Monday, February 16, 2015

Q&A with Seryn

Photo: Molly Valdez

Back in 2011, a band from Denton, Texas landed on my radar with a huge, heart-swelling song called “We Will All Be Changed.” I stuck this band, Seryn, on my Top 10 Finds of 2011 list and wished them the best. 

Happily, they’re back this year with a new album called Shadow Shows, out Feb. 17.

In the years in between, they’ve made a few lineup changes, and moved to my hometown – Nashville. I talked on the phone with guitarist Nathan James Allen about the new record, finding community in a new city, and deciding on how to pronounce the band’s name – It’s Ser-IN.

Allen: You know, I never had a preference, and then about a year ago, [bassist] Aaron and I were at a show in Dallas and this British clarinetist came up to us, and we were talking, and he said, “Oh, Seryn, like serenity without all the messy bits at the end that nobody like anyway.” I was like “Yes. That’s how you say our band name and that’s what it’s about.” We’ve been a band for five years and no one ever put that together. So, I’ve adopted that as the way I explain that I explain the band name -- like Serenity, without all the messy bits at the end that nobody like anyway.

TMI: Tell me about the new album.

We’ve been working on Shadow Shows for a long time and we’re so excited that it’s coming out, and that people can get it. It’s going to be good for us to move forward creatively. We’ve actually already started working on the third record, trying to get the songs written and come up with some stuff. It’s part of a larger progression that we’re working on. The record is mostly about illusion and false ideas about reality, so it’s the process of moving from the shadow shows to reality. I guess the best way to do that is to think about it in terms of moving out of the dream and into reality, that process of awakening and acceptance. A lot of lyrics tie into that idea, whether it’s dealing with life and death and the reality of it, versus mythology or dreams, or fancy false notions. And the music is just more electric than the first record. We think we’re a better band now, so we’re able to record a higher quality, fidelity-wise.

Tell me about how you’ve developed your sound.

It’s a mix between stuff that we like, stuff that we actually can do, and also our own ADD. I kind of like to think of it as ADD music because because we don’t really have the same sound from song to song. It’s banjo here, electric guitar there. Really light drums on one song and really heavy drums on the next, or even within songs. I think the sounds just comes from things that we gravitate toward. I spent a lot of times playing in instrumental bands or bands that didn’t have a lot of vocals, so with this project, I’ve always had a focus on lots of harmonies, lots of vocals. And then also being a big fan of instrumental music. Then a lot of it’s born out of frustration, too. In the new record, it’s reflected a lot because it’s a lot easier to get an electric guitar to sound really good at a live show than it is to get an acoustic guitar to sound really good at a live show, or a banjo, and especially if you’ve got drums going. So, again, walking about of this illusion of an acoustic guitar is going to sound so great during a show, and the reality is that most of the time, an acoustic guitar live just sounds like a shaker.

As far as songwriting, what’s the dynamic in the band?

Everybody writes their own parts and has final say, but we work on things organically. On this record, Trenton, the lead singer, he actually did a lot more of the lyrics writing, and a lot more of the melody than he did on the first one. A lot of the musical ideas started with guitar, or guitar and bass, or guitar bass and drums. Trenton would take a small idea or piece, and bring it to us. There was actually one song where Trenton didn’t really have a lot of music but he had the vocals worked out. He brought it to us and he transformed it into what it is now -- the song “Paths.” Trenton brought it to us with almost nothing, like a couple of chords and a vocal was like, “And then I want it to get really big,” and we were like “Ok.” We tried stuff for a day or two and then found what worked.


One song that I liked a lot and stuck out to me was “Headache,” tell me about that song.

I actually wrote those guitar parts at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. one night. I was sitting there with a friend of mine on the couch and we were just talking about stuff and I was trying to tune the guitar as crazy as I could think to tune it. I wrote those parts and then brought it to everybody else on a day when we had band practice but somebody had to cancel, so we were down a person. This is August of 2012. So, the part’s been around for a while. We wrote it and got the structure together and Trenton came up with the lyrics. It was very much about a struggle -- the headache that life can be and what it feels like. The tuning actually causes a headache to listen to me tune the guitar. The guitar part is supposed to feel like what it’s like when you have to do something when you have a headache. It’s a minor thing but it makes everything else that much harder.

So, Trenton started to put the lyrics together. He did a really good job of synthesizing what everybody else was thinking and feeling about this song. Then he brought it to me, and I helped him write the bridge. It took a long time to work on. We actually recorded it once before, in August of 2012. We revamped it, we moved it down a half step, changed the key just down one and approached it as more of an acoustic guitar and vocal song that had these crushed electronic drums. McKenzie Smith, who we worked with on the album, it was his idea to do that production trick on the drums and make them sound that way, which we thought was cool and nailed a feel, which was that tense, aggressive, knot in your stomach, pain in your head.

So you guys moved to Nashville not too long ago, how’s the city treating you?

I love this city. I don’t think we can call ourselves Tennesseans or even Nashvillians quite yet, although my drivers license expires in July, so I’ll probably be getting a Tennessee license which will be that much closer to legitimacy. I think we’re going to have to wait a couple of years to make sure we can hack it, but we just love it here. Every night I go out and run into somebody who knows someone that I know or has a mutual desire to work on this project or that project. It seems like we showed up and there was a unity that was waiting to happen.

In Dallas, people say “Y’all do what? Why do y’all do that? Why do y’all do that?” Here in Nashville, it doesn’t matter who I talk to, if they’re a doctor, lawyer, cop, barista -- everyone gets what the musician thing is. It’s not a mystery here. It feels like you’re more accepted.

It helps when music is as embedded in the culture as it is in Nashville.

Yeah. It’s very accepted here, like “I know people like you, I know what your lifestyle is like.” It’s a normal, legitimate thing, whereas in Dallas, it’s very fluke-y, out-of-the-norm. No one who’s out of college really understands what you’re talking about. Even some of our friends back in Denton would be like, “Aren’t you worried about not having a resume once you get done playing music?” Or “Are you worried about this, that, or the next thing because you’re not going to be playing music forever,” and we’re like “Yes, we are.” People do it all the time and it’s not weird.

And it makes for an easier support group, I’m sure when you’re not getting those questions.

I think it’s a handful of things. One, the national average for music industry jobs in a city is maybe 1% or 2% tops. In Nashville, 12% of the jobs are in the music industry. Then, so many people here are either on tour, or have friends who are on tour, or are making records. Nobody here is going to call you up and be like, “Man, we haven’t talked in two months, what’s the deal?” People are like “You’ve probably been busy as all get out. Let’s hang out whenever you’re in town.” You have people who are married to musicians, and they all get that too. There’s a large group of people whose significant others are out of town, and they hang out. I think it works out for everybody.

Photo: Sean Berry

What can folks expect from your live shows?

Just a show. Expect to see some people who can play their instruments and who have a lot of passion for what they’re doing. That’s the comment that we get all the time, is “even more than the music you play, is the passion that you put into it. We like it because y’all like it.” Expect to come see a good show – we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves.

What’s next?

Basically, the plan is now to start work on the third record, and then the other plan is come everywhere in the United States and see everyone. Play the record and play some shows.

Connect with Seryn

Upcoming shows
Feb. 19 - Houston, Texas
Feb. 21 - Waco, Texas
Feb. 22 - Denton, Texas

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The Phosphorescent Blues : Punch Brothers

A new Punch Brothers record. There’s hardly a better way to start off 2015.

Three years after the Who’s Feeling Young, the bluegrass (ish) quintet has released its fourth album, The Phosphorescent Blues.

After driving around with it for a few weeks, I’m finally sorting out my thoughts on this album that at first listen, I didn’t really like.

Immediately, I missed the tightness and focus of Who’s Feeling Young. It was, at times, a ledge to climb up on – Chris Thile and co. referenced more musically than you could be expected to catch, but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment or understanding of the album as a whole. If any a piece of art deserves the non-diluted fullness of the word “interesting,” it’s Who’s Feeling Young.

The Phosphorescent Blues sounds like the album you’d make after being told you’re a genius and putting out an album of mandolin Bach covers. It’s ambitious, but in the mounting sense of someone who is still figuring out it’s ok to be.

And that’s a weird thing to say about Thile, because looking all the way back to Nickel Creek, you couldn’t really say that staying within safe or traditional boundaries was on the agenda.

But take the opening track, “Familiarity.” It’s a 10-minute-long sprawl with three movements, akin to “Movement and Location” as the album’s big swing, but it’s almost too big to see all at once.

The dynamic shifts, the production choices that send Thile’s voice receding into the ether, the Four Freshmen-esque harmonies, all held together by not just a few recurring flourishes, but more so by Thile’s confidence to stray into a space that isn’t even as neat as to qualify as experimental genre-blending.

At their best, the Punch Brothers sound the way you’d imagine the guts of a really high-end, handmade, antique watch look – layers of perfectly functioning gears, ticking away.

That’s where a lot of the enjoyment of their last record, as well as this one, comes from. But as meticulous as they can be in their arrangements, that same intentionality doesn’t always shake out well when constructing overarching themes.

I’ll tell you two things here.

One, I thought this album was mostly about death.

On the cover, a guy and gal try to kiss though their heads are wrapped in white sheets, like burial shrouds – as if Romeo and Juliet even after poison and steel still couldn’t keep their hands off each other. The second track, “Julep,” (more on this later) is a hazed look back at life from a dead narrator. “Boll Weevil” threatens destruction. “Forgotten,” assures someone they won’t die alone and won’t be forgotten.

And in twist of word association that has nothing to the band, I think of a story I heard about my grandfather. When he was a little boy, he lived near a cemetery, and sometimes at night he could see an eerie glow coming up from the ground. It was the phosphorous dead bodies give off when they decompose – an unsettling yet alluring suggestion at both the scientific and the surreal.

So, I think phosphorus, and I think death. And fish. But that’s neither here nor there.

The other thing I’ll tell you – I went on a Googling expedition. Thile and fiddler Gabe Witcher talked with NPR about the album, and in 3 minutes and 52 seconds, blew my illusions about the oddly comforting inkiness of this album from the beyond.

They said the name of the album pulls from the experience of performing to a crowd futzing with its cellphones.

“It's actually kind of a beautiful lighting effect. I bet you they have no idea how well lit they are from stage,” Thile said.

And just like that – everything surfaced. I checked back over the lyrics. When Thile sings “your trouble vibrates the table,” there’s no poetry there. He’s talking about a cell phone. It’s an album utterly stacked with referenced to distraction in the digital age.

That brought me to consider the strange contrast feeling as though they’d reached out and up for some musical grandness, but then really believing that singing about the aesthetic intrusions of technology is way too close to the ground for them.

Do I want Chris Thile preaching to me? I’ll get back to you.

I’d prefer the reassuring lesson that comes with a song like “Julep.”

How’s this for an opening line: “I died happy in my sleep.”

Normally, I’d be wildly uncomfortable. I just don’t like thinking about these things, but “Julep” is so gorgeous. If heaven really is a julep on the porch, then that doesn’t sound so bad. The reflections of the narrator on meeting his wife, having a daughter, experiencing lightness of life in a simple habit like winding a grandfather clock, create a sense of sweet satisfaction that’s not treacly or maudlin. Because it doesn’t have to be! And that’s just not the way anyone tends to handle the topic of dying, and especially when the perspective is from the deceased.

Instead of regret or retroactive interpretation, the narrator has the best parts close at heart and that’s all.

To me, the noble match to what the Punch Brothers are doing musically is not only the treatment of the death in that song, but the way that mood pervades the looser spaces on the album.

But, if you look at the back cover, you’ll see the band staring into their phones, lit up with “those phosphorescent pinks and blues.” In case you’d like to ignore the text, they don’t leave you much of an option.

On the last track, “Little Lights,” Thile takes one more turn prodding the listener with that wry little comment “Look at us, we’re glowing.”

He’s not really condemning. That would be pretty hypocritical. The funny thing is that the swelling chorus toward the end of the song was crowdsourced and came from the recordings a lot of fans submitted from all over the world. Thank you very much, internet, for all the distracting little projects you serve up on a minute-to-minute basis.

If anyone could pull off having it both way, I suppose it’s Thile.

Even the title splits itself into a double meaning in both the color of the light from a cellphone in a darkened concert venue, and the strangeness he and Witcher acknowledged in that NPR interview of playing in front of a crowd of people who aren’t totally there.

I’m due to catch them at the Ryman at the end of the month. You best believe I’m leaving my phone in my purse.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Musically Inclined's Top Finds of 2014

It was a quiet year for music. While 2013 gave us Jay-Z, Kanye, Beyonce, Daft Punk, the return of My Bloody Valentine, The National, and whole bunch of other musical heavyweights, 2014 gave us… (a mild sense of unfulfillment?) much less. St. Vincent, Spoon, and Jack White were absolutely respectable, but it was like music this year forgot to take its vitamins.

The upshot is that 2015 almost has to be a knockout year. We already know we’re getting records from Sleater Kinney, Punch Brothers, and San Fermin. Hopefully there will be more to follow from folks we haven’t heard from in a while.

But, we’re not quite there yet. There are three-ish weeks left in 2014, and it would be unfair not to celebrate what did keep us turning the volume knob, up and up and up.

Even if there wasn’t one album this year that slayed all, there were so many great singles – probably enough to merit an extra five slots on this list, if my inner editor were a little more self-indulgent.

For the seventh year running, here are The Musically Inclined’s Top 10 Finds.

Gameplay is as follows:

1. Any artist or band TMI hadn't listened to before January '14.
2. Songs have to have a stick factor to survive the year. Catchy? Bouncy? Quirky? Sure, but mostly they just have to be solid. Doesn't hurt to be fun and mildly screwy, either.

For any interested parties, the full Spotify playlist is available right here.

Otherwise, scroll on.

10. Fire Extinguisher : Howell Dawdy

The tenth spot on the list usually goes to some song that’s too ridiculous or weird to ignore. This year is no exception. Louisville’s Howell Dawdy deadpans his way through “Fire Extinguisher,” listing off the oddball things he needs – a brick on a string, a 12 pack of moist towelettes, a driver who’s also a student in something interesting. His train of thought is inexplicable and incredibly amusing, especially when it veers from things like jackets into the way he sees the world.

9. Dark Sunglasses : Chrissie Hynde

While the Pretenders have been around for a while, this was the year Chrissie Hynde went solo. “Dark Sunglasses” was an immediate favorite. The song tells the story of a guy who’s lost his social status and hangs on to the last shreds of his glamour and style by hiding behind dark sunglasses. Cool is elusive, folks. 

8. Lead Me On : Joe Henry

Woefully, I’d never heard any of Joe Henry’s preceding 12 albums. “Lead Me On” is delicate and wistful as hell. If I ever stop listening to this track on loop, I might check out the rest of his stuff.

7. Out on the Street : Spanish Gold

A few weeks after I moved to Louisville, I found “Out on the Street” from Spanish Gold’s debut album. The group is patched together from bits of other bands like My Morning Jacket, Hacienda, and Fantasma. “Out on the Street” is So. Much. Slink.

6. Of Nothing : GRMLN

“Of Nothing” turns solid surf rock into something more searching and earnest. It almost doesn’t matter what the rest of the lyrics are. When singer Yoodo Park asks, “Are you alright, tell me that you’re alright,” the repetition in the chorus traps the listener in his appeal. Maybe if he asks enough times, he can will the answer into a positive form. 

5. Coffee : Sylvan Esso

So many good things were said this year about the debut album from Sylvan Esso. And rightly so. “Coffee” makes the list for being one of the most different songs I heard all year. They blend light blippy electronicpop sounds with singer Amelia Meath’s pure vocals -- Meath was in Mountain Man, a mostly a cappella folk trio with some really nutso harmonies from a few years back. Here’s to contrast.

4. Move : House Ghost

The final Louisville-based entry on this list comes from House Ghost and their wonderfully smart-ass song. Aside from having a buzzy bassline and some cool shifts, “Move” gets points for the fake-out that comes with the lyric “Hey, I really like you. No, the girl behind you. So please move.”

3. Avant Gardener : Courtney Barnett

Australia’s Courtney Barnett produced some of the most naturally-flowing, detail-stuffed songwriting this year. In “Avant Gardener,” she recounts a nervous breakdown brought on by weeding the yard – but probably not just that – and she bats around with the metaphor of having trouble breathing in. When the paramedics revive her she thinks, “I get adrenaline straight to the heart. I feel like Uma Thurman post-overdosing kick start,” which, if you ask me, is a great pop culture pull.

2. Love Ain't Enough : The Barr Brothers

In 2013, it was easy to find big songs, the kind with layered sounds that were warm and enveloping. There was “Hey Doreen” by Lucius and “Sonsick” by San Fermin – this year that wasn’t quite the case. However, “Love Ain’t Enough” swooped in this September with its gorgeous weave of harp, banjo, marimba, and dulcimer, making a request counter to its own title: “Forget I ever said that love ain’t enough.”

1. Archie, Marry Me : Alvvays

“Archie, Marry Me” might have landed the spot solely based on how many polysyllabic words are in its opening line: “You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony/You’ve student loans to pay and will not risk the alimony.” A surf-rock ode to commitment might be the last thing you expect from the youthful-sounding Toronto band Alvvays, but the way they straddle the line between innocence and preconsciousness, makes for an incredibly endearing song, where the narrator’s ideal for love is let’s just sign the papers. And somehow this sounds romantic. Go figure.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Year Without Albums

Sort of. 
I can never get to sleep on Sunday nights. It's like a bad joke -- maybe the one night of the week when I'd really prefer to be unconscious by 10 p.m. and well-rested by 7 a.m., I am, without fail, wide awake hours after I've turned off my light. 

Part of this bad joke is that I always get a little caught up in some topic that seems more important at midnight than it really is. 

Last Sunday, what kept me up was the realization that in the past 11 and half months, I'd failed to really love any one album. 

I dug the Spoon album. I spent a few weeks with The Both. But out of everything that came out this year from St. Vincent to Jack White, nothing aggressively demanded my attention. At the risk of sounding dramatic, this was a crushing thought. 

So, was it me? Or was it them?

In October, the big story was that no albums went platinum in 2014. Of course, T. Swift put an end to that just a few weeks later, but that was no big surprise. 

Also not a big surprise is how disparate all the year-end lists are. Rolling Stone's album of the year was Songs of Innocence by U2. (Boy, finger on the pulse, over there.) Consequence of Sound went with The War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream. If you're seeking guidance from the critical consensus, these lists will leave you as lost as when you started. 

2014 saw neither monster releases, nor the earnest championing of much-loved, borderline lost causes. 

I'm going to say it was them.

What's still unclear is if this year was merely weird, or if it was indicative of a world where there really is so much out there, it's impossible to rally more than a few people around anything. Maybe music eventually peters out when the tail gets too long. 


As I'm writing this, I'm also working on The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds of 2014. What I realize is that even if albums didn't do much for me this year, there were so many songs that did. 

And many of those songs came to me from the radio. 

In March I moved to Louisville, KY and was fortunate enough to fall right into the arms of WFPK, the local public radio station with an alternative-ish format. It's a place where you're just as likely to hear the Chuck Berry and the Talking Heads as you are to hear Hozier and Sylvan Esso. Most of the time, it feels like you're rattling around in the brain of whoever is on the air instead of trapped inside a strict playlist. (Which is fitting because most mornings, I'm like GET OUT OF MY HEAD DUKE MEYER) For WFPK, I'm endlessly grateful, and constantly wishing there were a Shazam button built into the steering wheel of my car. 

When the Top Finds list publishes later in the week, know that it exists in no small part due to what I heard on the radio this year. 

That doesn't mean I'm not still thrashing around for one last shot at really loving an album in 2014, but I'm not quite as bothered by absence of that album. Also, the irony of drifting away from a "dying" format toward one that is already "dead" isn't lost on me. 

I think that also means anything could happen in 2015. What exactly that means will undoubtedly be a topic for next Sunday night. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

[Thursday Track Back] "Razor Love" by Neil Young

This song popped up on the Amazon Prime show Transparent. It was a good choice.

Why you should listen: Perfectly sweet and nostalgic. "All I've got for you is a razor love that cuts clean through."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

[Thursday Track Back] "Stolen Dance" by Milky Chance

The arrangement has this Alt-J thing going on.

Why should you listen:  Milky Chance is a German duo. How much German music are you taking in these days? Not much? Start here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Q&A with The Last Bison

Photo: The Last Bison

One of my favorite albums of the late summer and fall this is year is VA by The Last Bison. There's lots to appreciate about the album. You'll find a range from soft strings to explosive percussion, all coated in a folk-y warmth specific to The Last Bison's sound. 

I had the chance to chat via email with lead vocalist Ben Hardesty about the record. Here's what he had to say about cabins, swamps, drones, and Journey.

Tell me about the new album.

Firstly, I love summer. When I think of my most memorable times or gatherings in my life with the people I love, I think of sunshine and warmth. I wanted songs that captured how I feel when I plunge into the ocean and I’m covered by wind and water. I wanted the songs to convey the joy I experience when I'm canoeing down the Northwest River, with swamp to my left and right. I wanted the songs to capture the nostalgia I get when I think of my favorite summer pastimes. Or the memories of where I grew up, and adventuring with the people I love most. Those themes were a central force driving each song written for this album. The energy of the album captures the joy and thrill of what summer is to me. Then there are songs that mellow out. Those parts of the album are a look back on the dark nights by a blazing fire where no words are spoken, but there is mutual comfort in the silence.

I read you guys worked on the album in a cabin. That seems to be a popular choice these days. What is it about cabins that make them a good spot for writing?

Haha, we kind of recorded in a cabin, yes, but not your typical log cabin in the mountains. The Wigwam is a building was used as a cabin for the summer camp, Triple R Ranch. It sits in the forest along the banks of the northwest river and her A-frame shape points high into the trees. The Wigwam has its own vibe, that feels free and earthy. Yet, because of its sharp geometrical shape it has a modern edge to it. I think for that reason it was the perfect place to record VA, as the record has those old time elements, yet also has a more progressive newness as well.

Describe your songwriting process.

When I sit down to write a song I don't know what direction it's going to take at first. Nor do I know when a melody or lyric will come into my head, or for that matter, if they will at all. Writing, for me is an organic process. I seldom sit down and say to myself, “this is how I will write this song” with the end in mind. Sometimes a melody comes first, sometimes a lyric comes first, and whichever does usually sets the pace and trajectory of that song. The makings of songs are already out there, you just need to reach out and find them.

Tell me about "Cypress Queen," what's the concept behind the song and how did it come together?

The Northwest River, the river the Wigwam sits so close to, flows through the land I grew up exploring. The Cypress Queen is a boat that was used to explore the deep surrounding swamps and bends of the Northwest. As a child my wandering nature took me deep into the swamp to find solitude and adventure. I would go by myself when I wanted to think, and go with friends to “seek thrill” and jump from trees into the rivers black water. Even now, when I can, I journey into the swamp and down the river. I do that because it's a place of rest for me. Its wild thrushes and cypress trees are comforting to me. It's mysterious, and often times can be intimidating, but I love it. The "Cypress Queen" is about the place I grew up, and the swamp in which I find a sanctuary.

Is there a song on the album you're most proud of? Why?

That's a difficult question as different songs have elements that I am proud of. They are each close to me, and each are about themes or experiences that I hold tightly. I'm proud of "Bad Country" because I feel it conveys the adventure that it was a reflection on, in a great way. I'm proud of "Endview," because I feel like it is haunting, yearning, yet hopeful. I feel that its message rings true for lots of people. The song is a love song, and a song of commitment. It says, I love you and I'm sticking with you, and someday we will be closer. Lastly, I'm proud of "She Always Waves at the Gate."  I wrote that song when I was 17. The song has through the last 6 years crept in and out of band conversation, and I feel that it finally found its perfect home on this album.

Is there anything from the writing or recording process that sticks out as memorable?

Our good friend Jonathan Hildebrand, or Hildy, was filming lots of the recording experience. He had just purchased a drone helicopter for his GoPro to get those overhead sweeping shots. Well, Teresa asked him how high it could go, so naturally Jonathan being a young adventurous man, was going to push the limits. Long story short, the drone went a good 200 feet up into the sky, and the battery died. As they looked up they saw the drone dropping rapidly to its certain demise. Jonathan ran to catch it but it landed inches from his grasp. Because of its warranty all damaged was fixed for free! Also, the footage from 200 feet above the tree tops that surround The Wigwam was stunning, and the footage of it falling was awesome as well.

I saw on your site that you all wanted to approach this album as "summer music," what's your quintessential summer album? Why?

U2's War. Not because I feel like the album is inherently summery. Actually the branding of that record is quite the opposite. I chose War because I listened to it on repeat as a young man in the summer as I mowed our large country lawn.

What's a song you wish you could have written and why?

"Don't Stop Believing" by Journey, because I would love that royalties check....

On a serious note, probably "Ragamuffin" by Michael Hedges. The song is one I heard growing up on a regular basis. My dad played parts of it on the guitar, and I spent lots of time just watching him. When I started playing guitar more seriously I listened to a lot of guitarists – Phil Keaggy and Michael Hedges were the best to me. The Keaggy song "Shigeo" and the aforementioned Hedges song were my absolute favorites. The song "Ragamuffin" defined the way I listened to and thought about guitar. I wish I wrote it. If I had, I could likely actually play it.

What's next for you guys?

Touring, and continuing to work as our own label. Hopefully we will get some SXSW love and showcases in the spring. Who knows what else, we take one step at a time! Whatever comes next, we will embrace it, I can tell you that!

Connect with The Last Bison