When the Gregory Bros. take the stage at the El Rey theater April 12 to the sound of shout-outs for “Double Rainbow Song” and “Bed Intruder Song,” their fans won’t be requesting hit recordings per se, but hit YouTube videos.
As a Williamsburg/Brooklyn four-piece, the Gregory Bros. are doing just fine, with an EP to their credit and a following around the Lower East Side. But as the creators of “Auto-Tune the News” on the DigiTour, a national showcase of YouTube breakout artists, they’re superstars.
Like most viral sensations, the Gregory Bros. (Virginia-born siblings Andrew, Evan and Michael plus Evan’s wife, Sarah, a Texas native) were just playing around when Michael, a computer whiz and recording engineer, decided to splice the 2008 presidential debate into a musicvideo. It became a hit on YouTube, and with the next debate he upped the ante, using Auto-Tune software to transform the words of VP candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden into song.
As Andrew recalls, “It was a stroke of luck because Biden and Palin turned out to be awesome unintentional singers.”
The phrase “unintentional singer” and words like “songify” are Gregory Bros.-speak for the unique musical-technical-pop cultural hybrid form they’ve created. “Not only are we musicians and video editors,” Evan adds, “but we also think of ourselves as an A&R department: we’re evaluating the talent that’s out there.”
With 13 episodes of Auto-Tune the News now on YouTube, they’ve auto-tuned everyone from Katie Couric to Arianna Huffington, Al Sharpton to Hamid Karzai, and often sing along with them, offering musical commentary as well as slapstick interludes from recurring characters like the “Angry Gorilla.”
These spirited three-minute clips caught the eye of media figures like Rachel Maddow (who had also been auto-tuned), but it was the “Bed Intruder Song” that brought the Gregory Bros. national attention. An R&B dance jam created from a news clip in which Alabama resident Antoine Dodson tells of his sister’s violation and warns his neighbors to “hide your kids, hide your wife” (backed by a choir and strings), “Bed Intruder Song” was the most viewed video on YouTube last year, with the exception of major label videos.
In a savvy move, producers of the recent Oscarcast brought in the Gregory Bros. to “Auto-Tune the Oscars,” and their hilarious take on the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” franchises — moments from each film interpreted as ‘tween-friendly ballads — was one of the best-received segments of the show.
Since then the “Brothers” have been working on a sitcom pilot for Comedy Central that Sarah promises will expand on their sensibility. “It’ll be sort of like our little wacky playground where we can dabble in the forms that you’ve already seen,” she says, “and also go beyond that into more traditional or off the wall forms of music.”
“Each episode will look different,” she continues, but all of it will be “based around the real life of a low-level band.”