Commentary

Bryan brothers still in tune off court

Originally Published: March 26, 2012
By Judd Spicer | Special to ESPN Music

Bob Bryan and Mike BryanAP Photo/Kim Johnson FlodinBob Bryan, left, and Mike Bryan, have played about 70 shows with their band.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Cougars cooed in the background and palm trees swayed gently in the cool desert night. And then the serenity was broken -- by a couple of tennis players.

Mike and Bob Bryan, ranked No. 1 in men's doubles for the past three years, made some noise -- on the stage, rather than the court. The Bryan brothers, who were in town playing in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., performed with their band before an audience of several thousand people on March 8.

"We're trying to play every other week at these tournaments," said Bob Bryan during the sound check. "In the U.S., we have a little better following and it's easier to organize so we can bring our bandmates in from where they are in the country."

The performance -- their 70th in two years by Bob's estimate -- was one in a string of charity shows that have become a staple of their tennis appearances. And it turns out the Bryan Bros. Band isn't half bad. The twins have teamed up with Counting Crows drummer Jim Bogios, who has also played with the Dixie Chicks and Sheryl Crow, and Michael Johns, who was featured on "American Idol."

[+] EnlargeBryan Brothers Band
Courtesy of Judd SpicerThe Bryan Bros. Band features Bob Bryan on keyboard, Mike Bryan on guitar, Michael Johns (in hat) on vocals, and Jim Bogios on drums.

The Bryans have chest-bumped their way to a record 76 men's doubles tennis titles, including 11 Grand Slam wins. Beyond the net, their musical résumé is starting to offer a prolific output. In 2009, the Bryan Bros. Band released their debut album "Let it Rip," featuring Mike on guitar and drums, and Bob on the keys. The next year, they put out the single "Open My Heart."

The Bryans' switch from racquet to rhythms wasn't a whim -- Bob has studied piano for 30 years while Mike played drums for 20 years before focusing on guitar in the past 10. They've played the Viper Room in Hollywood, the Biltmore Hotel in Miami and performed before an audience of 20,000 at the 2010 U.S. Open.

"Our music style is nothing crazy," said Bob. "We're kind of power players in doubles, but I wouldn't call our music 'hard rock.'"

When the Bryans (who had to withdraw from the quarterfinals of the Indian Wells tournament after a stomach virus sickened several players) aren't on the court, you'll find them spending nearly all their "free" time making music.

"We're doing, like, 70 percent of our time with music because it doesn't take anything out of your body," Bob said. "You put too many hours on the court and your body breaks down. At this point in our career we just want to stay healthy. So, music is indoors with no sun and we're not running around."

Though lead singer Johns may be a little green, drummer Bogois comes as advertised while the twins prove that their avocation is more than just a hobby illuminated by celebrity. With their dad, Wayne Bryan, serving as stage factotum, the Bryan Bros. Band plays a two-hour set and readily impresses with covers of "Hard to Handle" and "Mustang Sally."

"It's a similar vibe that we have on the court," Bob says of the stage rapport with his brother. "We read each other very well, understand the dynamics and can cue each other with small looks. We've spent so many hours in the music room, as we have on the court, that we know where each other is going, with a song or a match. It's an unspoken communication."

Judd Spicer is a freelance writer for Sports Media Exchange, a national freelance writing network.