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.