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Sonny Thompson was creating some otherworldly sounds with his five-string, left-handed bass last week in a northeast Minneapolis rehearsal space.

"That's how people from Romulus play bass," drummer Michael Bland joked in admiration.

Bland and Thompson, veterans of Prince & the New Power Generation, are, as Bland says, like "brothers from another dimension." That's why they call their new duo (Br)others. They will premiere their debut single, "Brother," on Saturday at a Prince tribute concert with an all-star cast.

Bland wrote it during the isolation of the pandemic.

"I was tinkering with a song one day and it became an autobiographical song about us," said the drummer, who plays in Soul Asylum. "I was thinking about the many corners of the Earth where it was just me and Sonny Thompson. On the Champs-Élysées, me and Sonny and a couple of ducks. Italy, eating pasta by the ocean. There's a specific connection I have with Sonny as a musician and as a person.

"I have three older sisters. Sonny is as close to a brother on this planet that I've ever known. We're brothers and we're others. That's the sci-fi angle of it. We're not of this place sometimes. We speak a language that only we understand."

While Bland wrote "Brother" about his relationship with his pal Thompson, the song has broader implications, the bassist feels.

"In this day and time, I think it's a perfect message," he said after the rehearsal. "Especially in this day of so much division and the way people are acting right now, we need people to think about each other as brothers and sisters and love each other more. We're one human race regardless of where you come from or who you are."

Michael Bland, former New Power Generation member, rehearses for the upcoming Prince tribute concert on Wednesday in Minneapolis.
Michael Bland, former New Power Generation member, rehearses for the upcoming Prince tribute concert on Wednesday in Minneapolis.

Angelina Katsanis, Star Tribune

After Bland and Thompson intertwined their vocals and instruments, they turned the recording over to producer John Fields and percussionist Ken Chastain to season the sunny tune with some Beatles flavoring. "Sonny and I provided the funk, they provided the whimsy," Bland said.

The sunny single is being released by Hygh Tension Records, the Twin Cities label run by guitarist Ryan Smith of the Melismatics and Soul Asylum.

Bland organized the upcoming concert partly because there never was a big event last year to celebrate the boxed set reissue of Prince's 1991 album "Diamonds and Pearls." So he's enlisted various NPG alums including Tommy Barbarella, Levi Seacer Jr. and Mike Scott and such locals as the Steeles, Chastity Brown, Jay Bee and Ashley Commodore to salute the Purple One.

At rehearsal last week, Brown tore through a deeply soulful treatment of "When U Were Mine" that sounded nothing like Prince's new wave original version or Cyndi Lauper's spunky cover.

"Wow!" Bland declared, thrilled at Brown's first run-through.

Without pausing, she then poured her heart into two more Prince songs as if she were playing to a packed arena, not just three other musicians.

Afterward, as Brown was packing up her guitar and electric keyboard, she shook her head in disbelief. "This is the highlight of my life," she announced. "I would not try to copy him [Prince]. He'd be: 'Boring.'"

The concert — billed as 2Gether: Celebrating the Music & Life of Prince — is taking place on the eve of the anniversary of Prince's passing in 2016.

"It can be strange and painful to play Prince's music," Bland admitted. "It's a strange sort of self-inflicted duty to continue forward. I feel a responsibility now that I never felt before."

Bassist Sonny Thompson motions to pianist Tommy Barbarella during rehearsal for (BR)OTHERS’ Prince tribute concert on Wednesday in Minneapolis.
Bassist Sonny Thompson motions to pianist Tommy Barbarella during rehearsal for (BR)OTHERS’ Prince tribute concert on Wednesday in Minneapolis.

Angelina Katsanis, Star Tribune

We asked some of the concert participants — dancer-turned-rapper Tony Mosley, Thompson and Bland — to share some thoughts about the Paisley One.

Q: What years did you work with Prince?

Bland: Full time from 1989 through 1996. Starting probably in '98 or '99, we sort of patched things up and I went in a role to record when he needed me. It's 2:30 in the morning. Of course, I'm available. I live 10 or 15 minutes from Paisley. From the mid-'00s, Sonny and I recorded quite a bit culminating in "LotusFlow3r" and we also played on "Plant Earth" and "3121." It all led to a performance on "The Jay Leno Show" in 2009.

Mosley: I began working with Prince in 1984, starting with the "Purple Rain" movie, various music videos and joining the NPG in 1989/90 through 1994.

Thompson: '91 to '96.

Q: Where were you when you heard he passed? How did you hear the news?

Bland: Someone woke me up with a phone call. It was almost 9 o'clock in the morning. It was my protégé, Petar Janjic, who plays with Cory Wong. He said, "I heard they found a dead body at Paisley Park." I said, "I don't see it." I turned on the television, Channel 11, and they were talking about it. Even now, it's kind of surreal to me. The whole thing felt and still feels strange. I feel his absence.

Mosley: I was at work at my marketing job when I began receiving text messages from friends and confirmed it when I spoke to Kirk Johnson [Prince's aide-de-camp].

Thompson: I was at home. It came on the TV. Then somebody called me. Then I seen JD Steele on television and I knew it was real. Then I started crying. Then I talked to Billy and Ricky Peterson and we ended up in Edina so we could commune. I didn't believe it at first. It was a terrible shock.

Q: What's the biggest lesson you learned from Prince?

Bland: There's nothing to fear. That's it. He taught me a lot of things about life through music.

Mosley: To write music and lyrics for myself. Do not try to write for a certain demographic. When you begin to tailor your thoughts around others, you lose yourself in the process.

Thompson: Just play. Have a great work ethic. His work ethic was phenomenal. We got that from childhood. He used to stay at my house and we used to play all night and all day. We carried that on through. It was like he was on steroids when I got into the band. I never went home for years. That was one of the best things that happened to me because my guitar was in my hand constantly, recording and doing music. It opened my head to all kinds of different things and helped discipline myself to music.

Q: What's your favorite memory of Prince?

Bland: Back in 2010 or so, he called me to record a song with him and he had some of his friends from Kingdom Hall. Really nice people. One was a little white girl, she was maybe 7 or 8, and I walked in and she was like "Michael B!" I said, "How do you know who I am?" She told me and I started goofing around like "I'm so famous I can't even go to kindergarten." Prince just started laughing. It was uncontrollable. He didn't laugh that hard at many things.

Mosley: My favorite memories of Prince had nothing to do with music. It was about life and challenges in general, where we grew up in north Minneapolis, how we were challenged in the '70s and '80s. We talked about how life was simpler before he made it and I really miss his authentic laugh — he loved to laugh.

Thompson: Right before New Year's, me and Michael were there recording. Then we were just hanging out in the studio at Paisley Park. We started talking about people we knew as children. Then I said, "I gotta go, man. I'll see you next year." He fell on his back, laughing real crazy.

Q: What's your most prized memento from your association with Prince?

Bland: I have a cassette of a rehearsal we did in late '93. Tommy [Barbarella] and Morris [Hayes] left town for Christmas. Prince didn't like holidays. For Thanksgiving, he was like "I can direct the band with a turkey leg in my hand or you guys can take it off?" That Christmas vacation, three days passed before Prince called and said, "Are you guys bored like I am?" That's how the New Power Trio sort of started. After that, he decided to go to Los Angeles and perform with the New Power Trio at the House of Blues. We went to SIR [studio] and started rehearsing and Prince put a cassette in the tape deck and recorded this jam session. He left a little bit before we did. I noticed the cassette was in the deck so I took it so no one would bootleg it. You can't find that cassette anywhere else in the world.

Mosley: Demo tracks with handwritten notes from Prince.

Thompson: My NPG coat from 1992. That band was amazing. And my first Warwick Dolphin bass.

2Gether: Celebrating the Music & Life of Prince

Who: Michael Bland, Sonny Thompson, Tommy Barbarella, Levi Seacer Jr., Mike Scott, Tony Mosley, the Steeles, Chastity Brown, Ashley Commodore and more

When: 8 p.m. Sat.

Where: Uptown Theater, 2900 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

Tickets: $50 and up,