Brother Earth

Brother EarthBrother Earth brings together the formidable talents of multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias (Circus Devils) and vocalist Steve Five (The Library is on Fire). Their shadowy, kaleidoscopic music vacillates between brooding textural pieces and exuberant rock-and-roll at the drop of a hat, chasing the ghosts of pop music past into a hall of cracked mirrors.
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Positive Haywires

September 2014

On Brother Earth’s debut album for Hidden Shoal the band’s shadowy, kaleidoscopic music vacillates between brooding textural pieces and exuberant rock-and-roll at the drop of a hat, chasing the ghosts of pop music past into a hall of cracked mirrors. Positive Haywires’ wonderfully elastic aesthetics shift from dark and broken to sunny and playful in a matter of songs, while maintaining their own warped and beautiful logic.



‘City of Gold’ (Single)

August 2014 (Free Download)

If their first single ‘Out Like A Lion’ saw Brother Earth creeping around in the darkness weaving mesmerising magic, ‘City Of Gold’ sees them breaking into the light as fist-pumping power chords carry the song into the same realm of lo-fi rock classicism as prime GBV. This is epic dream-rock, packed into a running time of just over a minute.



‘Out Like A Lion’ (Single)

July 2014  (Free Download)

Negotiating the smoky ambience of ‘Out Like A Lion’ feels like squinting into the dark and tiptoeing down a staircase covered in moss. The darkness is pressing in all around you, but the insistence of the percussion and nylon-string guitar tugs you onward, mesmerised by the incantatory vocal. ‘Out Like A Lion’ is taken from the forthcoming Brother Earth album Positive Haywires (16th Sept 2014), which vacillates between brooding textural pieces and exuberant rock’n’roll at the drop of a hat, chasing the ghosts of pop music past into a hall of cracked mirrors.


Brother Earth is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist/producer Todd Tobias and vocalist Steve Five. Todd’s darkly exotic instrumental music has featured on three Hidden Shoal releases to date (Medicine Show, Night Above Ground and I Razor). Todd is also a member of Circus Devils alongside brother Tim Tobias and vocalist Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices). Steve Five is the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter for the Brooklyn-based band The Library is on Fire.

Todd and Steve first met in 2007 when TLIOF recorded an album with Todd as producer.  During the recording Steve and Todd struck up a friendship, leading to the pair creating backyard music videos for Circus Devils. In the videos Steve played a number of characters, and went on to play the main character in the experimental feature film I Razor, the soundtrack of which was released on Hidden Shoal. In 2008 Steve and Todd decided to begin recording their own songs as Brother Earth. Positive Haywires is a collection of Brother Earth songs recorded between 2008 and 2013.



  • Brother Earth “Positive Haywires” Reviewed at Leonard’s Lair

    “Brother Earth are a collaboration between former Guided By Voices, Circus Devils and Kramies multi-instrumentalist/producer Todd Tobias and The Library Is On Fire vocalist Steve Five. GBV were renowned for racing through songs in double-quick time and Brother Earth perform similar magic here.

    The songs within ‘Positive Haywires’ were recorded between 2008 and 2013 and as such the album is all over the place stylistically and apparently sequenced accordingly. ‘Sunny Side Of The Street’ and ‘Cortez The Cuddler’ proffer psychedelic rock and roll in a similar vein to White Album-era Beatles. There’s also ambient pop (‘Lady Of The Lake’), space rock (‘Hidden Valleys (Of Tomorrow)’,’City Of Gold’) and thrilling dEUS-like curiosities to behold (‘Girl With the Crystal Tears’, ‘Claustrophobic Headspace’).

    Yet for all the invention, the slower songs perhaps merit the most attention. The first single, the creepy, menacing ‘Out Like A Lion’ makes the spine tingle with its simple brooding melody and Five’s sinister turn. For the similarly eerie likes of ‘When I Have Fears That Cease To Be’, ‘Candles On The Beach’ and ‘Both Meeting Somewhere We’ve Never Been Before’, the twosome’s slow burning tension clearly benefits from the longer song format too.

    ‘Positive Haywires’ keeps the listener on tenterhooks with its almost disorientating shifts in genre. Yet beneath all the weirdness and experimentation, Tobias and Five find common ground to find music which successfully mines psychedelic gold from both the past and the present.”

    Leonard’s Lair

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  • Brother Earth ‘Out Like a Lion’ In The Underground of Happiness Best of 2014

    “Brilliantly coiled and deceptively low key psych folk beast by Todd Tobias and Steve Five from their album Positive Haywires. I particularly love the way this song feels like it’s about to fall apart around the midpoint. It holds its shit together but the suspense created by that freakout hangs in the air long after its last moments.”

    The Underground of Happiness

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  • Brother Earth “Positive Haywires” Reviewed at Luna Kafe

    “Like I said under September’s full moon, after hearing Brother Earth’s formidable “Out Like A Lion”: ‘It is a little song, scary as hell’. Mark my words.

    Brother Earth is the collaboration of singer Steve Five (of a band called The Library is on Fire) and multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias (of Circus Devils). Their label, Hidden Shoal call their musical project to sound like: ‘Their shadowy, kaleidoscopic music vacillates between brooding textural pieces and exuberant rock-and-roll at the drop of a hat, chasing the ghosts of pop music past into a hall of cracked mirrors.’ Yes, right! Ghosts, that is all true. Brother Earth play ghost-ridden pop, or freaked out drone pop, with hints of psychedelic folk. Dare to be suprised, to be spoked, and thrilled.

    Hidden Shoal also say ‘In one moment they sound like Blur, and in the next they sound like…’ Yes, this stroke me as well! I recalled something close to Blur (you might add The Kinks as well, plus, yes… why not, a dusty version of The Small Faces) at some point (check out “Cortez the Cuddler”), but this trace slipped almost the second I heard it. Unfortunately, not all of the songs is as good as “Out Like a Lion”. Not even half as good, or neat as this tangled and twisted little tune. Positive Haywires holds 16 songs (all written by Five and Tobias, respectively lyrics and music), and there for sure as some cool songs among them. Almost as cool as “…Lion”, that is. “Sunny Side of the Street” is super-duper. It is a 1960s styled/kind of pop/rock song. “Lady of the Lake”is likewise cool, but totgally different than the popper “Sunny Side…”, as this one is on the more noir side of Brother Earth’s specter.

    The dark and spooky “When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be” is another track that sticks on my mind. As is the sparkling “Both Meeting Somewhere We’ve Never Been Before”. This latter song is even better than the former, and is probably one of the best songs on the album. I’d like to mention tw oother tracks worth mentioning, namely the psychedelic folk-rocker “Claustrophobic Headspace” and the slow moving “Planet Wednesday”.

    Several of the 16 songs doesn’t fit my taste, but quite a handful (well, all the mentioned titles) fit my taste, please my ears. Just for the fun I’d like to end this review with a quote, well rather mis-quote the Gaudiya Vaishnava (well, Hare Krishna) hindu guru Radhanath Swami. By replacing one ‘M’ with a ‘Br’, we get: ‘When we recognise the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Brother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection; love is born.’ Peace, love, understanding, Brothers Steve and Todd!”

    Luna Kafe

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  • Brother Earth “Positive Haywires” Reviewed at Slug Magazine

    “Todd Tobias and Steve Five, who collaborated on Robert Pollard’s Circus Devils side project (Tobias with music and Five creating videos of the surreal songscapes, including the indie full-length feature film I Razor) use many of the same kind of ideas here: detuned guitars, spooky/creepy/ethereal vocals, instrumental textures and unconventional song structures, often mere fragments, like dreams that disappear before you can fully grasp their significance. Brother Earth is a decidedly more singularly psychedelic outfit than Circus Devils, which seemed to shift shape from one album to the next. Hypnotic reverie “Out Like a Lion” might’ve come from some ’60s hippie cult, but “Sunny Side of the Street” recalls early Bowie. A daft sense of humor is evidenced in the song “Cortez the Cuddler,” like an outtake from Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets. But then “When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be” reminds us that it’s not all fun and games at this three-ring mindbender— at times these songs welcome us to the circus of the inner psyche. –Stakerized!”

    Slug Magazine

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  • Brother Earth “Sunny Side of the Street” Reviewed at The Modern Folk Music of America

    “i have covered ‘positive haywires’, the debut from brother earth, here before. brother earth is an exciting collaboration between two indie rock luminaries, todd tobias of bob pollard/gbv/circus devils fame, and steve five of the library is on fire. i’m happy to feature this whimsical/edgy jim henson-inspired video for what was actually my favorite tune off of ‘positive haywires’, the short, sweet, power-poppy snippet that demands to be played again, ‘sunny side of the street’.”

    The Modern Folk Music of America

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  • Brother Earth “Positive Haywires” Reviewed at Music Won’t Save You

    [Poorly translated from the Italian by Google. Read the original here.]

    “Brother Earth is an idea that comes from far away: the encounter between Todd Tobias (Circus Devils) and Steve Five (The Library Is On Fire) dates back to 2008 Since then, the project Brother Earth was grown on an irregular basis to margin of their artistic activities, through impromptu recordings, for the first time collected in “Positive Haywires.”.

    It is a work inevitably fragmented, which consists of sixteen short sketches ranging from harsh divertissement post-punk to the prevailing rates of indolence lo-fi subtly alienating. Both refer to the experiences of Robert Pollard, according to aesthetic now recessive, which are, however, household sketches out of time.”

    Music Won’t Save You

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  • Brother Earth ‘Out Like a Lion’ Reviewed at Luna Kafe

    “American duo Brother Earth is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist (and producer) Todd Tobias (of Circus Devils, Robert Pollard, Guided by Voices) and vocalist Steve Five (from The Library is on Fire, who recorded with Todd Tobias some years ago. Five and Tobias began collaborating on music videos for Tobias’ band Circus Devils). “Out Like A Lion” is taken from their upcoming album, Positive Haywires (due out 16th September, on Hidden Shoal). Oh, yeah, this is cool stuff!

    Tagged as ‘smoky ambience’ by Hidden Shoal Tobias and Five swirl out a little mystic and exciting piece to tickle our curiosity before the album arrives. “Out Like A Lion” is a little song, scary as hell. I – the listener – feel like being a little lamb, eyeballing the big lion circling me while I’m standing in the middle of the green grass field. I’m terrified, yet I can’t wait to see what happens next. Strange feeling. Yes. It’s intense, spine-chilling, creepy, but, yet I simply have to know what’s up next… Cool, right? Cool song.”

    Luna Kafe

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  • Brother Earth “Positive Haywires” Reviewed at Velvet Independent

    “A precise, singular term to describe Positive Haywires would be the title itself. 

    You could call it an album or a collection of songs, but both would be suitable titles for this 16 track, spaced out, drug pit. Positive Haywires’ focuses on being ludicrous and twisted from the word go. It’s uncomfortable and somewhat frightening, with corrupted rhythms, dismantled from possibly piano tones or guitar tones on opener Plum Creek, setting the tone for this creepily addictive LP.

    The weirdness crosses and grows on following track Out Like a Lion, as Steve Five’s loose whispers digress into the darker depths of Haywires.  With half of Positive Haywires struggling to find the two minute mark, these short musings transpire into chaotic, terrifying, alternate realities constantly; felt only on a bad acid trip.

    Psychedelia is the primal grounding for most of Haywires; constructed to either amplify the traditional, upbeat, sun drenched melodies, or be manipulated into become terrifying nightmares with lo-fi infections. On tracks, Cortez the Cuddler, Girl With the Crystal Tears and Claustrophobic Headspace, the terrifying nightmares are a plenty, with Cortez escaping the grasp of psychedelia’s warmth and uniting with the twisted riffs of heavy rock, while Crystal Tears features drone vocal backings and shifty, 90’s horror game ambience, for an odd sense of nostalgia that’s ready to take you back forever.

    Claustrophobic Headspace falls somewhere between the above two, starting with an almost slacker rock sound, then progressing to a steady rhythm, before dreary, guitar riffs darken the atmosphere with black smog and isolated breaks of near silence.

    On the other side of this creepy LP, lies an escape to the leaking of light that fills your mind with hope and joy. No Purchase Necessary still plays on the weirdness of Haywires, but does so charmingly, with whimsical lyrics on the multiple outputs of modern day earnings, “/make your phone explode with business, you can make money from your own home, we will give you cash for your gold”. It’s only 51 seconds, but it’s 51 seconds of giggles with psychs telling the truth on modern day living.

    The familiarity of traditional psych doesn’t just start and end with No Purchase Necessary, it actually begins with Sunny Side of the Street, which is as recognisably psychedelic, as a Pink Floyd. Boasting jiving rhythms and positive lyrics about basically staying positive, Sunny Side brightens up the gloom found spaced out on Haywires.

    Finding the positive traditions of psych on the rest of Positive Haywires is somewhat challenging when you focus intently. Blissful opportunities of clarity quickly become sombre, with either jagged piano keys melting together with lifeless psych-waves, or unforgiving guitar riffs. It’s an intriguing ‘attack’ on psych’s normality, and begins to question whether or not psychedelia has become conformed to a set formation, becoming a cognitive piece of the modern musical industry.  Or maybe I’m reading in between the lines.”

    Velvet Independent

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  • Brother Earth “Positive Haywires” Reviewed at Tomatrax

    “Brother Earth is the collaboration of The Library is On Fire front man Steve Five and Circus Devils’ Todd Tobias. Brother Earth began recording in 2008 and this their debut album featured a collection of their tracks over the past 5 years.

    The album works as a spacey dream sequence with a collection of musical pieces that go off in different directions from each other yet seem to flow from one to the other in a way that works. The 16 tracks on offer range between 50 seconds and 4 minutes with half the tracks being less than 2 minutes. The result is an amazing journey with a banquet of sounds twisting, turning, and contrasting against each other. This ensures the album is interesting the whole way through with new ideas popping up.

    The lead single from the album, Out like a lion, is a main highlight to the album. The minimalist lo fi folk sounds paired with a sombre whimsical vocal creates a beautiful experience! The follow up single City of gold, is a short and sweet spacey experience in the vein of Porcupine Tree. Going for just over a minute the song packs depth and atmosphere transporting you out somewhere far away! Girl with the crystal tears is another standout to the album. Mixing an experimental industrial soundtrack with a Beck-esq indie narrative the track works as an offbeat indie tune that it quite unconventional but really cool!

    In addition there is some experimental prog rock tunes with the DIY sounding opener Plum Creek, and the spacey Hidden valleys of tomorrow. There are also some rocking tunes such as the off beat indie pop tune Sunny side of the street, and the gritty and raw Cortez the cuddler.

    This is a very brave release with a large range of ideas crammed into one album, however it is pulled off with dynamic flair. On top of the wierd and wonderful twists and turns is a beautiful journey with vivid soundscapes and a breathtaking spacey atmosphere!”


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  • Brother Earth ‘Out Like a Lion’ Reviewed at Backseat Mafia

    “Brother Earth is Brooklyn based duo Steve Five and Todd Tobias. They met when Steve recorded at Todd’s studio in Kent, Ohio with his band The Library Is On Fire. The friendship led firstly to collaborating on videos for Todd’s band Circus Devils (with Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices) before they began recording together under their Brother Earth moniker.

    Taken from our forthcoming album Positive Haywires, which drops on 16th Sept 2014) through Hidden Shoal, comes ‘Out Like A Lion’. It’s this slightly eerie, claustrophobic indie pop song that opens with these clicks and ethereal shimmering backing, sugared with the backing vocals and a melody line that leads you through. As it continues, so it gets less sure of itself, almost reticent scared almost as around every corner there seems to be a (musical) surprise with these increasingly urgent splashes of discordant noise.

    It’s surprising and experimental, and quite beautiful.”

    Backseat Mafia

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Artist Photos


Music Videos


Brother Earth’s music is  available for licensing (master & sync cleared) through Hidden Shoal. Please contact us with some basic details about your project and the track(s) you wish to use and we’ll be sure to get back to you straight away.