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A cast of local musicians and supporters helps The Nghiems defy their own low expectations



The Nghiems with Shitty/Awesome
10 p.m. Thursday
The Deli
309 White, Norman

Brothers David and James Nghiem are preparing for practice in their quiet, suburban rehearsal space as they have for four years, but things couldn't be much more different.

The pair began with little more than a love of music and the will to improve. Now they have a solidified lineup of musicians to play with, a slate of shows throughout the fall and a fully finished album of touching folk-rock ballads. It's more than they ever expected; The Nghiems pride themselves on low expectations.

"We've always loved music, and to do this as brothers is great," David said. "To start from zero and slowly build this thing up and become a part of the community together has been pretty awesome."

They started playing together four years ago with their other brother, Andy. He was too busy to keep rehearsing, but David and James stayed and start writing. David was just learning to play the piano; James was similarly untested on the drums. Both said that while sibling rivalry has never been an issue, getting over the initial hump was.

"No Oasis moments, no creative clashes," James said. "But when we first started, it was kind of frustrating because I was really rough and David was really rough. It wasn't even fighting; it was just like us asking each other, 'Who's the rougher one right now?'"

They quickly progressed to recording a short cassette demo that was passed, resulting in the band's as-of-yet-unreleased debut album, "The Pine Tree, The Mushroom, & The End of the World," with folk-pop constructions in the vein of Bright Eyes with an earthy, Modest Mouse feel.

Unable to perform those songs without more players, The Nghiems employing a rotating cast of musicians to play shows around the state, not all of which saw huge crowds.

"There have been some shows where ... there just wasn't anybody there," James said, laughing. "We got the experience, though."

Added David, "You just hope there are less and less of them as you go along."

The early positive buzz from "The Pine Tree," which should be released later this fall or early next year, has afforded the duo a cemented cast of supporting musicians looking to push the album across the state and beyond. But even if the album doesn't breakthrough or show attendance doesn't move onto a second set of fingers, the brothers Nghiem will be perfectly content to keep plugging away on the music they love performing together.

"You get to a point where you might ask why you keep doing it ... then you realize you still like to do it, so why not keep doing it?" James said. "What else would you be doing? Staying at home? Might as well go out, play music and meet some new and interesting people." "Joshua Boydston

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