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"We made quite a detailed plan and started to disassemble it to the point where we had no plan at all," says Neil Finn from his Los Angeles hotel room. "And that's when things got a bit dirty."
Neil and brother Tim are now simply the Finn Brothers, as on their debut 1995 album, but once they were the internationally acclaimed New Zealanders—even more so than, um, the Clean and the Bats—behind Split Enz and Crowded House, with a list of '80s and early-'90s radio hits to set any pop-kid mixtape spinning: "Don't Dream It's Over," "Weather With You" and "I Got You" were pristinely recorded sing-alongs that made the Finns shoo-ins on nearly every '80s soft-rock compilation and VH1 special. Most recently, "Don't Dream It's Over" became a radio hit again when a cover version by Sixpence None the Richer was picked up by DJs around the country.
Funny thing was, though, that for the Finn brothers, writing was pretty much a solitary, non-collaborative affair. It wasn't until the classic Crowded House album Woodface that the two sat down and cut their teeth writing songs together. Like the Kinks' Ray and Dave Davies, Neil and Tim—though they have both dabbled in solo careers—work best together. And that they haven't engaged in the same vicious name calling and jealousy that ailed the Davies' doesn't hurt.
"We've only come at [writing together] a few times in our lives, and each time has been quite different," Neil admits. "Usually there're a few songs that drop out of thin air as we're playing together. And there're others where I'll have a chorus and Tim'll have the verse, and they just seem to fit together."
The best songs come from a constructive sense of sibling rivalry, says Neil, and their new album, Everyone Is Here, is a record with all of the hooks and melodies the Finns used to launch a reputation. Songs like "Disembodied Voices" and "Won't Give In" have the same earnest urgency as Crowded House or Split Enz, as well as the same stripped-down accessibility. Aside from a lonely mandolin track and the rare string arrangement, Everyone is devoid of flourish, anchored instead by careful songwriting and flawless guitar choruses. Makes you think of that other set of brothers—the Everlys—and the way their matching harmonies could frame a snapshot of their past.
"It's the best band I've played with since Crowded House," says Neil, then he pauses for a moment. "But I guess I shouldn't say that—somebody in my old band might read this."The Finn Brothers perform with Angela Mccluskey at the Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2700. Fri., 8 P.M. Call for ticket prices. All ages.