There have been any number of brother bands – the Beach Boys, the Everlys, the Allmans, the Bee Gees, the list goes on. And there have been a handful of popular actors crossing over to front their own bands - Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, to name a few.
Kevin and Michael Bacon may be unique in exemplifying both. They are a long-running brother band with success in their individual careers in film and television. They play Blue Note Napa on Aug. 9 and 10.
The Bacons have been performing together for more than two decades. They have released eight albums of folk, rock and soul music with Kevin on vocals, guitar and percussion and Michael on vocals, guitar and cello. Their most recent album is the eponymous “The Bacon Brothers” from last year.
Kevin’s day job is no secret. He is a popular actor who has appeared in over 80 films and dozens of television series. His honors include nominations for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, winning both for “Taking Chance” in 2010. He was multiply honored for his performances in “Apollo 13” and “Mystic River.”
Though less well known, Michael, who is nine years older than Kevin, is an Emmy-winning composer for film and television, particularly for PBS specials and documentaries. His large catalog of work includes scores for “Bill Moyers’ Journal,” “Nova” and “Smithsonian World.”
On the phone last month, the brothers talked about their exposure to music as children growing up in Philadelphia. “Our parents weren't really talented musicians,” Michael said, “but they both absolutely loved music and they valued, above all else, creativity. So in our six-kid household it was about acting and dancing and singing and playing guitars. And I also played the cello later and the oboe and took art lessons.”
“Our parents didn't care about the report card you came home with, and I came home with some pretty bad ones,” Michael added. “I don't ever remember them sitting me down and saying, ‘Michael, you've got to do better.’ It was like, ‘Well, he's playing the cello and he's playing the oboe and he's in a jug band and he plays the guitar and the banjo,’ and that was pretty much good enough for them.”
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Kevin remembers the influence of his siblings when he was young. “My sister was a Joni Mitchell-style folk singer along with the blonde hair and the whole thing,” he said. “And Michael and she played in bands. They're older than me, so when I was a little kid I would listen to them play in these jug bands.”
The brothers’ differences in musical influences are not surprising in light of their age difference. “I grew up listening to world music and folk music and jazz and classical music and opera,” Michael said. “I stayed in that world until the Beatles and the British Invasion, and that really changed my life. At that point, I wanted to be a rock 'n' roll star, but our mother would not let me have an electric guitar in the house. So when I went to college in the '60s, the first thing I did was form a rock 'n' roll band.”
Kevin described getting his music off of AM radio. “I was deep, deep into Motown and to the Philly sound,” he said. “Philadelphia had two great pop AM stations and one great soul AM station, and eventually album rock was played, everything. And then the FM stuff came around. If you just chart 1966 through when I left home in the mid-'70s, whatever was being played, those were my influences. I listened to all kinds of pop and soul music, pretty much across the spectrum.”
These days, the brothers are compatible musically. Michael summarized what he sees as their main difference. “Kevin is into feel,” he said, “into groove, into edge. I tend to be into things that sound really beautiful with fairly complex chord progressions and melodic ideas. I'm not saying he doesn't do that too, but I think there is a difference."
“I don't think people want to go to a show to see two brothers who are exactly the same as much as they would like to see two brothers who are compatible and musically compatible, but also are very different people, and we definitely are very different.”
At Blue Note the Bacon Brothers will be accompanied by Paul Guzzone on bass and backing vocals; Joe Mennonna on keyboards, saxophone and accordian; Tim Quick on guitar, mandolin and vocals and Frank Vilardi on drums.
Friday, Aug. 9 and Saturday, Aug. 10, 6:30 p.m. (doors open 5 p.m.) and 9:30 p.m. (doors open 9 p.m.). $55-$100. Blue Note Napa, 1030 Main St., Napa. 707-880-2300. BlueNoteNapa.com.