Canadian Bands You Should Know: The Brothers Dubé have an inspiring story to tell

Jul 17, 2014

Brothers Dubé. Image courtesy of the band,
Canada has had its share of musical family acts; Family Brown, Leahy,The Rankin Family, sisters Tegan and Sarah, and even our own version of the Osmonds, The DeFranco Family, who hit #3 on the U.S. Billboard Singles charts in 1972 with “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat.” In Ottawa, the Brothers Dubé are forging a sound that they hope will lead the next wave, kick-starting another generation of family acts.

They’ve been called “Canada’s Youngest Rock Band,” shared the stage with The Beach Boys, and performed at some of North America’s largest musical festivals, including Bluesfest, Osheaga, and the Montreal Pop Festival. Their music has also been featured on the award-winning Canadian television show, “Degrassi.” In a relatively short time, the Brothers Dubé have opened many eyes and ears to their vibrant sound and the heartfelt message they bring to every show.

Music can be uplifting and a healing force. It can raise your emotions and in the case of Liam (18),  Jan (15), and Quinn Dubé (13), it was the unifying power of music that brought them together. In 2006, when the boys were ten, eight and six respectively, they began their musical journey when their mother developed cancer. In a single-minded effort to lift her spirits, they began covering her favourite songs and sharing them on YouTube. In 2008, she would succumb to her illness, but the boys pushed forward with their music and began busking on the streets of Ottawa, inspiring people with not only their honest story, but their talent.

Brothers Dubé “Our Story So Far”

Since those humble beginnings, the brothers have grown to produce and perform full-scale rock shows, drawing crowds in the thousands to their “mega-busking” street performances. In 2011, they released their debut album, One, which helped build a groundswell in the regional music scene, as well as a strong, fervent fan base. Featuring executive production work from noted Canadian producer/songwriter Randall Prescott (Juno Award and Big Country Winner), One displayed a raw talent, and songs such as “Reflection,” and “Lost And Found,” showed the first hints of musical promise.

August 2013 saw the release of their debut EP, Summer Mixtape. The music, while still a small sample, provides a further view into a band that is developing its sound and nurturing its vision. The addictive pop of “I Kinda Like It,” the rap-centric “Back In the Class,” and the power chords of “You And Me,” each drive home Liam’s guitars, while showcasing Jan’s compelling vocals and bass runs. Through it all, Quinn, supplies rollicking, rock-steady drumming. On record, the boys are a tight unit. It is clear that in a short span of time, their abilities as songwriters and musicians have evolved from “One” to “Summer Mixtape.”

Brothers Dubé – “I Kinda Like It” (2013)

Music came to the brothers fairly naturally. “It was in our blood,” says Quinn Dube. “Over the years we’ve taken lessons to improve our techniques, but we never really took any formal music training.” Liam furthers this point, “It takes a long time for a band to get really good and develop a unique sound. We hope that from our first album to the second, we’re showing improvement. We’ve been doing this for almost five years, but we’re still working on getting better.”

Jan Dube spoke about how becoming musicians was not something that they ever set out to do. “Music has always been part of our lives, but it wasn’t so much a choice what we made. It was more a passion that we just followed. Even when everything was happening fast, it still all felt so natural.” He continues, “We grew up with a love for other music until we felt we were capable of discovering our own music.”

In a live setting, the first thing you notice about the Brothers Dube is that they exude a professionalism well beyond what you’d expect from musicians of their age, not to mention a youthful, buoyant charisma. They’ve watched, learned and have been influenced by many. Jan points out that their father, Rob Dubé, was their first musical influence. “We’d be riding in the car, and we would hear Nirvana, Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd cranked up, thanks to our dad. It definitely stuck in our heads.” It’s payback time now for the boys. “Now WE are the ones introducing him to new music,” says Jan. Rob Dubé continues to play an important role in the band. “He devotes a lot of his time to be our manager. Now we don’t need to worry about having the red skittles in the bowl in our dressing room!”

As one might expect, young boys playing in a band live a lifestyle somewhat different from other children their age. “We wake up around 7:00 and we’re at school by 8:00,” says Jan, “We get back home from school at 2:45, have a band practice for 1 1/2hrs, and then spend time doing things associated to band work, such as working on speeches. After that, it’s back to ‘regular’ stuff like homework. So not much time for TV or video games.”

You would also think that things would be pretty interesting in school for teenage boys living the lives of ‘rock stars.’ Jan says, “Thankfully our classmates see us as just regular kids. Like anyone else, we all have friends we hang out with. It’s nice for us because it gives us the chance to be normal once in a while!”

Another thing to be expected in a band of brothers, are differences in opinion. “We have our arguments about things like arrangements and set list,” says Liam, “but we try to see past all of that and focus on the music, because at the end of the day, that’s what’s important.” Quinn adds, “We’re brothers so it’s natural to have our arguments. But being in a band with my brothers is better than any fun I could imagine.”

Through their career, the Brothers continue to be committed philanthropists and social activists. They have raised over $150,000 for causes close to their hearts, most notably orphans in Haiti. The brothers feel a close connection with Haitian orphans as they are also children who have lost a parent. While visiting Haiti in 2012, they captured this connection in the documentary titled “A Day in the Life,” to raise awareness about what orphans are faced with on a daily basis. Today their goal is to encourage kids to change the world through their creativity and passion. In turn, the Brothers developed “ARTivist’s can Shine,” a multimedia workshop they deliver to schools to inspire young people to become activists, or “Art-ivists.”

Artivism: The Brothers Dubé at TEDxStMaryCSSchool

The Brothers have received numerous accolades and awards for their community and charitable service. In 2011 they were awarded the “United Way Community Builder of the Year Award,” the “Heart of Gold Award,” a commendation from the Prime Minister of Canada, and a nomination for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Governor General’s Award.

In 2014 and beyond, the Brothers want to continue to grow as songwriters and musicians, working on new recordings. “We’re starting to do more work on our next album,” says Jan. They are also shifting their musical focus from classic rock to alternative rock. Using influences that range from Canadian musician Reignwolf and Ian Thornley (Big Wreck), to Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and Patrick Watson, the boys continue to work on their sound. “We met an amazing songwriter from Berlin, Christian Neander, and he’s helping us develop a cool, raunchy sound,” says Jan. The boys are also working with Richard Causon, from London. “He has a lot of Blues influences, which we’re trying to learn from and incorporate into the new album,” The plan is to do some recording in Berlin and London followed by some touring and new music in 2015. The boys see the road ahead as a never-ending learning process, keeping an open mind to what the future may have in store.

As they continue to evolve on the world stage, and with their natural artistic talent and charisma, the Brothers Dubé are primed to be a solid force in the music industry and an inspiration for young people everywhere. “Music can never be ‘wrong’,” says Liam, “you need to be willing to accept new ideas and even if it’s just making noise in a garage, you need to have fun.”

Music and making a difference are what the brothers are all about. As Quinn says, “We want to bring change to the world with music. It’s what we love doing and what we’re focused on doing.” As Canadian family acts go, the Brothers Dubé look to be the next to make a mark nationally and internationally.

–Marvin Matthews 

About the Author

Brandon Wallis

Brandon is the Director of Marketing, Communications and Visitor Experience and for the National Music Centre and Editor-in-Chief of Amplify.

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