Rites of Spring feat. NEEDTOBREATHE, Mat Kearney, Delta Spirit, Juvenile, The Apache Relay & Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors
Vanderbilt’s yearly on-campus bacchanal returns with two days of bands, a YouTube virus, errant Frisbees, and of course, the responsible enjoyment of beverages. Headliners include EDM trickster Rusko (Friday) and MOR rockers NEEDTOBREATHE (Saturday), with Baauer (he of the “Harlem Shake”), Delta Spirit, The Kicks, The Apache Relay, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and Mat Kearney among the other attractions. Old-school hip-hoppers should cheer Juvenile’s presence on the Saturday schedule, and if you missed him the last two times he’s come through, your best overall bet is probably R&B phenom Miguel, who adorns the Friday undercard.
Charleston SC | Rock
Rivers In The Wasteland, NEEDTOBREATHE's latest album, opens a new chapter in the South Carolina-based rock band's story. But the band, comprised of brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart and Seth Bolt, couldn't have arrived here without the tumultuous narrative that came before, each aspect of their career building up to this point. After the band's previous album, The Reckoning, was released in 2011, the group spent over two years on the road, where the musicians began grappling with both significant inner turmoil and the external pressure created by notoriety. With the Rinehart brothers, sons of a pastor who hail from the rural town of Possum Kingdom, as the songwriting core of the band, NEEDTOBREATHE has built a successful career, earning a sizeable fanbase with their extensive touring. But tension between Bear and Bo was so high by the end of the touring cycle there was discussion of ending the band. The brothers kept to separate dressing rooms, uncertain that this was the sort of band they'd wanted to become, the possibility of quitting lingering in their minds.
"We were asking ourselves 'Are you willing to change yourself in order to succeed?'" Bear says. "I think, in some ways, we tried that for a while. It was so tough on our souls and our stomachs and I think all of us knew that we couldn't do that any longer. There was a moment where I thought the band was over. We had to take a break and meditate on what we each wanted NEEDTOBREATHE to be."
For all three musicians, the answer was to return to the band's roots and find the anchor of musical simplicity. They agreed that the most important moments of touring came at the end of each show, when they cut off the sound system in each venue and played directly to the fans. It's a moment of realness NEEDTOBREATHE wanted to capture on their new album, a means of letting go of everything that isn't truly essential to the song. Bear and Bo began writing a year ago, while still intermittently touring on The Reckoning, doing most of the initial work at their own Plantation Studios in Charleston. The band then spent time at Fairfax Recordings (formally Sound City Studios) in Los Angeles and at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, to co-produce the album with the help of various producers, including Joe Chiccarelli, Kevin Augunas, Jerrod Bettis and Ed Cash. It was a long, sometimes tumultuous process, that ultimately yielded a collection of songs the band feels reflect who they want to be as musicians now.
"We had a few goals as a band for the album," Bear says. "I had them written in my notebook while I was writing songs. They were really basic: Keep it simple, not too many instruments, and have fun with it. And the last one was: be ourselves."
"There was so much over-the-top production on the last album and on our tour," Bo says. "We wanted to blow it all up and start over. The idea for the record was to get as much of the production elements out of the way and then force ourselves to not rely on extra stuff and studio tricks and technology. We wanted to force limitations and see how far we could take the songs with just us. Probably 90 percent of the record is all live takes. It's very much an honest record."
The album reflects these sentiments, each song lending itself to the idea of honest expression and genuine identity. "More Heart, Less Attack" is the heart of Rivers In The Wasteland, written in the studio as a response to the pressure of doing something for the wrong reasons. "Rise Again," a twanging acoustic ballad, is about the necessity of adversity in order to move forward and the pensively soulful "Difference Maker" contemplates the qualities the musicians hope to embody in their lives, embracing a sparse instrumentation that lends to the emotional tone of the song. "The Heart," the disc's lead single, is a stomping number imbued with an infectious sense of hopeful anticipation. In the end, after the album was complete, the band saw the connectivity of the songs, each songwriter's contributions threaded together in a surprising way.
"On the other side of it, it's crazy how these songs really show a clarity that I don't think we had while writing them," Bear says. "These songs feel very timely for us. They feel like they were written for this time that we're in now, not when we actually wrote them."
"Being in the band for years now, there's only a handful of moments where everybody in the band is on the same page," Bo adds. "Going into this record, there's no doubt that we were all of one mind and being inspired by the same things. We wanted to say the same things. I think this record is mostly about the journey of the heart. Ours were in much different places when we started this record but now, like the first day we started the band, are of the same heart."
The past few years have seen NEEDTOBREATHE touring relentlessly, crisscrossing the country on multiple headlining tours, playing standout sets at major festivals like Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, and performing throughout Europe (which included a personal highlight of opening for Sting in France). They've experienced the departure of their longtime drummer and a harrowing band scuffle that landed one member in the emergency room, but have also seen the birth of Bo's first child and found a sincere reconciliation between brothers. Rivers In The Wasteland balances a palpable tension between two very different songwriters with a sense of brotherhood and shared voices. The album reveals that truly honest and authentic music can only come when everyone in the band believes in the same thing. For the musicians, the hope is that the songs inspire their fans and emphasize how committed NEEDTOBREATHE is to doing what they love in a way that doesn't compromise anything.
"We've come through some rough moments and some amazing moments," Bo says. "We're the most energized we've ever been. The band is young again. We've got a new sense of purpose and we believe in what we're doing and are completely honored and humbled that there are fans out there who appreciate that and love the music along with us. We just fell back in love with the idea of what we get to do."
Eugene OR | Rock
Mat Kearney (CARN-ee) is a singer/songwriter based out of Nashville, TN, originally from Eugene, Oregon. His music has an acoustic base fused with hip hop. He is signed to Aware/Columbia Records. In addition to singing, he also plays guitar, piano and harmonica. So far, he has a total of 4 top 20 hits on the Adult Top 40 Chart. The Hey Mama Songfacts reports that Kearney turned to Hip Hop for inspiration when recording his fourth studio album Young Love, which was released on August 2, 2011. He has toured with Owl City, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, Jason Mraz, Vedera Newsboys, MUTEMATH, Meiko, Cary Brothers, and Train; and headlined VH1's first ever "You Oughta Know Tour" in the spring of 2007. Kearney's songs have appeared on the television series: Dirty Sexy Money, Kyle XY, The Unit, Without A Trace, Laguna Beach, The Hills, Bones, Jericho, Friday Night Lights, Wildfire, What About Brian, South Beach, 8th & Ocean, One Tree Hill, Scrubs, The Closer, NCIS, Life Unexpected and Grey's Anatomy. He attended California State University, Chico in Chico, California where he majored in literature and played soccer until his junior year. It was also at this time when Mat picked up a guitar for the first time. Using a roommate's guitar, he tried covering other songs. Realizing he wasn't too good at it, he began writing his own. Kearney has stated that his legal name is Mathew due to a nurses error on his birth certificate. He discovered the error while in the 8th grade when he noticed how his mom corrected the error with red ink, never legally correcting it. Since then, he embraced the one T in his legal name.
Brooklyn NY | Rock
When it came time to record Delta Spirit’s third album, the band members knew one thing: It was time to shake off the stylistic labels that have shadowed them since they formed in San Diego, CA, in 2005. Though lyricists Matt Vasquez and Kelly Winrich were grateful for the warm reviews that their previous albums Ode To Sunshine (2008) and History From Below (2010) received, they were perplexed at being called “rootsy Americana” or “twangy folk.” In their eyes, Delta Spirit has always been a thoroughly modern rock band, and, with their self-titled new album, they set out to prove it.
We found the sound that we've been looking for, that we've been growing into, and as soon as we hit on it, we ran with it,” Vasquez says. “That’s why it’s a self-titled record, so we could connect our identity with the album, because this album is what we think Delta Spirit is. People make records for their time and we wanted to make one for our time. Just like novelists want to write the Great American Novel, we wanted to make a Great American Record. Not one about yesterday, but one about right now.”
To help them realize their vision, Delta Spirit recruited producer Chris Coady, not only for his indie-rock credentials (he’s worked with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Beach House, and Smith Westerns, among others), but also because, with five strongly opinionated band members, Delta Spirit needed a producer who wouldn’t be pushed around easily. “We also wanted a great engineer and someone who knew how to make sounds that didn’t sound stock and average,” Vasquez says of Coady, who brought in a home-built synthesizer, which was used on the song “Home.”
The band also experimented sonically, creating layers of texture by using previously verboten instruments like MPC samples and drum machines. They also empowered their new guitarist, Will McLaren, to create stand-alone parts, and to go to town on electric instruments. The experimentation can be heard throughout the album, which opens with the rollicking opening number “Empty House,” and serves as a transition between Delta Spirit’s previous sound and its new one. “The intention was to introduce the album with something that hints at what we used to sound like,” Winrich says. “We wanted to ease people into it.” The band, who recorded the album at Dreamland — a converted church built in 1896 in Woodstock, New York — also upended traditional song structures, playing around with writing songs with no choruses (“California”) and generally throwing off simple verse-chorus-bridge conventions, making sure each verse felt different from the one that preceded it.
When it came to lyrical content, Vasquez and Winrich stuck to what they knew. “We’re not hearkening back to anything in the lyrics,” Vasquez says. “We’re writing about situations that are mostly personal. I think the topic of love has affected us the most.” The most direct approach comes from Winrich. “My songs all seem to pertain to one situation, a failed relationship,” he says. “’Anyone who’s been in a long-distance situation will be able to relate to ’California.’ ’Otherside’ is about being delusional and holding onto something that may or may not be real, and ’Time Bomb’ is about being blind to what the future holds and how happiness and sadness are kind of intertwined.”
Several (though not all) of Vasquez’s songs tend to make their points through the perspective of others, a style favored by some of his favorite songwriters, including Tom Waits and Nick Cave. On “Empty House,” he takes on the persona of a construction worker who is seeing the Dharma in his work. “This guy is mixing concrete and suddenly notices the tiny glinting specks in it,” Vasquez explains. “He begins to wonder ’What got me here? Where am I headed’ and relating that little speck to his life.” “Tellin’ The Mind” is about Colton Harris Moore, the teenager known as the Barefoot Bandit who became an internet sensation after committing several burglaries, and stealing and crashing a plane. “I loved him,” Vasquez says. “I thought he deserved an anthem.” “Tear It Up” was originally inspired by the events in Egypt during the Arab spring, but morphed into a more universal song about what can happen with people get together with a common goal. Vasquez’s most personal song is “Yamaha,” which he wrote for his wife when she grew upset about his being away on tour for long stretches of time. “I felt like shit but I couldn’t do anything. A guy’s first instinct is to fix it, but you can’t when you’re three time zones away, so I wrote this song for her.”
The album’s raucous energy and no-holds barred performances will appeal to Delta Spirit’s fanbase, which has grown consistently thanks to their explosive live shows. The band, who have completed headlining tours of the U.S. and Europe and appeared at SXSW, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Coachella, are looking forward to hitting the road and playing the new songs. “There’s no other experience on earth like playing music with people and feeling that kinetic energy,” Vasquez says. “I want to do it even when I’m old and it’s ridiculous to see me on stage. If I can hold on to even a tenth of the feeling we have when we’re playing, I’ll be happy.”
Matt Vasquez (lead vocals, guitar)
Kelly Winrich (keyboards, vocals, drums)
Jonathan Jameson (bass)
Brandon Young (drums/percussion)
Will McLaren (guitar, vocals)
New Orleans LA | Hip-Hop/Rap
Terius Gray (born March 25, 1975), also known by his stage name Juvenile, is an American rapper. At the age of 19, he began recording raps, releasing his debut album Being Myself in 1994. The album gave name to the southern rap style known as "bounce". The album was followed by Solja Rags in 1997; its underground popularity led to the major-label release of 400 Degreez in 1998. After releasing Tha G-Code in 1999 and Project English in 2001, Juvenile left Cash Money Records.
The Apache Relay
Nashville TN | Alternative
The Apache Relay was formed by chance in a Nashville college dorm when Michael Ford Jr. (vocals, bass) met Mike Harris (guitar, vocals). Ford Jr. happened to be looking for some musicians to help perform his own music live, when he heard about Harris’ newly formed band, The Apache Relay. Ford Jr. hired the trio, which also included Brett Moore (keys, guitar, mandolin) and Kellen Wenrich (fiddle), to back him at a show and it was immediately evident that the four musicians had a unique chemistry and were on to something special.
The four-?piece released their debut LP titled 1988 in 2009. Produced by Doug Williams, (renowned for his authentically raw approach with the Avett Brothers) the record was lauded by Paste Magazine as one of “The Eight Most Auspicious Musical Debuts of 2009”. The band’s ability to effortlessly blend acoustic sounds with ferocious rock anthem elements only hinted at the band’s capabilities.
Capitalizing on the initial success of their debut with relentless touring, The Apache Relay honed their sound and released their sophomore album American Nomad in April 2011, in the US, via indie stalwart Thirty Tigers. Produced by Neilson Hubbard, the collection of modern roots-?rock tracks encompassed the eclectic range of influences the band meshed so well; a tinge of Bad Brains, some Suzuki training, jazz lessons, a lot of Beatles’ listening, a knowledge of traditional mountain music, a worship of Phil Spector and the love for the complex but accessible layers of bands like Arcade Fire. A few months later, Ford Jr.’s brother, Ben, joined the band as rhythm guitarist and supporting vocalist. The brothers had been harmonizing and playing together since the age of 12 and 13, so it was a natural fit.
Since the release of American Nomad, The Apache Relay, who round out their live show with the addition of drummer Aaron Early, have continued their regiment of non-?stop touring, amassing a fervent fanbase and performing over 100 dates in 2011 alone, including coveted spots opening for Grammy nominated Mumford & Sons, and a breakout performance at Bonnaroo Music Festival. 2012 will see the band continue to tour in support of American Nomad including stops at SXSW, Canadian Music Fest, and Newport Folk Festival. The band’s first Canadian release, American Nomad EP, will be available through Dine Alone Records on March 13, 2012. The EP includes selected tracks from the band’s previous US full-?length release.
Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors
Nashville TN | Singer-Songwriter
Some artists are able to articulate a vision at the very beginning of their career, while others hone their craft over time, growing into their vision as they mature.
"I am definitely in the latter category," explains Drew Holocomb, a Tennessee-born, duck hunting, French speaking, bourbon drinking, 1st edition book collecting, golf playing Eagle Scout with a Masters degree in Divinity from Scotland's University of St Andrews (he wrote his dissertation on "Springsteen and American Redemptive Imagination") who has spent the better part of the past decade as a professional musician -- recording, writing, and touring with his band Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors.
Since releasing their first album, 2005's "Washed In Blue," Drew & The Neighbors (Ellie Holcomb, Nathan Dugger, Rich Brinsfield) have established themselves as a formidable indie act, selling more than 75,000 records, playing more than 1,500 live dates, selling-out headline shows, and touring alongside such varied acts as The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Los Lobos, NEEDTOBREATHE, Susan Tedeschi, North Mississippi Allstars, Marc Broussard, and more. Their songs have been used in countless television shows and commercials, most notably in TNT's Emmy Award winning 2011 Christmas Day "NBA Forever" spot, which paired the song "Live Forever" with a mesmerizing montage of past and present NBA video footage.
The hard work has paid off with the band's sixth album "Good Light" showcasing Drew's signature brand of singer/songwriter Americana in its finest form yet. Recorded live at Ardent Studios in Memphis, "Good Light" arrives shortly following Drew's 30th birthday and the birth of his first child, daughter Emmylou (named for -- you guessed it -- Emmylou Harris), with wife and band-mate Ellie Holcomb. I think about my daughter every time I sing the title track, how I want to sing it over her when she is old enough to start understanding the world of truth and consequence," says the Memphis native who now calls Nashville home.
"This album perfectly tells the story for a new stage in my life," explains Drew "On past albums I was searching for my voice, both literally and figuratively. I co-wrote a lot of songs, peppered the music with too many influences, and let too many other voices in my head."
With this album, Drew dedicated himself to the process of songwriting, stripping away extra layers, ridding himself of past boundaries and expectations. He wrote more than 40 songs for "Good Light," mostly alone on his 1934 Gibson Archtop, eventually whittling the selections down to a final 12 tracks.
Drawing from personal experience to craft songs that speak to all of us, Drew explores the universal need to find meaning and joy in the midst of heartbreak and disappointment throughout "Good Light." The last song on the album Tomorrow opens with the lyric, 'Nothing ever turns out like you thought it would.' It's a theme that permeates the album.
"I have been through really difficult things," Drew continues. "When I was 17, I lost my younger brother, and have lived through the grief of that great absence. On the other hand, I have experienced the joy of being married to the girl I always wanted, and have been loved really well by her... Everyone has all these different ingredients; our geography, our family, our interests, the places we have been and the places we long to see, the loves we have found and the loves we have lost. Each of us has a story, and it's the only one we can tell. With this album I'm telling my story, in the hope that it helps other people tell theirs."