Blood is thicker than water, and for Bobby and Billy Alessi, harmonies are thicker still.
“We would write a song, we would even perform a song when we were 6 years old,” Billy Alessi said. “We’d sing a song, we’d do two-part harmony, and I don’t know how we figured that out so quickly.”
More than six decades later, Bobby and Billy Alessi, identical twins out of West Hempstead High School still record their harmonies together with perfect pitch.
While modern technology made it possible to remotely record much of their new Alessi Brothers album, “Eden Roc,” during the COVID-19 pandemic, they still needed to meet at the studio in Billy’s Cold Spring Harbor home.
“When we did backgrounds, we create those harmonies together, we’ve got to get next to each other,” Billy Alessi said.
“Eden Roc” marks the 13th album for the Alessis, who ranks among Long Island most prolific songwriters. The twins’ careers include chart hits, decades of crafting extremely popular jingles in the advertising industry, collaborations with A-list stars and even a performance at a royal wedding.
The twin brothers from West Hempstead High School are one of Long Island’s most prolific songwriting teams.
An album with love and loss…
The Alessi Brother’s signature harmonies grace “Eden Roc” tracks — including the uplifting “Suite” and the restless and uncertain “So Many Maybes.” The duo coped with pandemic strain through “Survive,” the first track they penned for the album, as well as “There’s A Chance” and “We Will Survive.”
A fallen bird that Billy Alessi and his wife stumbled upon inspired one of the album’s most moving tracks, “Little Wings.” His wife brought the injured bird home, placed it in a makeshift shoe box nest, and then left to get it some food.
“I’m there looking at how much emotion she has for this little animal, and she comes back and the bird was laying on it’s side, it died,” Billy Alessi said “It touched me so much. It broke my heart, then I went down and wrote ‘Little Wings.'”
“It’s a metaphor for life,” Bobby Alessi added of the track, “and how precious it is and how quickly it can be taken away.”
…and a secret Beatles cameo
Love songs are a constant throughout the band’s catalogue and “Eden Roc” is no exception. The brothers covered “I’m In Love,” a John Lennon/Paul McCartney original The Beatles themselves never recorded for official release.
The brothers’ rendition opens with studio banter from a 1963 recording session in which pop singer Billy J. Kramer laid down “I’m In Love” with Beatles producer George Martin and John Lennon present.
Kramer recorded “I’m In Love” and other Lennon/McCartney originals since before The Beatles landed at Kennedy Airport in 1964. He and the Alessi Brothers collaborated in the past, and he passed along his 1963 “I’m In Love” recording to Billy Alessi.
The brothers imbedded audio from that demo in their album. Before their rendition on “I’m In Love” kicks in on “Eden Roc,” listeners can hear Martin tell Kramer “I give you full permission to come to The Beatles’ session on Thursday and shout at John [Lennon] whenever you like.”
This is far from the brothers’ first foray into the Fab Four. They covered the “Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Band” album cut “She’s Leaving Home” with their locally-famed band Barnaby Bye and recorded a ukulele rendition of “Two Of Us.”
They even provided background vocals on the John Lennon and Yoko Ono album “Milk and Honey” and remixed Paul McCartney’s “No More Lonely Nights.”
Their personal Beatlemania stemmed from watching The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 with their mother. The pair decided to grow out their hair like their new heroes and eventually purchased a guitar.
“Our mother started out as an Elvis fan, then The Beatles came on and she was jumping up and down,” Billy Alessi said. “She loved music and we were so happy to make her happy. I think we were destined to make music because our mother loved music so much.”
‘Seabird, fly home’
If not for their own tampering with the master tape of their first album, “Alessi,” the Alessi Brothers catalogue might be missing its crown jewel, 1976’s “Seabird.”
Bones Howe gave the brothers the “Alessi” master tape to bring to the listening session at the A&M Records the next day. Howe kept “Seabird” off the album, but Bobby and Billy pasted their demo of the track to the end of the master.
Bobby Alessi said the studio had one note after hearing the album: “Seabird” belonged on the first side of the album, not withheld until its end.
The Internet has been abuzz with “Seabird” in recent years, which fueled the Alessi Brother’s resurgence.
The track played over the credits of Taika Waititi’s 2016 film “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and Harry Styles praised the tune, including it on his Apple Music “at home” playlist. It has over 20 million plays on Spotify.
“Seabird” is one of German photographer Kimberly Hammerstroem’s favorite songs. When she and Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, related to Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, married at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England in 2018, the Alessi Brothers were flown out to perform their hit live at the rehearsal dinner as a special surprise gift to the bride.
“Seabird kind of changed our lives,” Bobby Alessi said. “Thank you Bones Howe for letting us take that master home that night.”
Hungry to hit the stage
The brothers decided their reinvigorated popularity did not have to start and end with the hits, so they independently released three albums over the past five years.
They planned to tour in support of 2020’s “Netherland” before the pandemic put the kibosh on live entertainment.
The duo are ready to tour the globe and reconnect with fans.
“The greatest gratification you can get is when you get up and you’re singing a song, and you’re seeing somebody in the audience singing the words,” Billy Alessi said.
“That’s a pretty amazing thing to think that somehow, [we’re these] these two kids from Rockaway [and] there’s people all around the world that love our music,” Bobby Alessi added. “That’s really flattering.”
The brothers also hope to hit their favorite Long Island stage, My Father’s Place in Roslyn, where they have performed since their Barnaby Bye days. In recent years, the group reunited for sold-out shows at Michael “Eppy” Epstein’s famed venue.
“It was a lot like when Billy and I were eight years old singing on the steps at a family holiday party,” Bobby Alessi said. “It’s like your family is out there. It was a beautiful thing.”
Top photo: from alessibros.com