Archives For April 2012

When faced with death and loss, we often make changes, take on new outlooks on life, and seek comfort. For singer-songwriter Quinn Erwin, losses in his life and in the lives of others close to him, encouraged a change of direction musically, one that turned towards celebrating this undeniable part of life.

Afterlife Parade was born out of a song inspired by the band’s bass player/producer, Jeremy McCoy’s, mother-in-law who was battling breast cancer. Despite the fight and fear that came with it, she remained positive and even comforted others through it all. Erwin was moved by the idea of taking a positive outlook on death rather than mourning it. He described that the song, “came from the perspective of someone who is ‘marching’ from this life into the next and telling others not to worry about him or her.”

When the same theme found in that first song started to come up in a number of other new songs, Erwin decided it was time to start tracking them with the band. All they needed was a name. Looking back on the creation of Afterlife Parade, Erwin explained, “I started looking for a name to call this new thing, only to realize it was staring me in the face the whole time.”

According to Erwin, the name has come to mean much more than it originally did. “It is a literal thing, but it is also a metaphor for change and growth in our decision to celebrate the harder aspects of life, as well as the triumphant aspects of life.”

The indie-rock band based in Nashville blends honest wisdom with a sound that is sometimes somber, dark and haunting and other times contrastingly triumphant, upbeat and electronic. The lyrics remind us that life is fragile and should be celebrated and that death should be no different.

In 2011, the band created a two-part concept album – Death (January 2011) and Rebirth (August 2011). The tracks on Death explore fate, the end of the world and comfort offered by the dying to their loved ones, while Rebirth is made up of songs filled with messages of hope and the beauty of a new life. Tracks like “Death” are complex and build in contrast to the subtle, beautiful imagery found in “Nothing But Love Can Stay.” On Rebirth, the celebration of death is played out, both lyrically and musically. Erwin’s vocals offer a raw and driven sound that is perfectly matched by the band’s often anthem-like performance – especially evident on tracks like Black Woods, White Beach and Cincinnati.

Since the release of their two-part album, Afterlife Parade has started to focus on their next project. With a new concept and collection of tracks to demo, the band is currently performing the songs during live shows to get a feel for people’s response. The band is more of a “collective” than a band per say, which as Erwin puts it, means that, “every show is going to be such a unique expression of the Afterlife Parade sound as we rotate players within that context.  We’re hoping to create a different experience each time we play beyond just a different crowd or venue.”

Afterlife Parade has also started sharing live videos of a few of the songs on YouTube in an unplugged series. They hope that sharing these songs early will get fans and new listeners excited on the front end of this project before recording begins this summer. Erwin and the rest of the band have always had a passion to make their listeners as much a part of Afterlife Parade as they are, and sharing the songs in the early stages is just another way they are achieving that.

Afterlife Parade is something much more than a group of musicians playing songs – they represent a message of hope and celebration for the journey through life and death alike. Erwin put it best, saying, “we are constantly going through the process of letting go of the ‘old’ and reaching out for the ‘new’ as we journey through life.  Afterlife Parade chooses to look positively on that process.”

If you haven’t already, you’re going to want to join this march towards everything ahead with Afterlife Parade.

You can find out more about Afterlife Parade on Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned as we work on setting up a House Show with them soon!

(This is the first post (of many! I hope) from Cause A Scene’s newest contributor, Molly Williams. Molly relocated from Ohio to Nashville last year and writes for the aptly-named blog, ohio to nashville, which I have personally discovered great new music and fascinating blogs on. There is a 110% chance she is a better writer than me, and I’m glad to have her on the Cause A Scene team. Welcome, Molly!)

Big things are happening for a new folk trio out of Denver that released their first demos back in 2009 after coming together in light of a difficult loss. If you’ve heard of them there’s a good chance you’ve lost track of the number of times you’ve listened to their songs, and if you haven’t, get ready. The Lumineers are catching attention – recently playing and wowing crowds at SXSW, showing up in Paste Magazine and The New York Times, and releasing their first official video for their addictive “Ho Hey.”

Their self-titled album, released on April 3, will have you hooked from the first listen. The trio’s infectious sound has a rustic charm reminiscent of The Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart, and even some early Whiskeytown. It’s hard to deny the hand clapping, foot stomping, and chorus shouting that can be heard in many of the tracks. The “heart-on-the-sleeve” stories woven by Wesley Shultz’s lyrics blend naturally with Neyla Pekarek’s cello and Jeremiah Fraites’ percussion on songs like “Submarines”.

Ballads like “Slow It Down” perfectly balance out the solid collection of chorus-focused songs and feature Shultz’s raw, stripped-down vocals and brilliant songwriting. Every track will keep you hooked and leave you wanting more.

The Lumineers have accomplished something rare in their debut album – a sound comparable to what you would expect only from a live performance. Tracks like “Stubborn Love” and “Flowers in Your Hair” will have you searching for the trio’s next live performance in your town. If you’re in Nashville, don’t miss The Lumineers at The Basement on Friday, April 27.

So whether it’s for the hundredth time since last week’s release or for the very first time, go listen to the album, available on iTunes. It’s sure to be one of this year’s top Americana and folk rock debuts and the first of many for this group.

Part of the beauty of any play is the ability for the actors to make the audience believe that they are all on in a little secret. We’ve all been there, perhaps not in a play but a movie, where we are keenly aware of some particularly important piece of information that a character is unaware of. That secret draws us in, makes us feel needed, perhaps even necessary to the development of the plot. In so doing, the actors are able to break down that divide that separates the performers from the spectators, the “fourth wall” as eighteenth-century philosopher Denis Diderot coined it. Speaking directly or acknowledging the audience, therefore, was and has been known as “breaking the fourth wall” in an attempt to connect directly to the audience. With that in mind, The Vespers‘ sophomore release “The Fourth Wall” could not be more aptly named, as it is a record that speaks directly to the audience, making each individual member feel that each note, each lyric and composition is meant specifically for them. It is an album that draws the listener in to the point that they might think the band is in the next room playing for an audience of one.

That feat isn’t really possible without the seamless cohesion of the four members of The Vespers, sisters Callie and Phoebe Cryar and brothers Bruno and Taylor Jones. They create a sound and a richness to their music that belies their young ages (all under 23 currently) and the fact that they have been together as a foursome for only a few years. And perhaps one of the strongest qualities is their effortless ability to blend genres, creating a sound that is uniquely their own. Sure it’s part bluegrass (“Instrument For You”), part folk, rock (“Got No Friends” and the perfectly covered Son House song “Grinnin In Your Face”), pop (“Flower, Flower” and “Jolly Robber”) and sometimes even cajun-infused gospel on the slow-burning “Lawdy”, but each song stands as purely Vespers. In a way, they keep you guessing, just like any good play or narrative, forcing the audience to try to anticipate the next plot twist, looking for nuances that might offer some sign of what’s to come. For The Vespers, “what’s to come” is a whole heck of a lot of buzz, as they seem poised to be the next band that everyone is talking about.

“The Fourth Wall” is a truly ambitious album from a band that is just getting started, and it does a terrific job of capturing their infectious toe-tapping, foot-stomping live sound that is able to put a wide grin on the face of even the most cynical among us. To watch them perform live, you get the sense of the immense joy that the four of them get when they perform in front of an audience, and soon that joy is able to overtake you as well. Beyond that, they happen to be some of the most genuine people you will ever meet, never taking for granted the chance they have to do what they love and share that with everyone around them.

I had the distinct pleasure of hosting The Vespers for a Cause A Scene House Show in mid-March and it left most in attendance slack-jawed in amazement and fully believing that we all were witnessing a band on the cusp of greatness. You could sense their longing to connect with each person in the room, not for selfish ambition, but because they possess stories that bring us all together. That night I was mostly gushing their praises, mentioning more than once that they will “sell out the Ryman one day.” It’s a lofty statement that they all handle with that awe-shucks good-natured humility, hoping to achieve that level of success that every artist esteems towards but at the same time keeping themselves grounded in the reality of the moment. At the moment they are a band with loads of potential and an album worthy of “album of the year” consideration as “The Fourth Wall” is consistently great from start to finish.

The Vespers will be making a few live appearances this week in Nashville to kick off their new release and an upcoming tour throughout the Southeast, two of which are FREE. If you want in on the secret about Nashville’s next great band, you might want to be at one of them. Tonight, they celebrate their release at Trevecca Nazarene University in East Nashville with a free show starting at 8:00pm. Wednesday night they headline Music City Roots at the Loveless Barn, culminating with a live in-store performance Thursday evening at Grimey’s (6:00pm). I plan on being at all three, and if there were any more shows this week where The Vespers were playing, I would put my money on being there too. Hope to see you all there.