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Published: Saturday, 6/12/2004

Aussie band embraces social responsibility

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The beginning of what Hamish Richardson calls his "big adventure" came early in his life growing up in a small Australian town.

He was a young boy when he found out he had diabetes, something that was so strange and unusual that it seemed like another challenge of childhood rather than a potentially deadly illness.

"I just accepted that it was part of the deal," he said.

That attitude has helped define his musical career with indie rock band Brother, which creates a distinctive fusion of celtic, rock, and aboriginal music mixing traditional instruments like guitar, bass, and drums with bagpipes and the didgeridoo.

Brother plays Sunday night at Mickey Finn's tavern.

The three-man band's creative energy melds disparate influences ranging from Radiohead to Linkin Park in a truly distinctive melange of sound. Richardson and his brother and bandmate, Angus, refer to it as "mongrel" music for its combination of gritty street smarts and high production values.

In addition to the music, the 10-year-old Los Angeles-based band has an abiding sense of social responsibility and a commitment to helping people - especially kids - with diabetes.

"We do have a sort of social political consciousness," Richardson said, ticking off the band's principle values: "tolerance, peace on earth, and self-empowerment."

After playing on the streets of Los Angeles a decade ago busking for money, the band began honing its sound, hitting on bagpipes as a way to keep their music organic while making a lot of attention-getting noise. The first sound on their latest disc "Urban Cave," is keening bagpipes, but the overall approach is far from celtic, utilizing electronic noise, heavy effects on some of the vocals, and some old-fashioned turntable scratching.

Richardson also plans to do one of its "didge workshops" later this month, thanks to local fan Patricia Crosby. A librarian at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Crosby has been a fan of the band for several years. She helped arrange a scheduled return by the Richardson brothers June 30 for the Diabetes Youth Program where the musicians will teach kids how to make didgeridoos.

The traditional version of the instrument is made by Aborigines who hollow out eucalyptus branches, create a mouthpiece out of beeswax, and fashion a wind instrument that makes a distinctive buzzing sound. For the workshop, kids will learn how to make their own didges out of PVC pipe.

"Over a two-hour period they've created a unique instrument and an amazing piece of art," Richardson said. "The didge will teach you how to play it. It's really about closing your eyes and getting lost in it."

While he's not shy about promoting diabetes programs, Richardson said he's "a little uncomfortable" being considered a role model.

His point is that the disease doesn't have to define you - it's simply a small part of who you are as an individual

"Just be aware and make it part of your life and grow from it," he said. "There's nothing to get down about. You just have to deal with it."

Brother plays Sunday at Mickey Finn's, 602 Lagrange St. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $15.

Contact Rod Lockwood at:rlockwood@theblade.com

or 419-724-6085.


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