You get the feeling that the lunchtime regulars at The Hand In Hand in Kemp Town have seen it all. But they seem a little bemused to see four musicians armed with large instrument cases take over one corner of their cosy Upper St James’s Street pub.

As Brakes dodge outside again for their photoshoot it is up to the woman behind the bar to explain who the motley-looking foursome are – although she neglects to mention their importance in the Brighton music scene’s hierachy.

Originally signed to cult indie label Rough Trade, Brakes is really a Brighton supergroup. The band is based around songwriter and former British Sea Power sidesman Eamon Hamilton, with Marc Beatty, previously of The Tenderfoot, on bass, and brothers Tom and Alex White, better known as the Mercury Music Prize-nominated Electric Soft Parade, on guitar and drums.

Since first getting together in 2003 the band has played more than 1,000 gigs across the world, as well as recording and releasing two critically-acclaimed albums. The third, Touchdown, their debut for Brighton-based record label Fat Cat Records, is due for release later this year.

Kemp Town, where they are rehearsing for their forthcoming tour, holds particular memories for them.

“We started just round the corner in Marc’s old studio [Mockin’ Bird], just playing and rehearsing every few months,” says Alex. “We were having a laugh – we all did other things which earned our money and did Brakes for fun.”

“Then it became a monster,” says Eamon.

Similarly, The Albert holds a special place in the band’s history, as the place where Alex first met Eamon ten years ago – the night he left an “awful jazz band” called Fat Lounge.

“We’re going back to our roots in a real way,” says Alex.

There was no denying that the hectic schedule Brakes followed on the release of their first two records had an effect on the band – which is partly why they took a break at the end of 2007 before making their latest record.

“If you tour for too long it does become routine,” says Tom. “Any band is at their best when it is off the cuff.”

“I’m amazed more bands don’t hate each other,” adds Alex. “It is a testament that we get on with each other when we spend most of our time sitting in a van all day.”

“We’re still in a splitter van,” points out Eamon. “No tour bus for us.”

Seeing all four of the band’s members at such close quarters reveals their different characters and gives an idea of their general dynamic.

The White brothers do most of the talking, while Marc is happy to sip his black tea and add the odd considered comment.

A livewire on stage – brought into British Sea Power largely for his gooning about – off-stage Eamon is softly-spoken, making a few pithy interjections and quietly nipping out mid-interview to do a pre-arranged phone interview.

He points out why the band isn’t affected by the current economic malaise: “We were crunched before the credit crunch.”

“Right in the middle of the credit crunch we made a new record, signed a new deal and we’re about to tour again,” says Tom. “If you can still get work and scrape by you’re all right.”

“We have done it that way since day one,” adds Alex. “We always wanted to make it work for no money. We never had a technician on stage – we always had one guy who could drive, do sound, change strings and sell T-shirts. We’ve never had the three technicians we had in the Electric Soft Parade days.”

Tom says the Electric Soft Parade once spent £25,000 on a 12-day tour. Alex compares Brakes’s balance sheet.

“That’s a year’s budget for Brakes to make two records and tour,” he says. “If you only spend £5,000 on making a record everyone goes ‘brilliant’, and you only have to sell 2,000 copies to make your money back.”

The first Brakes album, Give Blood, was recorded in little more than a week, with the majority of the tracks laid down on the first day.

This latest record has seen Brakes take a little more time, spending three weeks recording with former Delgado drummer Paul Savage at his Glasgow studio Chem 19.

There was also a bigger lead-up to this album.

“We wanted to wait to get some songs for this one,” says Eamon. “The second album [The Beatific Visions] felt like it was rushed. That time we found ourselves in Nashville with only half an album ready to record.”

Before their planned break, the band convened in a cold barn in Oxfordshire for a week to demo songs for the new album.

While Brakes were on hiatus the Whites toured their third album as the Electric Soft Parade, with Tom also releasing a solo album. Meanwhile Eamon went on a solo tour armed with an acoustic guitar to try out some new songs.

The basic song ideas come from Eamon, with the band filling in their parts around him. “It’s usually pretty quick,” says Marc. “We can tell when we’ve been working on something for 20 minutes whether it is going to work.”

“The parts generally come from how Eamon plays,” adds Alex. “I saw him doing some of the songs on his acoustic shows and it was amazing, it was exactly like watching Brakes but without the band. The rhythm of the drums, the stops and the intention of it was all there in that one performance.”

Making the album they also formed a good alliance with their producer.

“We had a real symbiotic relationship with Paul,” says Alex. “He was always up for driving us home, and in return we would cook him dinner.”

“Having a meal together round the table each day was a good break,” says Tom. “It is the basis for a good family.”

“On top of that I managed to complete Grand Theft Auto Four,” adds Eamon.

The experience was so good the Whites are considering using the studio again for the next Electric Soft Parade record.

“It’s going to be a double album, but with only about 100 copies made,” says Tom. “We’re calling it Blue Music,” adds Alex. “It should be out at the beginning of next year.”

Until then the Electric Soft Parade is on hold for Brakes, with the brothers only planning to play one ESP show this year – for their uncle’s birthday.

“We learned from putting the last Brakes and Electric Soft Parade albums out at the same time,” says Tom.

“We ended up promoting two records, because the releases overlapped. We were doing two shows a night in the US.”

Touchdown will be a surprise for anyone expecting the short ten-second songs and the wild vocal tics which are characteristic of Eamon’s songwriting.

“I think it might be the most cohesive album we’ve done,” says Tom. “It doesn’t jump around – it sounds like the same band throughout whereas our other albums sound more like compilations.”

Alex goes further.

“It’s the first proper Brakes album,” he says. “People would say that the first album is the quintessential Brakes album because it’s the original sound, but to me a lot of the sounds are quite amateurish. It’s quite simple, silly frivolous stuff but played by good musicians, which gives it gravitas.

“With the second album we were trying to top the first one. This time I feel like we’ve morphed into something else. There are no songs on there that are a minute-long or silly. We had a couple but we took them off – they were there because ‘that’s what Brakes do’. We wanted to turn that on its head.

“In fact we decided to make the first track [Two Shocks] four minutes long, to change it up and to show we can do a serious album as much as any band. Not to slag the old stuff off, it’s just a different headspace.”

“I’m excited about the next album,” chips in Marc. “Because we had that break it feels like we are starting again. The first two albums got us to this point and now we have had a chance to step back and realise what we actually want to do.”

  • Starts 8pm, SOLD OUT. Call Rounder Records, in Brighton Square, on 01273 325440 or Resident, in Kensington Gardens, on 01273 606312.