Hearing Double

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There must be something about chilling out in the same womb that makes for some pretty silky songwriting. Identical twins Billy and Bobby Alessi, who launched their own music division at New York's JSM last year, have kept audiences humming way past the :30 with their catchy tunes for Dr Pepper, J.C. Penney and Diet Coke. But they're not alone. Another set of twins has established its own shiny spot on the commercials music map, this time on the opposite coast. Roger and Scott Wojahn run their Wojahn Bros. Music boutique out of sunny Santa Monica digs, crafting quirky, infectious melodies to drive home the offbeat images of high-profile clients.

Take those campy, retro-musical spots that gave Amazon.com a push through the Christmas season clutter. The 44-year-old Wojahns composed the cheeky, crackly songs of the online seller's sweatered chorus to fit with FCB's self-consciously old-school creative direction. "Part of the goal of the project, from an artistic standpoint, was that we had to make everything as authentic as possible," explains Roger, the more boisterous of the pair. "The director shot it with old gear," he adds. "It was the way they would have done it in 1959, so we had to do the same with the music. We went to a studio and used old miking techniques and recreated the way it would have been recorded back then. It was right around the time they discovered reverb, so there's reverb on everything. Even the choir!"

The project wasn't a far reach for the siblings, whose formative years in Oregon were filled with the polkas and champagne music that are parodied in the spots. "Between Lawrence Welk, Ted Mack's Amateur Hour, The King Family Christmas Special, Bing Crosby and Mitch Miller, plus all the Buddy Rich big band albums, we were in that era," explains Roger. "It's in our DNA." And so are endless hours of piano practice, rigorously overseen by Wojahn pater. Not that the brothers minded. "We were always chosen last for baseball teams because we sucked," says Scott, the quieter of the two. "Lettering in high school sports wasn't high on our list."

But it all paid off, eventually. After taking very different routes (Scott got a master's in composition; Roger was an account guy at Chiat/Day in the '80s), both finally found their way to commercials in 1990, after being inspired by a music magazine article that featured, of all people, the Alessi brothers, along with other heavy jingle hitters. Soon after, the brothers decided to join musical forces and open their own shop. One of their first major assignments was a surf music track with a Stevie Ray Vaughn twist on the Reebok "Sky Surfer" spot for Chiat/Day. The pair got the gig through Dick Sittig, whom Roger had known during his account exec days. Recently, they captured the formulaic feel of bubblegum pop in cheeky tunes for Sittig's Jack in the Box campaign. The satirical commercials feature faux boy and girl bands, the Meaty Cheesy Boys and the Spicy Crispy Chicks, who serenade their namesake cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches over throbbing dancebeats.

The brothers also have some blue-chip sound design on their reel. Roger and Scott produced the sound in four spots in Y&R's recent animated-logo campaign for AT&T Broadband and composed the rock-driven audio tag that punctuates the entire campaign. But above all, the brothers love doing most what they feel they do best - songwriting and live studio work. And they believe the tide of commercials music has moved in their direction. "We'll ride this little wave and see what happens," muses Scott.

"Everything's coming back around to kind of what we grew up in," Roger adds. "The more it comes around to real music, the better it gets for us."

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