Grandbrothers is a German-Swiss music duo founded in 2011 by pianist Erol Sarp and electronic musician Lukas Vogel, who have gained a steadily growing international audience with three studio albums and subsequent European tours to date.
The starting point of the music is always the concert grand piano, but the heart is in a machine: a frame towers above the instrument, to which electromechanical hammers are attached. When these strike the strings, it sounds like a kind of harpsichord; directed at the wood or individual brass parts, they transform the resonance body into a percussion instrument. In addition, induction coils are used, so-called "bows", which vibrate the strings through a magnetic field and produce string-like sounds. While Sarp sits at the grand piano, Vogel controls the system by means of self-programmed software, records the generated sounds and processes them in real time with effects - the machine hangs between the two musicians like an interface.
The two had the idea for this idiosyncratic apparatus during their studies at the Düsseldorf Institute for Music and Media. Inspired by important representatives of New Music such as John Cage or Alvin Lucier, the minimal music of a Steve Reich, but also contemporary electronic acts, they founded their joint project in 2011. Over the years, they continued to refine their machine, soldering, winding wires, diverting industrially produced components so that the technology would be less susceptible to interference. The sounds that the duo elicit from the instrument in this way go far beyond what John Cage once began with his prepared piano technique.
With their innovative setup, Grandbrothers released their debut album "Dilation" on the Berlin label FILM Recordings in 2015, which was highly praised by the public and the press. In 2017 and 2021, with the LPs "Open" and "All The Unknown" on City Slang, they released "two of the most important electronic pop records of the last decade" (FAZ). It becomes clear early on that what in theory may evoke associations with art-music finger exercises, with abstract sound research, is always in the service of songwriting. Grandbrothers play pop music inspired by minimal music and new music, which over time emancipates itself more and more from the analogue sound of the grand piano, becoming denser and more electronic. To date, they have generated over 100 million streams with it. The fact that their sound not infrequently evokes figurative associations became apparent at the latest when the duo contributed the soundtrack to the film "Hors normes" by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, which premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival in May 2019. The following year, they created the score for "Wanda, mein Wunder" by Swiss director Bettina Oberli.
For all their fricklerty, which is of course a feast for the tech nerd scene, Grandbrothers are not a pure studio band. Their approach can really be experienced above all when they perform open-heart piano surgery live on stage. The audience then gets an idea of how two musicians communicate with each other via their equipment, how they create an enormously multi-layered and differentiated sound with a single instrument: deep sub-basses, hard electronic beats that sound equally like a classical drum machine and a wooden sound box, synthesiser-like pads, the ever-swelling pads with their precisely played repetitive figures - and in between, sometimes prominent, sometimes barely discernible behind the dense soundscape: the piano itself. Just as you know it.
On their extensive European tours, Grandbrothers play both in classical concert halls such as Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Berlin's Philharmonie as well as at festivals such as the Montreaux Jazz Festival or in live clubs such as EartH in London. In August 2022, Grandbrothers played an exclusive concert at the invitation of the World Cultural Heritage Site Cologne Cathedral with pieces composed especially for the special acoustics of the venue. The music composed for this has been released as an album "Late Reflections" in 2023.