Not all siblings get along as well as Jason and Ben Baker.
The brothers meet up at least once a week, sometimes more often, to collaborate and create.
Both graduates of Norfolk High School, Jason and Ben have been making music together since about 2005.
They officially formed their alternative-folk-blues band Baker Explosion in 2011, and they’re currently working on their second album.
Though both have day jobs — Jason, 38, works at LaRue Coffee and Ben, 29, at the Norfolk Arts Center — music is a centerpiece to their lives and their relationship with each other. It has been that way for most of their lives.
“In high school, (Jason) was in punk bands and stuff, and I was a little kid,” Ben said. “I even wrote some stuff — one my first songs for them when I was like 6.”
Jason’s band incorporated Ben’s lyrics into a song, and before long, Ben was picking up the guitar himself.
“I don’t know how we decided to start playing together. I think we just did. And then we just started playing for our parents, and they’ve always been really supportive and liked to listen to us play. It just became something we can’t stop doing,” Jason said.
Both he and his brother play guitar and provide vocals for Baker Explosion. Jason also plays saxophone, and Ben plays piano and harmonica as well as “dabbles with the banjo and (Jason) dabbles with the mandolin.”
The brothers write their own music, and their first album — titled “Down in the Cornroots” — is all original. They may occasionally pull out a cover song during a live show, but Jason said he and Ben have spent most of their career penning and recording their own tunes.
ORIGINAL MUSIC and a penchant for the artistic recently came in handy when Baker Explosion entered a music contest put on by National Public Radio.
The Tiny Desk Contest is for unsigned musicians to compete for a chance to perform a concert in New York on Bob Boilen’s “All Songs Considered” radio show in front of his tiny desk and also to go on tour with NPR.
“Boilen’s show randomly puts on concerts which involve bigger artists like Adele, Macklemore. And then they also bring on more unknown artists to play it. ... There’s so much cool and new music on that show,” Jason said.
The Tiny Desk Contest requires participants to submit a video performing an original song in front of any sort of a tiny desk. Each video is reviewed by Boilen, and some are featured on his show.
“When the contest came up this year, I told (Ben) I wanted to do it, and we did. I talked to him about it at our practice on a Thursday, so we practiced really hard, and then that Friday we set up the video and recorded it,” Jason said.
They performed a song Ben wrote, “Forever Grateful,” in a one-take video and uploaded it to YouTube. They then sent the link to the NPR Tiny Desk Contest, and they recently received confirmation that their video had been seen and posted to the NPR website.
Ben said his song was written just over a year ago, and it was inspired by the great music and poetry he was listening to at that point in his life.
“I remember attending a poetry reading at Northeast Community College, and one of my past instructors — Neil Harrison — was reading about his friend who had died. It was a post-mortem kind of thank-you-for-the-experiences poem. It was very powerful and very sad. ... I then made it my goal to write a song for all of my family and friends who haven’t passed away, so they get my message of how I feel for them while they are still in this life,” Ben said.
Jason said the experience of being in the Tiny Desk Contest has been an honor, and he is grateful for the chance to be on a national stage.
“People will go in and search Tiny Desk, and we’re going to be in one of those searches. It kind of helps a small Nebraska band maybe find a little bit of a platform on a larger level,” Jason said.
He and Ben are currently working on a new album, with plans to release a song or video in the coming months. The brothers said they will be making and recording music into the foreseeable future.
“Honestly, I just feel compelled to do it. I don’t see my life any other way. The songs kind of come through us, and we’ve got to do it,” Jason said.
“It’s definitely a part of me. I’ve always loved music, and it has always been one of the biggest things in my life. I feel an obligation to do it, to inspire others to live their own creative truths, whatever they find that helps them reflect on life creatively,” Ben said.
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Want to hear Baker Explosion?
Baker Explosion’s music can be found on iTunes and Amazon Music. A physical copy of “Down in the Cornroots” may be ordered by contacting the band at email@example.com or by messaging their Facebook page at facebook.com/bakerexplosion. Their video can be seen by searching for Baker Explosion at tinydeskcontest.npr.org or by searching for the band on YouTube.com.