~ THE CYPHER BROTHERS ~
The Cypher Brothers is an Australian band formed by twins Chris and Florian Cypher, and Stewie Young, in Sydney in 1981. The band drew on the music of blues-based vocal groups, and 1960s rock to create their unique pop tunes, and were considered the pioneers of the Bondi Beach Sound. Florian Cypher acted as primary bandleader, songwriter, and arranger for the group’s most commercially and critically successful work.

At 14 years of age, twin brothers Chris and Florian Cypher formed a doo-wop group in order to enter a 1981 Youth Talent Competition in Sydney. Known as The Red Barons, the group comprised of Florian providing falsetto, Chris singing bass, and 13-year-old neighbour Stuart Young singing the ‘shang-a-lang-a-lang’ lyric.

The Red Barons practised in the garage of the Cypher’s home, where their father provided an upright piano and a two-track Ampex reel-to-reel tape recorder. During primitive rehearsal and demo recording sessions, Florian asserted himself as chief writer and producer, and began experimenting with multi-part vocal arrangements.

The three would alternate between playing the upright drum kit, guitar and bass. Singing their parts from different distances to the microphone gave them their distinct hormonic sound.

The Red Barons began to perform regularly on weekends in local casinos and night clubs. In their earliest public appearances, the boys wore their sea scout uniforms before switching to their trademark spotted shirts and matching board shorts. 

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In 1983, The Red Barons performed to popular acclaim and took first prize at the at the Bondi Beach Battle of the Bands Competition, covering the classic hits ‘Get a Job’, ‘My Sharona’, and ‘Runaround Sue’. 

Shortly after this success, The Red Barons recorded a demo which Florian took to Mid City Audio to have transferred to an acetate disc. Joe Brodeur, the president of Surf Time Sounds, heard the disc and was so impressed he offered to release it through his label. Chris and Florian’s father along with Stewie Young’s mother signed contracts authorising Brodeur to manage their sons under the name ‘The Cypher Brothers’.

Brouder rented the group guitars, drums, amplifiers and microphones to record their debut album, Breakwater Point, over three days at Metro Studios. Co-produced by Brodeur and Florian, the album was released on 2 September 1983, to very little fanfare. 

The mixture of straight-ahead pop with some dramatic surf-rock flourishes showcased the band’s intricate and powerful vocal talent. The handful of critics who reviewed the album, praised the high level of sophistication for a group of boys so young.

On the strength of the release and regular live performances, the band quickly established a strong fan base in Sydney, and finally broke into the mainstream with the track ‘The Girl from Golden Coast’. It had taken ten months for the single to earn some radio time, first on WPL, and then nationwide. In August 1984, nearly one year after the album had been released, Breakwater Point hit No. 22 in the Australian charts.

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The future of the band was thrown into further doubt a few months later, when Joe Brodeur suddenly passed away from a heart attack, and Surf Time Sounds folded. The band and the Cypher’s father flew to Melbourne to perform an exclusive showcase gig in front of a handful of record executives. Paedamonte Records signed them to a four album recording deal on 5 February 1985. Two days later Chris and Florian turned 18.

Paradise Shore was released on 3 May 1985, and boasted two instant Australian and Asian Top 10 hits. The synthesiser-based ‘Amazon Beach’ and the power ballad ‘Mermaid Bay’ both went platinum by the years end. 

International momentum was gained on 13 July when The Cypher Brothers performed a set at the Oz for Africa concert. As part of the Global Live Aid program ‘The Girl from Golden Coast’ and their cover of ‘Short Shorts’ were broadcast both in Australia and on MTV in America.

The following mini tour of the US West Coast proved successful and profitable, as positive press, radio play, and word of mouth about The Cypher Brothers spread. An East Coast continuation of the tour was planned, but on road tensions between Chris and Florian had escalated so high that they both obtained a restraining order against each other after their show in Fresno. They returned home on seperate flights.

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During the writing period for the band’s next album, Florian began to expand on his production and arrangement process. His compositions began to explore a variety of new styles, incorporating classical or jazz elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways. He told Melody Maker that he and the band wanted to look beyond Bondi Beach, and to avoid living in the past or resting on their laurels. He wanted this album to prove that The Cypher Brothers could move in any direction and were more than the ‘surf’ and ‘bikini’ band that some critics had labelled them as. 

The album, Heartbreak Sands, was released in the summer of 1987. It peaked at No. 1 in Australia and the US, and provided two more hit singles, ‘Beach Party Friday’ and ‘Wave Time Baby’. By May in the following year it was certified platinum by RIAA for sales of 700,000 copies. At the time it was the second Australian album to achieve this feat.

During the final leg of their first major world tour, Chris was hospitalised due to severe burns received from an exploding gas cylinder Florian had placed in his guitar case during a soundcheck in Poland. Rather than cancelling the remainder of the shows, Danny Huston from the The Bottle Band substituted on bass.

In 1988, the band took second place in a reader’s poll in Melody Maker, and for the first time were making a serious profit. Stewie Young moved into Gold Cost condominium, Chris became a father and bought a home on Manly Beach, while Florian, still single and a self confessed serial playboy, moved to a 19th-century farm house in Newtown, and installed a home recording studio in a converted toolshed at the back of his garden. 

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The band’s fourth album, Wednesday Oceanfront, was generally disliked by fans and critics upon release in June 1990. During its sessions, Florian’s production role was belittled as Chris overdubbed and remixed tracks in his desire for a rougher, unfinished sound. Stewie Young disparaged the album to the press admitting, “Wednesday Oceanfront is nothing too deep.. there were a lot of fist fights during the recording”, but remained hopeful that their next release would be on par with Paradise Shore.

Tensions flared all throughout the tour in support of Wednesday Oceanfront, but they got even worse at a 1991 benefit show for Senator Flo Bjelke-Petersen. Chris knew Florian didn’t want the band involved in political causes, and when Flo visited them backstage, he said, “Senator Flo.. Come meet Little Buddha.” Those last two words sent Florian into an uncontrollable rage, and onstage that night, the brothers were again threatening each other on mic. “That’s eight more brother,” Florian said. “Get ready to get broken.” He was counting the number of songs remaining before they could take swings at each other. Paedamonte Records insisted that the band take at least a year off.

Many were surprised when The Cypher Brothers resumed performing in 1993, and released the fan favourite Heaven’s Gate Harbour in January the following year. The title track became another summer hit for them in Australia and the US, and it looked like The Cypher Brothers might actually be able to hold it together for another world tour. Unfortunately things came to a head when Florian showed up drunk to a show at The Cow Palace in California on 15 November. He kept screwing up the lyrics and taunting his brother until Chris smashed a guitar over his head and stormed out.

Florian, who denies he was drunk, believed that Chris left to hasten the demise of The Cypher Brothers. Chris went to the High Court in an effort to dissolve the band and prevent the use of the sibling name, declaring The Cypher Brothers “a spent force creatively.” When his lawyers discovered that the partnership had never been formally confirmed, Chris returned to the High Court in an attempt to obtain a veto over further use of the band’s name. Florian responded by establishing a holding company ‘Red Baron Recordings Pty. Ltd.’, in which the remaining members of the band were listed as directors in equal share.

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Florian, who denies he was drunk, believed that Chris left to hasten the demise of With recruited Danny Huston now a permanent member, this new line-up never released an official recording, but lasted as a highly profitable touring entity for the next ten years, until late 2003 when Florian made the announcement that he was retiring. Young and Huston kept touring as a duo.

Chris and Florian spoke for the first time in over a decade at their father’s funeral in 2007. They patched things up and made plans to record a new album and embark on a lucrative nostalgia tour.

In July 2008 a legal dispute over the use of the name “The Cypher Brothers” prevented the group from performing at the Hoping Foundation charity event, which raised money for Palestinian children. The case, filed by Stewie Young, was settled out of court with the agreement that Young did indeed possess the naming rights due to his sole ownership of Red Baron Records Ltd. and the Cypher Brothers trademark. The case results would not allow Chris or Florian to advertise their Cypher Brother connection nor to perform under that name.

With new members, The Cypher Brothers continues to tour under the leadership of Young. The act has re-recorded much of the band’s material for greatest hits packages and Christmas releases, under their own Red Baron Records Label. 

On 6 February 2012, Chris and Florian performed at the Bell’s Beach Surfing Awards, in what was billed as a “special performance” by organisers, and they were introduced as “The Cypher Brothers Classic Line-Up.”

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