.’ I said, ‘Honey, it’s happening to you.”
Over the phone from Australia, both brothers laugh at that.
But Sultana returned the favour and invited them to support her act recently as she toured North America for the first time.
“The crowds were amazing,” Pat recalls. “Our merch (sales) were awesome; heaps of CDs and heaps of vinyl. It helped so much just with touring. That’s what gave us indication of where to go next.”
Now, although they’re in the process of finalizing a new album, the brothers are heading back on the road for their first headlining tour of North America. While they know Montreal and Toronto were hotspots for them from the Sultana tour, they’re also taking a chance on new places—with Whistler set to be amongst the most intimate locations.
“Last time, we were all on a bus,” says Pat. “This time, we’re in a van driving from spot to spot. Whistler always made sense to us for the Australian (population). It’s also quite close to Vancouver, but it’s still far enough to be its own little market—and it’s a pretty amazing drive.”
Adds Jack: “I’m most excited about getting up to Whistler. (It’s) up in the mountains and if we get an hour to hike I’ll be the happiest person.”
However, they add, winning over new crowds—particularly after gaining a certain level of popularity at home—is a daunting task.
“It is a strange moment we’re in,” says Jack. “Pat and I have always very much been a live act, but we can engage with people in North America on Facebook and Instagram. It’s really a strange thing when people in Seattle or Oregon can say, ‘We’re coming to your show!’”
Judging by videos of the pair’s live show, they’re well poised to win over new audiences from their performances. While their sound might be Australia’s answer to Mumford & Sons—fast-paced, upbeat and steeped in earnest folk—they create a full band just as a duo, jumping from instrument to instrument, some of them unconventional.
“Between the two of us I don’t know how many instruments we play—harmonica, acoustic guitar, stomp box, kick drum,” Jack says. “That’s really the reason we have a career in the first place and were able to go to Europe so many times. We’ve (played at) live festivals and followed up those markets with live shows and built a following as we’ve gone. That’s how we’ve built our career.”
Multi-instrumental spectacle aside, the pair also has another inherently unique angle: the fact that they’re twin brothers. That comes with advantages and challenges, Jack says, particularly in the recording studio.
“We almost kill each other on a daily basis,” he says with a laugh. “We get pretty rough in there. I think, sometimes, working with your sibling, it can be so easy to take (frustrations) out on (them). It’s just like we’re seven years old.”
But that’s something they’ve learned to manage, he adds. “At the same time, it’s the best thing ever because we’re best friends. It’s good to have someone you’re close with.”
The Pierce Brothers play the GLC on Saturday, June 16 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the first 100 and $20 after that.
Get them at the venue or online at www.myshowpass.com/piercebrothers.