The first time St. Louis audiences got a good look at Josh Eaker, he was playing bass with the winsome pop group Palace, a band that deployed boy/girl harmonies and emotionally loaded songs with hooky know-how. So after that band’s dissolution, Eaker’s subsequent emergence as a frontman with a nomme du rock (Brother Lee) and a garage rock-leaning backing band (the Leather Jackals) was more than a modest shift in expectations. It was a full-on rock & roll reinvention.
But like all good rock & roll origin stories, the mundane outstrips the myth. The band was born out of Eaker’s boredom with the bass — “It’s hard to play bass and write songs,” Eaker says. His friendship with drummer Danny Blaies provided a rhythmic ballast against which to try out new material and a new approach.
That modest start set the course for Brother Lee & the Leather Jackals. The band would expand to a five-piece for its earliest shows and recordings, complete with two guitars and a piano, though lineup shifts would lead to a core trio (with Sean Kimble on bass) for the recording of Boredom Leads to the Bottle, the band’s second EP. Much of the group’s quick-and-dirty style is traceable to garage rock (or some permutation of it), but across the six songs the band is able to flip among a few workable styles — country-punk, Cali stoner pop, Tex-Mex psych — while keeping focus on Eaker’s pinched, passionate vocals.