To find success in their hometown, Brooke and Brittany Graeff had to go halfway around the world.
The twin sisters had played together in high school in Sarasota, nothing too serious, before parting ways after graduation. Brooke went to Canada to work in foley arts and video game sound design; Brittany traveled to Europe and India before settling in Vietnam. "I heard it was a good place to work," she said.
The sisters reconnected in Hanoi, where a loyal fan base of American expats urged them to return to America and give their indie folk pop project a serious shot.
Since then, Good Graeff has hit the ground running in Sarasota, Florida and beyond. Through support from their friends in America and Asia, they've booked slots at huge festivals, toured the country and enlivened the region's music scene with their unique, energetic cello-driven sound.
"It's very different from what a lot of bands experience, because we didn't start playing until there was actually a demand for it, whereas usually you play and hope that demand happens," Brittany said. "We've only been doing this for a while now in the States, and we're already playing festivals like Gasparilla and South by Southwest, and it's really because we did it the other way around."
Born 11 minutes apart, the sisters Graeff (pronounced "grayf") are fraternal twins, not identical; growing up, their musical tastes reflected that difference. Brooke, who sings and plays guitar, was into the Pixies, Blink-182 and CKY; Brittany, who plays cello, loved Andrew Bird and Bright Eyes. Their first gig together, in 2004, was a Battle of the Bands, which they entered "just as a pure joke," Brittany said. "We ended up winning."
In Hanoi, Brooke bought a cheap classical guitar and Brit bought the only cello she could find ("It was a $300 piece of plywood," she laughs). Word of their talent spread quickly among their fellow Americans in the expat community; almost immediately, Good Graeff had a booking agent. For the next few months they played cafes and coffee shops. "It was just something we were doing for fun and extra cash on the side," Brittany said.
Their friends helped the sisters film a video and urged them to return to America; many donated to a $10,000 kickstarter campaign to help get the group running. Returning to Florida a couple of years ago, "we started playing open mics," Brooke said. "We hadn't lived in Sarasota in over six years. We didn't know the venues, we didn't know any bands, we didn't know anybody, really, anymore."
"We played the crap out of Sarasota," Brittany added. "We very strategically overplayed ourselves so that our name would be recognized." From farmer's markets to rock clubs to burlesque shows, the sisters were there. Eventually they added a drummer, old friend Joe Abraham, and a few bassists, currently Tyler Solu.
Since signing with Colorado booking agency Madison House — which also represents national artists like Bassnectar and the String Cheese Incident, as well as locals like Have Gun, Will Travel and Thomas Wynn and the Believers — Good Graeff has toured constantly and are readying the follow-up to their 2013 EP Better Half. They say its ready; they're just waiting for the right time to release it.
"One thing I really love about our sound is it can appeal to pretty much everybody," Brittany said. "It's a very unique sound. It's a sound that's not very offensive; but it's still pretty catchy."
"We really try and just keep it simple," Brooke said. "I don't want to have to analyze a song when I'm listening to it. I want it to just sink in and have it stick there."