Tonkawa Brother/Sister Pop/Rock duo celebrates debut EP at 51st St. Speakeasy
After four years of working together around Ciara Brooke‘s solo pop project, Ciara and her brother Brody Farrow made the jump to becoming a rock band. Called Five Year Gap, the duo released a six-track self-titled debut EP on March 4th, and the small-town kids are coming to Oklahoma City’s 51st St. Speakeasy tonight for a big-town release show.
The following interview was conducted for a feature in the Oklahoma Gazette, which you can read here.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Who is Five Year Gap?
Five Year Gap: We are Brody and Ciara, a brother/sister alt rock duo from Tonkawa, OK.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Why is Five Year Gap?
Five Year Gap: We are musicians, siblings, and best friends, so we make music together. We have a heart for kids and adults alike who ever feel like they don’t belong or a have a place in this world. We want to make music for them, music that helps them feel less alone and gives them hope.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: How and when did Five Year Gap start?
Five Year Gap: While living together through the pandemic we became really close and started writing and making music together more than we ever had before. We discovered a new sound and vision that we were both really excited about and decided to just go for it!
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Where does the band name come from?
Five Year Gap: We originally were going to be called “Hey Brother’ but there were some bands on Spotify with that name already, and we really wanted ours to be as unique and original as possible. We also wanted it to mean something. Picking out a band name was probably the most stressful part of starting up! We decided on Five Year Gap because we are, in fact, 5 years apart in age (5 1/2 to be exact, but that doesn’t sound as cool).
Make Oklahoma Weirder: How long have you been siblings?
Five Year Gap: Brody is 21 so 21 years!
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Is Ciara Brooke as a solo project continuing alongside this? If so – how will this affect the Ciara Brooke trajectory?
Ciara Brooke: Ciara Brooke is on hold for now. I’m really thankful for the past 4 years of making music under that artist name, and I think those years were necessary in finding my voice and my sound. The last song I released as a solo artist was “I’m Not Alright” and Brody and I wrote it together. It was the launching point for our band and the start of this new sound we’ve developed together. I’m not saying I’ll never release solo work ever again, and honestly, it wouldn’t be solo anyway. I want Brody to be a part of the music I make regardless of the name we are using. Making music with him is so much more fulfilling and rewarding than doing it on my own. But I do write some stuff that doesn’t fit Five Year Gap that I’m not discarding by any means, just putting it on hold until we know what to do with it.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What projects has Brody been a part of over the years?
Brody Farrow: I’ve been working with Ciara on her solo career since Diva Diaries. Early on my main focus was just recording drums and accompanying her at shows. As things progressed, specifically the time between the songs “Steadfast” and “I’m Not Alright”, I became more involved with the production of the songs as a whole.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Who plays what roles (instruments, production, songwriting, media, etc) in Five Year Gap, both in the studio and on stage?
Ciara: I sing and play the keys and acoustic guitar. I do most of the songwriting in terms of lyrics and melody, though many times Brody will come to be with some musical element and I’ll write to that. I also handle the social media and management. We both have a pretty equal hand in the production.
Brody: I play drums live and in the studio, as well as handle the guitar parts in the studio. When playing live I also handle our tracks in Ableton Live. The production behind our songs is pretty evenly split, we both navigate the direction the songs will go while in the studio. Michael Trepagnier at Cardinal Song also contributed to the production of this EP quite a bit. It wouldn’t be the same record without him.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: How would you describe the band’s sound?
Ciara: I hate this question. Brody can answer it!
Brody: I also hate this question, as there are so many genres and sub-genres now that it’s hard to pin down exactly where we fit. Musically, we draw a lot of inspiration from bands like The Killers, Relient K, and Switchfoot. Lyrically, we both love Twenty One Pilots and aim for our lyrics to connect with our audience in the same way Twenty One Pilots connects with theirs. So being influenced by those bands, we’ve taken parts from each of them and created our own sound.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What is the band’s creative process?
Ciara: Stressful (LOL). We are both really insecure and suffer from imposter syndrome pretty much every time we sit down to write or create. I think the only song we’ve written so far that just happened naturally with a lot of confidence was “Chalk Houses”. We wrote that song in one setting and were stoked about it right from the start! Currently, we are both practicing on not stressing about it and attempting to just have fun when we sit down to write or play. There is this fear I have as a songwriter that the last song I wrote is as good as it’s going to get and I’ll never write anything as good ever again. I can speak for both of us when I say that we are incredibly proud and happy with this EP and everything we’ve released as a band so far. However, that is scary to me because I start to think, “What if we never do anything good again?!” Half of the songs on this EP started with Brody coming to be with an acoustic guitar lick and then I would write to it. We had a specific theme for this EP, though, so I’d go over lyrical ideas with him until we found one we both liked. The other half I would have a lyric or song idea and he’d help me bring it to life.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: How would you describe the dynamic between your two personalities, both as a band & as siblings?
Ciara: We are the same person. You’d think we were twins. I’d say we share 90% of the same personality traits, strengths, and flaws. That could be a disaster from a compatibility standpoint, however, we are both really good at observing how the other person is feeling and then complimenting that. Like if I’m really struggling creatively or have a lot of stress and anxiety about something, Brody just instinctively is there for me and builds me up instead of joining in on the melancholy, and vice a versa.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Have you taken any inspiration or given much thought to other sibling bands in music?
Ciara: Absolutely. I love Aly & Aj. I was a Disney nut growing up so I remember watching Cowbells and Phil of the Future and being a fan then. But a few years ago they released new music for the first time in 10 years and I LOVED IT. I love their sound. I love their chemistry. We’ve also played with another sibling duo before in Santa Barbara, CA, Let Flo Go, and we think they are great. Family bands are cool because there is an obvious chemistry there. Oh, and we can’t forget the Jonas Brothers. We actually saw them together in Tulsa a few years ago and it was such an inspiring concert and experience for the both of us!
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What have you both learned about music and/or the music industry, and how does it inform Five Year Gap?
Ciara: The music industry is wack and you can’t let it get to you. I tried to be something I wasn’t for a long time with Ciara Brooke because I thought that’s what I had to do to “make it” and be successful. The most important thing is that you enjoy what you’re doing because that shines through in the music and in the shows. If we never make a dollar with Five Year Gap I still think we are successful because we are having a lot of fun and making music that we are proud of and actually enjoy, and we keep our faith in Christ at the center of it all. We are also reaching people in a positive way with our music and you can’t put a price on that.
Brody: Through the production of this EP, I’ve come to learn just how much work goes into making music. There were many times in the studio when I thought, “well we can’t add anything else to this”, and then Ciara or our engineer Michael would have an idea, and it would add so much to the song that I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I try to take those experiences with me when working on new material, and make sure to constantly experiment with different ideas.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What does Five Year Gap allow you to do that you’ve never done before?
Ciara: People like bands. We think that simply changing from a solo artist to an actually band has given us some legitimacy. Five Year Gap also feels so much more authentic and relatable than Ciara Brooke was. We’ve noticed that we are booking more shows and events with bigger turnouts and positive responses from those events. People can tell when you are being yourself and they respond to that accordingly.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What are your thoughts on nostalgia?
Ciara: I have nostalgia for a lot of things but I’m not necessarily sentimental. I don’t hang on to stuff from the past out of emotional attachment. I do however get the warm and fuzzies when I think about certain memories from childhood, like watching Smallville with my dad or having Nerf gun fights with Brody. I will still to this day watch Smallville anytime, anyplace, not because I think it’s a good show but because I just love it and it holds a lot of memories for me.
Brody: I have a lot of great memories from my childhood, and many of them shared with Ciara. The thing about nostalgia, at least for me, is that it is a bitter-sweet feeling. My time spent riding bikes around town with my friends is kinda over for me, but at least I have the memories of it. I think we managed to encapsulate that feeling really well in our song “Chalk Houses”. I hope the song makes those listening to it think back fondly on their childhood friends they have outgrown.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: How does having grown up outside of a major city reflect in your music?
Five Year Gap: Quite a bit. Tonkawa is a town of barely 3,000 people. Growing up, we had a lot of freedom to just be kids. Lots of summers riding bikes every day around town from sun up to sun down. Knowing everyone in your high school (not just your grade, but literally the entire school). When we set out to write this EP we wanted it to showcase some nostalgia for our childhood and what growing up was like for us. Living in Tonkawa for the majority of our lives (we spent a year in CA and a year in Alaska at certain points) has definitely impacted who we are as people and as artists.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Why the tie-dye?
Ciara: It was important to us that we have a look. We both like color and wanted to shy away from the all-black look that a lot of bands have. We also want to look cohesive on stage so that we are easily recognizable as a band. We both had some tie-dye pieces in our closets already so it was just an easy way to get started without completely changing our wardrobe. I also had recently found a woman on Instagram, @rosiemoonapparel, who makes custom ice-dyed clothing out of her home in Long Beach, CA. I fell in love with her pieces almost immediately, and her stuff was a great way for us to get matching pieces! We wear her stuff in our “We Could Leave Tonight” and “Chalk Houses” music videos.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: There seem to be themes of insecurity within the new EP in addition to the themes of belonging. Where does that come from, and how do the two balance?
Ciara: I don’t know why we are both so insecure, but we are. For me, I’ve always been an entertainer and performer and with that comes a lot of perfectionism and people-pleasing. I also felt like an outcast growing up because I wasn’t into sports or “normal” teen things like so many of my classmates and friends were. I was into dance and music and a bit anti-social, reading a book during lunch while my friends chatted around me. I think our similarities in personality and insecurities is one of the reasons why we are so close. We get each other, and that’s comforting to know we aren’t alone.
Brody: I’m not sure where my insecurities come from. They’ve just always been there. I struggle a lot with comparing myself to other musicians, and at its worst I feel like I’m lying when I say “I’m a drummer,” or “I play guitar.” I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my music, so I get discouraged when I am unable to play the parts I have in my head. Thankfully, I know Ciara feels the same way, so it’s comforting to have someone who understands me and can help get me through those rough patches.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What’s the story behind the production choices on “Concrete Sneakers”?
Ciara: “Concrete Sneakers” was actually Brody’s brain child. He came to me with the phrase “Concrete Sneakers” and the line “simply standing still in time.” I’ll let him talk about how the song came to him, but production-wise we just wanted it to be weird and stand out from the other tracks on the EP. We wanted to experiment with stuff in the studio (we recorded the whole EP with Michael Trepagnier at Cardinal Song).Vocally, when I sent Michael the demo I accidentally exported my scratch vocal wrong so it had this weird phase thing going on. He liked how it sounded though, so he had me sing the vocal through a Leslie amp which gave it a pretty sick sound that I never would have thought of using.
Brody: “Concrete Sneakers” started with the guitar part that plays in the first half of the song. I really was just playing around and trying to find something that sounded cool. I looped the part for a bit to just listen and think on it. At the time, I remember feeling really stuck, like my life was at a standstill. That’s where the concrete sneakers imagery came from, and I wrote a few lines based around that idea. I was very nervous when I showed that early draft to Ciara since songwriting isn’t really my specialty. But she was encouraging, and we took the best parts of that draft and turned it into something I am incredibly proud of.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Why didn’t “We Could Leave Tonight” make the EP?
Five Year Gap: We thought about it, but felt like it didn’t totally fit the record. It was more like an introduction to the band. We couldn’t find a place for it on the record that made sense or felt right. We both love the song and will play it at all our shows, but for us, it was more of a stand-alone single.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What are your thoughts on being Oklahoma musicians?
Ciara: I used to think that I couldn’t be successful as an artist in OK because I wasn’t country. So wrong. The OK music scene, especially in OKC, is actually pretty diverse. And now that we are Five Year Gap, I feel like we are breaking out into the scene more and more. Rock, pop-rock, and alt-rock are appealing to a good number of people so there is definitely an audience for those genres in our state.
Brody: Oklahoma has a lot of musical history, and not all of it being country. The All American Rejects, for example, are from Stillwater of all places. I used to think I would have to leave Oklahoma to be successful in the music industry, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Oklahomas my home, and people here have already been so receptive to the singles we’ve released as a band, so I can’t wait to share the full EP with everyone.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What can people expect from your album release show?
Five Year Gap: We will be playing our EP in it’s entirety along with “We Could Leave Tonight” and “I’m Not Alright” (the last release from Ciara Brooke). We are also really excited to do some covers by our favorite bands! The show is going to be a great introduction to who we are as siblings and as a band. We want the audience to leave feeling like they really got to know us.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Do you play live as a 2-piece, or do you have additional players who join you?
Five Year Gap: We play as a duo 99% of the time. We’ve had other musicians join us on stage in the past and it’s always really fun and adds a lot, but it’s also more difficult. The more people you add, the more difficult it is. We used to think we were less-legit by not having a full band, but then we realized our favorite band, Twenty One Pilots, performs with just the two of them most of the time and it works! So we are focusing on building our show and improving our stage presence with just the two of us.
Make Oklahoma Weirder: Why 51st St. Speakeasy?
51st Street has been on our list of venues to play at for a while. When we started reaching out to venues for shows this year 51st responded quickly and seemed excited to have us. We won’t lie, booking shows has been really tough for us. A lot of places want you to have tons of experience and be able to draw a substantial crowd, but when you are just starting out that is simply not realistic! And even though we have 4 years of experience under the artist name Ciara Brooke, in many ways it is like we are starting from scratch. We are thankful to 51st Street for hosting us this month and are excited to play alongside One Two Ten and Shed Club. From what we know of 51st Street, it’s a place for music lovers to come and enjoy music from several different local bands crossing many styles, and we are thrilled and honored to be able to be a part of that!
Make Oklahoma Weirder: What are your hopes and dreams for the band?
Ciara: We have big dreams. We want to open for Twenty One Pilots and then headline our own arena shows someday. However, I used to feel like if we didn’t reach that level of success that we were failures. That’s not true at all. I’d be so incredibly happy if we could simply make a comfortable living doing what we love and being able to do it together. I get to make music and perform with my best friend. We desire the big stuff, sure, but if I can keep doing this with Brody for 30 plus years at a local or regional level, making music and inspiring others, I consider that a wonderful dream and a great success. I very strongly believe that if we steward the gifts God has given us and dedicate all we do to Him, then we are successful.
Brody: Obviously, I want to make the band as big as we can. But more seriously, I just want to be able to continue down this path with Ciara, making music and playing it for whoever will listen. I think the songs we’re making are powerful, and my hope is that they will reach the people who need to hear them.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.