“I was sitting out on my balcony staring down at my naked feet. I guess I'm not so bright, no I don't shine no light.”
Set neither inside nor outdoors the opening line of second album Side By Side from Berlin's BROKOF sums up a band whose music shifts between observation of the world and self-reflection. Should we take part or hold back? Join in or look on? These are the questions of witnesses torn between the temptations of urban living and the need to actually contemplate life and its sensibilities. BROKOF deliver the soundtrack of an anxious generation perpetually stuck between giving up and breaking out. Their intimate, authentic tone makes these 13 songs easy to befriend. Sometimes affable, sometimes rocking, sometimes encouraging, the album’s heart beats to a life- affirming rhythm, while eponymous front man and songwriter Fabian Brokof dwells languidly on those subjects which move him as they do many others. Where is my place in a world ever more hostile? How do I break down walls of disinterest? How can I get people to commit? How can I get closer to a love I can live? Miles away from irony and with a awareness of the obstacles blocking the way, he asks himself tough questions but refuses simple answers. Yet sometimes – for example on first single Cooperate – the time is right to make demands. “Everything is yours if you are prepared to cooperate” is the message, and it sounds like something written from experience.
BROKOF are Fabian Brokof (vocals, guitar), Arne Bergner (guitar, piano), Rocco Weise (bass) and, since December 2012, Puya Shoary (drums). All four contribute background harmonies and exude a real interest in music which helps create a Beatles foundation and genre-bridging sense of purpose. The sound stretches from classic indie rock of the eighties and nineties to Depeche Mode, Americana band Wilco and folk pioneer Woody Guthrie, even soul eccentric André Williams is a useful reference here. The result is a sound orientated toward both Americana, folk and Britpop: timeless and invulnerable; guitar pop which serves its purpose without modern accouterments. The mood is melancholy, the melodies function without the self-conscious gruffness so common in indie rock, and the songs radiate a similar maturity to that heard in the work of Lloyd Cole. Electronic experimentation and effects have no place here, even if running their own Popschutz Studio would offer the band plenty of opportunity. Now residing at its third locations, the studio instead affords BROKOF continual contact with new bands and musical concepts.
Fabian Brokof, Arne Bergner, Rocco Weise and then drummer Christian Kohler decided to form their own band in 2007 in what was an organic and logical step. The songs may come from Fabian Brokof, but all band members contribute with their own skills, be they in the form of detailed harmony singing or a technical mastery: the result is a band that just works. Sorry Gilberto vs. Brokof was the first release on the band’s Goldrausch Records label, a joint EP with fellow band Sorry Gilberto (Berlin). 2010 brought A/B, another EP released as a 10-inch vinyl, followed by debut LP Softly, Softly, Catchee Monkey.
The debut album was greeted by the Berlin Tagesspiegel newspaper as: “Ambitious indie-folk with pop appeal but no over-the-top effects; a heart full of melody, a knack for reduced arrangements and headstrong dynamics.” Online portal news.de wrote: “The record is extremely mature but still has the carefree attitude of a debut”, while Zoolamar.com suggested: “These guys seem to have inhaled the full scope of pop before distilling it in very much their own style”.
ON THE BAND’S DEBUT:
The best is the debut from this Berliner quartet which has you smitten by song one before topping this with the hit “Smile”. And then it goes on and on, getting not worse but better. Acoustic, often mid-tempo, energy: everything works. Can’t all local bands be a little bit like this? Just good, cool without pretension, relaxed, no daft German lyrics, not loudmouths or cry babies, not grant-subsidised-arts-council-pop ... keep it here, keep it good, keep it up as long as possible.
Brokof serve indie-pop with a side order of folk & noise redolent of artists from Wilco to the Velvet Underground. It’s slightly old-fashioned, and that is a good thing. As the four band members have invested so much blood, sweat and tears into their analogue production, Brokof also sound like their roots grow directly from the Americana savannah. In their songs, they take on the big topics with a melancholic lightness of touch: love, death and the search for oneself.
BYTE FM, 2010
ON THE BANDS SOPHOMORE ALBUM:
I find it very uplifting that there are still bands which can timelessly combine folk, Americana and classic singer- songwriting and also come from Berlin. But the fact that the quartet Brokof come from Germany is not evident in their sound, which is at once classic, international, indebted to the right role models (from the Beatles to No Depression) and above all rich in wonderful choral singing and multi-voice harmonies. The opener is a goose-bump-generating folk pop wonder with e-piano and acoustic guitar, and once again this truly captivating harmony singing. Quite such enchanting pieces return only at the end of the nevertheless successful album (the band’s second) - "Oh Love" could also have come from the splendid Turin Brakes. The finale "When All Was Gone" revels in the undying-sunny-psychedelia-vibe which characterised Crosby, Stills and Nash at their best. But the album’s other songs also offer the sounds of mildly melancholic guitars on the veranda in the autumn sunshine. An amazingly mature achievement for a relatively young band.
JOE WHIRLYPOP, Glitterhouse , 2012
These powerful songs with their roots clearly located in folky US rock with a touch of Britpop sometimes remind the listener of Lloyd Cole’s solo work or Wilco in their more traditional moments. “The Walls Of Indifference” trundles along at a fair old pace, but the quartet’s piano ballads are also worth a listen (tip: the romantic “The One”). And the guitar pop of “Two Steps Back” signals the emergence of long-forgone sunshine in an autumn that was only getting colder. Put simply: in Brokof, one of Germany’s most interesting folk-rock bands awaits discovery.
An excellent record for a Berlin band which creates heart-warming songwriter folk with a dose of pop and Americana. Some of the tenderly melancholic songs are redolent of Josh Rouse, others of Lloyd Cole. That’s worth three and a half stars.
ROLLING STONE, 2012
Only in the amusing and slightly philosophical lyrics and their unusually broad spectrum can one hear that this is no ordinary Americana band. Musically, Brokof manage to put their own stamp on indie-folk-pop with a pleasant temperament and gorgeous melodies which never fail to surprise in their contours and never quite end up where the clichés would have them go.
How wonderful: autumn in all its finery is here and Berlin band Brokof have also arrived with their second album. After the fantastic insider tip “Smile” from debut “Softly, Softly, Catchee Monkey” in 2010, here are thirteen fresh new tracks. So: they’re back and they’ve dug up some diamonds. The mix of Wilco-esque pathos and Weakerthans folk is bound on “Side by Side” with indie and well-executed pop to create a jewel ideally suited to a premiere on the balcony with the winter’s first glass of mulled wine. The four Berliners have managed to wrap songs of uncertainty and fragility in a album free from cliché; this has as little to do with kitsch as Berlin’s Hermannplatz at three in the morning. First single “Cooperate” comes packed in good old rock ‘n’ roll styling and whets an appetite for more from Brokof. The band is likeable just for coming from Berlin, the heart of electronic music, and not bothering with a single synth break. Thumbs up for Berlin. It’s about time.
SLEAZE MAG, 2012
We could listen to this kind of indie rock "A Thousand Times"! Our favourite song from Mixed Tape 27 band BROKOF's new album takes its time for an epic build-up that oscillates between calm passages and wonderwalls of sound.
MERCEDES BENZ MIXED TAPE, 2012
According to the Brokof themselves, the 13 songs on "Side By Side" principally focus on feelings and their scope. Lyrically, the Berlin quartet dwells on death, love, loss and doubt. This dark subject matter is wrapped by Brokof in light folk pop which arrives with little fanfare. A drumbeat ambles through the steppe; a lonely guitar rings out – this is a restrained record which derives its fascination from the contrast between thoughtful lyrics and airy melodies.
DIE WELT, Album of the week, 2012
This is the sound of four guys who can play their instruments and have something to say finding each other.
MELODIE & RHYTHMUS, 2012
Authentic, direct and impressive ... thirteen tracks of the finest classic pop song writing.
CONCERTO (Austria), 2012
The Beatles in folk could be a description for what these four Berliners produce.
MÄRKISCHE ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG, 2012