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Getting To Know Schema: Charleston's Experimental Funk Project March 06, 2018 16:06

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Photo by Taylor Czerwinski
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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The core mission of Live & Listen has always surrounded providing a platform for both established and up-and-coming bands to reach new demographics and build their audience. Whether it's a nationally touring act making stops from coast to coast, or a regional act looking to break out, we strive to play a vital role in promoting the music we love. For our latest interview, we caught up with JP Treadaway  and Ryan Bresnihan of Schema, a four piece prog funk-rock band native to Charleston, SC. The band weaves improvisation into all of their live music, ensuring that every show is as exciting as the last.
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Schema plays their first Friday night headlining gig at The Charleston Pour House on Friday, March 9th with support from The Groove Orient. You can also catch them on March 17th at Sky City in Augusta, GA, as well as May 12th at Roasting Room in Bluffton, SC. Schema is Ryan Bresnihan (guitar), Matt Jackson (bass), Adam Coyne (guitar), and JP Treadaway (drums). 
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Artwork by Drew Massey
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Share this post directly from our Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments for a chance to win a pair of tickets to see Schema + The Groove Orient at The Charleston Pour House on Friday, March 9th!
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Let's start off by discussing the formation of the band. How and when did the journey of Schema begin?
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JP: The band started in 2012 but disbanded shortly after in 2013. As the band began reforming about a year ago, I joined on drums. The band already had a local following, and we met playing various shows together in Charleston. 
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For those who might not understand experimental funk, how do you guys go about your original material? What makes this concept special, and why is there really no room for vocals?
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Ryan: Here's a good place to start with that question. Me, Adam (Coyne), and Matt (Jackson) all took lessons from the same teacher, and he was a jazz player. We all kind of steeped out self in a jazz a bit when we started playing. I guess that is the main source that it comes from. A lot of jazz music...it's an instrument playing the melody, and not necessarily always a jazz singer singing vocals. 
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So coming from that background, it's not exactly a far fetched concept to have purely instrumental music. In a mainstream since, it's not exactly common. The other thing I'd like to mention is that the Charleston local scene has not just good instrumental music being played, but a great collection of jazz players. The gospel cats around Charleston are really good. They play small gigs, but it's all over town; every night of the week. 
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We're not in that same vein or genre as them, but it's some of my favorite music to go see around town. Guys that don't even play under a band name, but they're all just really phenomenal musicians. So I guess that is what kind of what inspired how we started, but also, there is really no other band in Charleston doing this 'experimental funk/improv', as you said. 
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A lot of the writing process...that really comes from our jazz background. We compose things in similar fashion to a jazz tune. Develop a chord progression and a melody to put over it. When we all sit down to play it together, everyone has their own ideas to add in. Things just happen. Spur of the moment stuff. You know, "What if we did this?" It can turn into a whole other thing. 
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The majority of the material is written by Adam, our guitarist. Me and Matt have brought in plenty of ideas. JP obviously comes up with a lot of the rhythmic concept. It's really a team effort when it comes to the final product. It's a fun process that takes place with all four of us. 
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So you're a little over a year into the relaunch of this band. How much original material have you guys composed? I'm sure each night is unique, but how is a Schema setlist taking form at this point?
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Ryan: That's a really good question. At this point, we have eleven or twelve total originals. We're actually writing a new one right now, so I'd like to count that one. We just finished another one recently. Some of them are older. One or two songs carried over from the older Schema days. Most of them have been written in the past year. Schema 2.0 with JP is a totally different animal than it was before. 
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We like to put a lot of covers in are set as well. Not only does it get the crowd going...obviously people like to hear music that they know. But as an instrumental band, I think it's really crucial for us. Without vocals, you do lose a little bit of people. It's surprising to me even to this day how many people can appreciate what we're doing. We like to throw in stuff that people are going to recognize. 
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We do some 80's tunes like "Owner of the Lonely Heart" and "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." We also cover a couple of Radiohead songs. All instrumental, so even though it's not quite the same...it's just making the whole point to people that it can be done instrumentally. While we don't sing, we can still play all of these songs and play the melody instrumentally, and it still sounds awesome.
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Watch Schema's take on The Beatles' "Elinor Rigby" here:
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Tell me about your approach towards improvisation. I'm sure there is plenty of room left with your evolving catalog of both originals and the covers you mentioned.
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Ryan: Right. So we always have a predetermined point in a song where we will start an improv section. It'll go...let's just call it intro > verse > chorus > verse > chorus, and we then have a planned transition into an improv section. It always starts with Adam and I kind of droning on a note to set the mood. It's kind of crazy, but we put it all on Matt and JP to start a beat and create a bass line. We just build from there. 
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Sometimes we get on something that we might know. Last night, we were playing at The Commodore, and all of the sudden, we started playing "Breathe" by Pink Floyd. We had never rehearsed that song or even talked about playing it. Adam hit this one specific chord, and I knew exactly where he was going. The melody just somehow came out of me. I figured it out on the spot. It was pretty cool. 
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You guys seem to be approaching enough material for a full album. Have you had a chance to spend any time in the studio yet? 
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JP: We definitely want to hit the studio soon. We just want to go in fully prepared and go in with a rock solid plan. We will probably work with one of our good friends, Thomas Kenney, who plays with Terraphonics, a local band around here. He's also the guitarist in Ryan Stasik's new side project, Doom Flamingo. The material is there, but we want to have the song structure down and have a set game plan. So yeah, hopefully we will have something out by fall. We definitely need something out there, but the music has kind of been speaking for itself honestly. Turnouts have been strong. I'm excited to see what an album could do. 
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Have you been able to do much live recording at this point?
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JP: Yes we do. We've done a lot of live recording. Pretty much every show. We're going to be super tight about the way we want to release it. It does need to get released, and we have a ton of shows. It's just a matter of which ones we want to put out there. It's probably more realistic to have some sort of "Best of..." or "Schema's Greatest Hits, Live"...something like that.
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Is there accessible material out there for people to listen to?
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JP: Right now, I believe there is one show on archive.org. It was from a while back. Other than that, we have a few videos on YouTube. We're just waiting to see what we want to actually release.
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Watch Schema perform "Ometape" here:
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You mentioned the jazz scene in Charleston. There is an abundance of original music coming out of Charleston. There are some great venues as well. What has been the benefit of being a young, aspiring band in Charleston? What opportunities have you had to play in other markets?
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Ryan: Like you said, Charleston really has a bustling music scene. I feel like it's really thriving right now more than ever. I've been going out to see random bands in bars downtown since around 2010. Over the past eight years, with all of the growth here in Charleston, I feel like the music scene has really grown too. Kind of like I said earlier, there are a lot of really amazing players here that don't really fly under any banner of a certain band. They are more of session players, and they make their money playing gigs, weddings, and that type of thing. Those guys tend to stick together and play together. 
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For all of the great musicians in this town, it's just really cool to be in a band that is native to Charleston. A band that people have actually heard of now. For a while, we were just doing our thing. Whether people liked it or not, we were going to play stuff we like. It really is an inspiring feeling to be a part of a growing band. We've really only (with JP on drums) been going at this for one full year, yet there seems to be a great buzz going. Like JP said earlier, the music is kind of speaking for itself at this point. We're just getting more and more opportunities. We're slacking in the album department. We just got our first load of merch. But yeah, we're taking our time. When the moment comes, we'll be ready for it. It's only been about a year, and I think we're really honing in on our sound. It's gotten exponentially better as time has gone by. 
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I'm really interested to see how far we can take it. Not that I have a point to prove, but there have been a lot of naysayers and doubters about the whole instrumental thing. I believe in this music though, and I know that there are tons of successful instrumental bands out there. Look at everyone from TAUK to Snarky Puppy. That's my outlook on this. Some people want to doubt that there is enough of an audience. I disagree. We've found some people in Charleston already that like it. I think we'll find more, and I hope to expand from there. We're taking over (laughs). 
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What have been a few of the highlights in this first full year? What bands have you had a chance to share the stage with?
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JP: We did an all 80's cover set before Same As It Ever Was, which is a Talking Heads tribute. The Major Rager Afterparty in Augusta was pretty special. We played with Funk You after The Flaming Lips. We played a great set on the Pour House deck before Everyone Orchestra last year. This upcoming show is probably going to be one of my favorites, because it's my birthday weekend. I'll be on stage playing music when the clock strikes midnight. I think that's gonna be a great night. The Groove Orient is coming up from Florida, and that's an incredible group of musicians. Should be one for the books.
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And this is Friday, March 9th at The Pour House?
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JP: Correct. Our first official Friday night headline at The Pour House.  
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Very cool. So we've already talked a little about your plans for the studio, and perhaps a live album, but what else can people expect from Schema in 2018?
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JP: It's all going uphill, man. We're all investing money into our equipment. Matt just bought a new bass. I got some new cymbals. Ryan got a new amp. I think the more that we invest into our sound...that will impact our overall approach to the music. Definitely a live album and a studio album by the end of the year. 
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Getting your music in front of as many people as possible, I'm sure...
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JP: Exactly. And like Ryan said, a lot of people at first are like, "Wait a minute...there's no singer?" By the end of the show, they're up dancing and having a blast. It's cool to see people's reactions evolve like that. 
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I've always found that when you have a successful instrumental band, there is really no need for vocals. The music flows in a way that it really leaves no room.
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JP: Exactly. We joke that our music sings for itself. So yeah, you're exactly right.
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Photo by Kathryn Monroe

Live & Listen's 'Bands You Should Know': Stop Light Observations September 09, 2016 15:14

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Live & Listen is pleased to continue a new weekly feature known as Bands You Should Know. This new concept will highlight a different band each Friday with an interview, general background information, current happenings, as well as videos and audio from each band.  After nearly two years of various interviews and artist spotlights, we feel that installing a consistent weekly feature is the best next step for Live & Listen.

For our eighth edition of Bands You Should Know, we sat down with John-Keith Culbreth aka "Cubby" (piano/synth/vocals) of Stop Light Observations, a Charleston-born band that we feel is on the cusp of becoming the next big thing.  We were first introduced to SLO as an opening act for The Revivalists in 2014, and it has been a pleasure watching their constant success since then.  With a modern rock sound reminiscent of bands such as Foster The People, The Raconteurs, and My Morning Jacket, this band carefully crafts its unique sound through each original track.  Stop Light Observations brings a fresh, innovative element to the table, with just the right amount of mainstream appeal.  Don't miss the bus on this band, as they're on the fast track to years of rock and roll success.

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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The idea for Stop Light Observations was born many years ago, when you guys were just teenagers.  The pieces of the band ultimately fell in place in the years that would follow.  Tell me a little bit about how this band came to be.
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Cubby: We grew up in Old Village, which is kind of the first settlement of what would become Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.  Louis (Duffie), the lead guitarist, and I were kind of learning to play guitar at the same time, and we were best friends growing up.  We were always fishing, playing basketball, and just being super active kids.  We were super competitive, and we started to become competitive with guitar.  That's when I started songwriting.  I remember hearing Bob Dylan's song "Hurricane," and I really wanted to try writing a "story song."  I started writing songs, and when we were 13, I told Louis, "Let's join a band."  We were in middle school and started having band practice twice a week, and the rest is really history.  Members starting joining, and most importantly, Will Blackburn, our lead singer, joining in high school after I had a dream.
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I heard Will sing one night, and I had always planned to be the lead singer of the band.  Then one night, I heard Will sing.  I went to middle school with him and knew him well.  I had no clue that he could sing.  Anyway, that night in my dream, God came to me.  I'm not even religious, but it was this super unfamiliar, spiritual, vivid dream where the presence of God came to me and told me, "In the morning, when you wake up, you're going to call Will Blackburn and ask him to be the lead singer of your band."
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So I woke up and...you know sometimes you wake and think, "Oh that was a funny dream," but once in a while you have that dream that really shakes you up.  It was like that.  It was super heavy.  I gave him a call immediately and asked him if he wanted to come jam.  So he came over, and before he left, I asked him if he wanted to join the band, and he said yes.  So about six months later, we had our first show at a ice cream shop on Sullivan's Island.  I used to live in Anderson, South Carolina, which is about four hours away from Charleston.  I grew up next door to my preacher, who was Preacher Wilson.  
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After the show, Preacher Wilson was there.  My dad was there, and he saw him and asked him what he was doing there.  Preacher Wilson explained that he was there to see his grandson, who was the lead singer of the band.  Anyway, every weekend when we were kids, Preacher Wilson would have his grandson Will come over to his house, and long story short, I had grown up with Will as a little boy for years and totally forgot about it.  Years and years later, in the band together, after God told me we were supposed to be in a band together, I find out that this guy had been my very first friend as a little boy.
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Watch Stop Light Observations' music video for "Dinosaur Bones" here:
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That is unbelievable.  
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Cubby: Yeah. So crazy.
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I've asked this question to a lot of bands at this point, and that is easily the best story that I have heard regarding how a band has come together.  Wow.
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Cubby:  Yeah.  It's really crazy.  Will and I have such a cosmic relationship.  All of the time I feel like I am getting to spend time with the next greatest rock singer of all time.  I'm really picky about singers, and something about him is just special.  He has a way of letting his spirit go through his voice.  If you get to know him and spend enough time with him, you realize that he has no clue either.  It's not like he's practiced and gained this incredible voice, it was just given to him.  No vocal lessons or anything.  The whole story behind it and how we grew up together...I get these werid deja vu moments where it feels like it was so meant to be.  That's kind of the main thing, honestly, that keeps me going and makes my drive and ambition to really take this to the top as high as it is.
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The way you describe it definitely sounds like the beginning of something great.  I feel like so many of the great rock vocalists come from a similar place.  It's a gift and not something that came through years of vocal lessons.  So, when did you guys finish high school?
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Cubby: We graduated from Wando High School in 2010.
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Did you guys all end up going to the same college?
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John: No.  Only I went to the College of Charleston.  Louis went to Clemson, and Will actually went to Noles for a year.  That was really the point where I thought that the band was about to end.  I thought it was really coming to an end, and I was sitting at the four-way stop light in Charleston at Houston Northcutt, where there was this guy named Hassie Holmes.  I'm not sure if you've heard about this guy, but he was this old black man, who for 25 years in Charleston sold the largest stack of newspapers you've ever seen.  Every day.  He had thousands of daily newspapers and literally never sold any of them.  He was this crazy character. 
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There were all these rumors that he was a genius that graduated with a degree in electric engineering.   People would say that he was so smart that he just went crazy.  So one day I was looking at him, at the stop light, and I thought, "No matter who you are in life, or how fast your life goes by, or how powerful, rich, or poor you are.  We all sit and listen to this little light hanging up in this sky and have this brief moment to just really stop and make these stop light observations."  I looked over as Hassie and said, "That guy is probably the king of stop light obersations."  That was when I came up with the band name, and that was really a turning point.  It felt so meant to be, and I called up all of the guys and told them that we were renaming the band "Stop Light Observations," and we aren't going to quit.  I suggested that we go record a demo, so we went a couple of months later and recorded The Zoo, then we recorded Radiation and Hassie Holmes, the guy on the cover of our first album.
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Wow.  That's amazing.  So that's what I wanted to talk about next; releasing your debut studio album, Radiation, in 2013.  I would imagine you guys had put together quite a bit of original material by that point.  Soon after, you were selling out The Music Farm and even appearing at Bonnaroo.  What was the recording experience like, and just how big of an impact did that moment have on the band?
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Cubby: I feel like we got an unusual amount of instant success on a DIY level.  That's what really kept us going.  Looking back on it, we released 26 recorded songs in a time span of ten months.  That's a lot of content.  I think that all of the hype came from releasing the music, and then after that, it took over two years to release another album.  So now, since we have released our second album, we're already preparing to record our third.  We want to make sure that never happens again.  We want to keep releasing content.  
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Once we recorded The Zoo, we started getting in the studio to do Radiation, and I really started to feel at home.  I'd never been in the studio before, and I felt like that was where I was meant to be.  I guess I started to realize my natural ability to produce and work in a studio; thanks to the sound engineers and studio owners around me.  That whole experience will forever be the stepping stone to what was a very impactful part of our lives.  So much fun.  So exciting.  So fresh.  So new.  It was kind of the seed and fire that helped us realize that this was what we were supposed to be doing and just to keep going. 
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I can only imagine.  That's a lot of big moments happening at once.  So, since then, I know that you guys have recently linked up with Mark Bryan from Hootie & The Blowfish, who is now managing the band.  How did you guys hook up with Mark, and how have things progressed since?
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Cubby: I think that he's kind of been our savior.  I sent him the album, and he was just completely ecstatic about it.  He wanted to shop us around for management and find the right manager for us.  I kind of relate it to the movie Hitch.  Have you seen that movie with Will Smith?
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I have, but it's been a while.  I think I saw it once, right after it came out.  
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Cubby: Well, pretty much in the story, he's helping this girl find a man.  In the meantime, he falls in love with her.  That's kind of what happened with Mark.  He was finding us a manager, and in the meantime, we kind of fell in love with him, and he fell in love with us.  We made a decision to stop looking for a manager and go ahead and call it a team.  We wanted to start working for the next album release.  He's never been a manager before, but I swear he is destined to be a well-known, great manager.  He is such a great people-person, and I feel like that is a really big part of being a great manager. 
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He's really authoritative too.  I feel like, as a manager, you have to be able to lay the hammer down. There are the stories of the asshole managers that get shit done, but they're just ruthless.  He has a certain, timeless classic...I don't know if you know who Dale Carnegie is.  He has a old school business mentality of being just a really all around, good person, and that's how you get stuff done.  It's been a really cool thing to be around.  
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Watch Stop Light Observations perform "Aquarius Apocolyptic" at The Windjammer here:
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Definitely.  There has to be an even balance there, as is the case for most things in life. It sounds you guys found the right recipe, and that situation ended up working out the best way that it could. 
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Cubby: Yeah...I think so too.
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I know that y'all's touring schedule has really expanded in recent years.  You have had a chance to grown and move far beyond the Carolinas.  How has this year panned out thus far?  What have been some of the highlights from the road?
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Cubby:  I think Brooklyn Bowl in New York has definitely been a highlight.  We always love playing in New York.  Also, Otis Mountain was a small music festival that we played less than a year ago up in New York.  It totally surprised us. Easily the coolest music festival that I've ever been to.  I highly recommend that you, and anybody else, check it out.  It's well worth the time.  Have you ever been to Burlington, Vermont?
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Unfortunately I have not.  
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Cubby:  So, pretty much, all of the Burlington people take a 30-minute ferry ride across this lake.  Then they take 30-minute drive up into these gorgeous mountains.  They go up into the middle of nowhere into the Adirondacks.  It's the most crystal clear sky that I've ever seen up there.  The festival is up on this young kid from Burlington's farm.  He throws together this music festival where there are no rules about headliners or anything.  They just pick bands that they like.  It has nothing to do with how big you are or anything like that.  They obviously can't afford to bring in big name acts, but every band that was there was one of the dopest, coolest bands I had ever heard.  It was like 2,500 raging Burlington kids.  That has to be the highlight of the past year.  
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For the future, we have about 30 shows on the books for this fall, and a decent amount of fraternity shows.  I love playing at those fraternity shows.  That what George (Claussen) is helping us out with right now.  I think that where even two or three years ago when we were playing fraternity gigs, it was just kind of a wild party, and they hired a band just to have background music.  I think that with the recent explosion of festivals, and I think Spotify has kind of turned every single person into an A&R person.  Every single person gets stoked about finding new artists.  The frat shows have kind of turned into these tiny music festivals.  That's the most exciting part to me.
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That's a great point.  I could kind of see that shift starting to happen when I was finishing college in 2009.  Everything was moving in the direction of these weekend-long parties with more strategic lineups featuring bands of actual substance, rather than an 80's or hip-hop cover band.  You started seeing those "festival-like" lineups with music that made sense flowing into one another.  That's a trend that I'm happy to see has continued.
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Cubby:  Exactly. It's a great thing to see.
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So aside from the busy fall tour ahead, what do you see as the overall vision and goals for the band over the next year.  What's on the agenda, as far as what you hope to accomplish and what you see as possible?
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Cubby:  In the next year, if I had it my way, I would definitely like to get on next summer's festival circuit.  I would like to shoot for the goal of playing on a late-night TV show.  I would also like to try to break a million plays on one of our songs, if not multiple songs, on Spotify.  That's really the hard line goals.  As far as more transcendental goals, just growing our sound and growing our vibe as a brotherhood in team.  Getting closer to one another and developing our musicianship and song-writing.  Getting back into the studio and starting to record our third album.
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Live & Listen's 'Bands You Should Know': Dead 27s July 22, 2016 13:28

Live & Listen is pleased to continue a brand new weekly feature known as Bands You Should Know.  This new concept will highlight a different band each Friday with an interview, general background information, current happenings, as well as videos and audio from each band.  After nearly two years of various interviews and artist spotlights, we feel that installing a consistent weekly feature is the perfect move as we progress forward.

For our fourth edition of Bands You Should Know, we sat down with Trey Francis (vocals) and Will Evans (guitar/synth/hamony vocals) of Dead 27s, an incredibly soulful five-piece out of Charleston, South Carolina.  Since their formation in 2012, Dead 27s have racked up a total of six Charleston Music Awards, including Rock Band of the Year, Song of the Year for "Don't Comfort Me," Album of the Year for "Chase Your Devils Down," Guitarist of the Year for Wallace Mullinax (3rd straight year), Drummer of the Year for Daniel Crider, and Bassist of the Year for Oliver Goldstein.  Dead 27s blends a contagiously warm, soulful vibe with honest Southern Rock roots, and we look forward to watching this band continue to flourish for years to come.

Dead 27s is Trey Francis (vocals), Wallace Mullinax (guitar, harmony vocals), Will Evans (guitar, synth, harmony vocals), Oliver Goldstein (bass), Daniel Crider (drums, harmony vocals)

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Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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Here we are in the summer of 2016, and Dead 27s is now in it's fourth official year of existence. How much experience did you guys have playing together before the band became official?  What led to the band's official formation?

Trey: The level of experience playing together kind of varies across the board.  Oliver (Goldstein) and Wallace (Mullinax) played together for years with different projects. Daniel (Crider) played with the two of them on a few things. Will and Wallace...y'all met at Carolina, right?

Will: Yeah thats right.  We met in college at the University of South Carolina. I actually met Oliver through Wallace back then as well.  They were friends, but I wasn't as close with him at the time.  

Trey: Will and I met probably a year or so before the band got put together.  We both grew up in Greenville (SC), and a mutual friend of ours actually passed away in an accident.  His brother asked if some of his friends who were musicians could play at his funeral and a little gathering afterwords.

That was actually the first time that Will and I ever played together, at our friend's funeral.  We got together and started doing a little acoustic duo around Greenville here and there.  He was playing with another band at the time that he was pretty busy with.  We did some acoustic gigs at bars here and there.  He ended up introducing me to the rest of the guys.  Another friend of ours, who is actually Wallace's cousin, puts on this show at the Pour House every year called the "Strap On Face Funk."  He wanted us to put something together for that.  They didn't have anyone lined up to sing, so Will brought me down and introduced me to those guys. The drummer, whose name was Cre, was living in Richmond (VA) at the time.  

We did a handful of gigs after that whenever someone called and asked.  We did those with different drummers until we called up Daniel for a wedding that we booked.  After that, we immediately decided that the chemistry was so good that we should make it a real thing.  We started playing a lot more, booking more shows, and named the band.  That's the genesis from my perspective I guess.

Will: Yeah, that's pretty much it.  It was very organic, you could say.  It just kind of happened, and we went with it.

I try to avoid this once, because it's such a stereotypical interview question, but the name of this band intrigues me.  Dead 27s is obviously a reference to so many musical legends who lost their life at age 27.  How did you guys end up landing on this decision for the band's name?

Will: That's absolutely what it is (laughs). The only other assumption people make is when we show up, "Aww man. Are y'all a Dead cover band?"   

Trey: We get asked if we're a Dead cover band.  We get asked if we're a band that only plays songs by those artists that died at 27. That's the only fallback from it, I guess.  I think Oliver and Wallace, a while ago, were going to play a show that was with some other people in Charleston.  It was a Dead 27s or 27 Club theme.  It was going to be at the Pour House, then it ended up not happening.  It was actually that same night that we played that wedding.  We were talking and decided that we should pursue it for a while.  

We started tossing around band names.  I think Oliver suggested it.  It was the only name that anyone threw out there that drew positive reaction from anyone else. We had played under some random names a few times.  I think Bunko Squad was one of them, which is terrible and I don't even know where it came from (laughs).

Will: Yeah...that was terrible, but we definitely did that (laughs).

Watch the official Dead 27s press video here:
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So there was supposed to be a "Dead 27s" themed show.  It ended up falling through, and you guys just kinda rolled with that concept?

Will: Yeah.  That's how it came up.  Then we started thinking about it, and it really made sense. In some shape or form, all of those musicians have had a major impact on us.  I can't even remember them all.  There's the famous ones: Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin.  In some shape or form, all of them have influenced us and had a major impact on the music industry in general.  It's all kind of interconnected.  It made sense for us and sounded pretty good, so we decided that it would work. 

I would definitely agree with that.  So, it's no secret that Charleston is a city like no other, and the music scene has really become something special over the years.  You guys are surrounded by some amazing talent, and you've managed to rack up quite a few accolades in the local scene.

Will: I think in general, it has helped the band a lot.  One thing you want to do when you're playing in a band, whether you're doing it for fun or pursuing it as a career...you obviously want people to enjoy it.  You want your music to impact people in a positive way.  The support from everyone in Charleston, in a way, made us be like, "Ok...something's going on here.  People dig it, and we did it.  Let's keep going with this."  So I guess it helped gel the band more and made us take things a little more seriously.  The reception and support we have gotten from Charleston in general has been amazing.  I think everyone in the band would agree. 

Trey: Definitely.  Early on, we got a lot of endorsements right off the bat from a lot of local musicians and local press.  Right away as soon as we started playing shows, there was a lot of really positive feedback and encouragement from the whole scene in general.  That really helped us out in giving us that initial push that bands need in order to have that recognition.  It's reassuring that what you're doing is the right thing and something that you need to pursue.  

When I listen to your music, I immediately identify with that warm, pleasant "southern soul" sound.  It's a really diverse concept; one which I feel has a really wide appeal.  I hear clear, honest southern rock roots with an energetic twist of modern soul.  Where do you guys look for inspiration when continuing to carve out this band's identity?

Will: As far an inspiration, it really comes from a lot of different places.  Like you said, there's that obvious classic rock, if you will, and that's the foundation.  We build off of that through different influences.  The first EP that we recorded, Chase Your Devils Down, had a lot of tunes.  They were pretty much all written by Wallace and Trey.  It was kind of the start of the band.  Since then, everyone else has really pulled in their own stuff.  

Everyone listens to a lot of different styles, and I think that reflects on our upcoming album.  I know Wallace listens to anything from rock to jazz to blues.  We all listen to a lot of Tedeschi Trucks, so there is a little bit of that going on.  I like a lot of electronic stuff, so there's some of that going on.  I know Trey's got some soul stuff.  Each band member brings a different vibe, and I think we all share a lot of common ground as well.  So, we kind of pull that all together and that's been the most recent process.  That's kind of the quick story of it coming together.

Trey: I think that one thing that has really helped us move towards solidifying a musical identity within the band is just being on the road.  Spending that time together has a band has been huge for us.  The more time we've spent around each other...I think a lot of those influences naturally bleed into one another.  Between being on stage, rehearsing in a hotel, or even each guy taking turns as the DJ on a long ass drive...just being around each other and immersing yourself in that lifestyle has really helped us.  Each member's style blends together really smoothly.  I think that on the upcoming record shows that the identity of the band has been much more solidified.  It will reveal itself much more to whoever listens to it.

Listen to Dead 27s EP Chase Your Devils Down here:
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That makes a lot sense.  All of that time on the road ends up almost serving as a "band retreat" if you will.  I know that opens to door to explore each other's musical tastes, and that ends up being the perfect recipe for new concepts and ideas.

While we're on the topic, you're preparing to put your first full length studio album Ghosts are Calling Out.  This is clearly a pivotal moment for you guys.  You were able to bring in Grammy-nominated producer and Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman to the studio.  How did you guys get hooked up with Ben, and how big of an impact did this make on the final product?

Will: So our manager, Rusty Cole, had that connection through working with Ryan Montbleau.  We started putting some demos out there.  We recorded everything that ended up making the album and a whole lot more.  This was all done at a combination of everyone's houses. I've got a little Pro Tools rig, and we'd get together and get a few demos out. Then, we would do overdubs, harmonies, vocals...we pretty much recorded everything on our own at first.  We would then send them out and get some feedback.  

Our manager had some of the demos, and he reached out to Ben (Ellman).  That opened up the conversation, and Ben really liked what he heard.  We took it from there and got on the phone with him soon after.  After we talked, at least for me, he put me at ease.  I think he put all of the guys at ease.  He was just such a cool guy, and we could tell over the phone that he was the right guy to work with.  Just by the direction he was talking in and some of the stuff he was saying, we knew it would be a really cool project. 

We kept staying in touch and sending more demos. He wanted to do it. The next thing you know we're emailing demos, and he's sending feedback. We did as much preproduction through phone conversation and emails as possible.  By the time we got to New Orleans, it felt like we already knew him.  It was a great experience.

You've taken to PledgeMusic to allow your fans to get involved with the finishing touches.  We're in a different musical age, where album sales are almost nonexistent.  Let's talk about the crowdfunding process and how this has worked thus far for Dead 27s.

Trey:  I think this is the second crowdfunding project that we have attempted.  The first one was not anywhere close to the scope of this one.  We did it on on our own, through our website and social media.  It was to raise money for our van, and we barely got enough money to buy a solid touring vehicle (laughs).  So, we had a little bit of experience with it going in.  It's been really positive all around.  The guys from PledgeMusic have been really helpful and supportive.  Our management team has been great.  Our friends and family have been really supportive as well.  We've had people coming out of the woodwork to step up and give their hard earned money to a project that they believe in.  Seeing that type of response and feedback from a lot of people that we may or may not even be that close with has been really awesome. We have a little more over 24 hours left to reach our goal.  We're getting pretty close.  We have a little bit left to fill, but we have some verbal commitments that we will see here over the next day and a half.

Watch Dead 27s perform "Don't Want to Live My Life Without You" at The Charleston Pour House here:
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Have you seen many people cashing in on all of the different packages/rewards that you guys offer with each level of participation? 

Trey: Yeah...we've done quite a few "Happy Birthday" videos on Facebook (laughs). To be honest, I think what has surprised us the most is the lack of taking advantage of some of these more unique packages. A lot of people would just get on there and buy a CD or vinyl package or maybe a t-shirt package, which is super easy for us to make good on.  Once everything is released, all we have to do is mail that shit out.  In terms of us having to go out our way to make good on some of these things, it really hasn't been a hassle or even a chore.  It's been pretty easy breezy so far. 

That's great.  The personal interaction that the crowdfunding creates really goes a long way.  The people that are participating obviously believe in you guys.  They wouldn't get involved and help the cause if they didn't.  Things like this will end up paying dividends down the road.  That gives someone that much more of a reason to throw on the Dead 27s t-shirt and spread the word.  It's crucial.

So, I know you guys are getting ready for a really exciting run over the next two weeks.  You're supporting Galactic at Brooklyn Bowl this weekend, and playing FloydFest next weekend alongside Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Bruce Hornsby, RRE, and so many more.  I'm assuming excitement is at all time high for the band right now.

Will: Hell yeah.  Everyone's pretty pumped.  On a side note, at least me, between playing the gigs and finishing up the album, I feel like we've been so fucking busy that I forget where we're even playing sometimes.  I have to look at the calendar (laughs).  

Trey: I forget what day it is sometimes (laughs).

Will: Just knowing that we are going to be in New York on Saturday with Galactic at this amazing venue, I don't think we could be more excited.  And of course FloydFest...we're really pumped.  Those are definitely going to be some highlights for us coming up.  I don't think it's going to feel real until I'm in the van driving. There are so many things throughout the day that keep your brain occupied, and you don't even think about it.  We're super excited about it though.

Trey:  I'm super excited just to be included on the same festival bill as Gregg Allman.  Just for me personally, the Allman Brothers are my all time favorite band.  I always wanted to maybe sometime play at the same festival as the Allman Brothers, but since they stopped touring, this is probably the next best thing for me.  

Will:  On top of just playing, I can't wait to just be there and go see these bands.  There are so many guys that we really respect and admire.  It's going to be a really cool weekend.

Trey:  I've also had a handful of interactions with Oliver Wood from The Wood Brothers.  He's given me a little advice here and there on songwriting and whatnot.  I know they're going to be there one of the days that we're there. We're all fans of The Wood Brothers, and we're super pumped to see them. The whole festival is going to be so much fun.  I've never been, but I've heard so many great things about it.  Can't wait to get up there.  

Will this be the furthest north that you guys have played?  

Will: Yeah...we've gotten up to the DC area...Bethesda, which is pretty much the other side.  This will be the furthest north we have played.  We haven't ever played New York.  Playing our first show up there with Galactic at Brooklyn Bowl is obviously exciting.  I don't know exactly how long of a drive it is, maybe 13 hours?  I don't know.  We've done some gigs that are that far away.  We were recently down in the Keys doing a little run.  I think it took about 16 hours to get home (laughs). We try to make all of the stops on those long drives, but sometimes we won't have a gig for several days, and we try to just high tail it on home.  

The journey to an exciting weekend or a big show always seems to be a lot more exciting than the journey home.  You don't necessarily have that "golden prize" waiting for you on the way home.

Trey: Yeah you pretty much nailed that, especially after three days in Key West.  The only golden prize you're thinking about on the way back is your own bed...and maybe a huge jug of Gatorade. 

Aside from the new album and the next two weekends, what can we expect from Dead 27s here in the second half of 2016?

Will: Touring is obviously going to be a priority.  We're going to get this album here sometime this fall. We've got some announcements coming up that we can't talk too much about, but there are definitely some positive things on the horizon.  I think the ultimate goal for everyone is to be able to continue making music that people relate to and enjoy.  We want to grow on our fan base, and that's our ultimate goal. We're going to be touring a lot and playing some music (laughs).  

Trey: We've done a pretty good job of seeing most of the east coast areas.  I think moving forward you will see us start to move west a little bit.  Hopefully, as our touring expands, so will our fan base.  Like Will said, we have a handful of things in the works that have to be finalized before we can really talk about it.  I wish we could divulge on more of that. 

No worries.  I certainly know how that works at this point.  We are announcing the details of our big annual show in a few weeks, so I can relate. Everything has to be in place.

Trey:  Definitely.  Oh yeah, on September 23rd, we're playing the Chucktown Ball with Umphrey's McGee, Moon Taxi, and Dangermuffin.  I think I speak for everyone in the band when I say that we could not be more excited for that show.  Those are bands that we absolutely love.  The next night we are playing in Charlotte at the Whitewater Center with Moon Taxi again.  Playing back to back dates with Moon Taxi and of course Chucktown Ball with Umphrey's is super exciting for us.

I'm really glad you mentioned that.  I can't believe I forgot to ask you about that show.  

Will:  Yes...I'm glad you mentioned that as well.  For me, Moon Taxi...I'll tell you what.  I started getting into those guys a couple of years ago.  I heard some of their stuff, and it was good.  Then I saw their live show, and honestly, my face was blown off.  I was in Austin, Texas at South by Southwest, and I saw them on this little back deck.  I was just like, "What did I just see?"  I had heard a lot of buzz about them, but I really didn't understand until then.  I went and saw them again a few nights later, and it did the same thing to me.  So from then on, I've gone to see them every chance I get.  We've all been longtime fans of Umphrey's as well, so that's going to be a really special show.  

That will be amazing.  It's been great to see Moon Taxi really blow up the past few years.  They are that one band that I started seeing at the bar in college that has really made it big.  They've worked their asses off, and it is really paying off for them. The results speak for themselves.

Trey: Absolutely man.  We are very fortunate to be a part of those shows.

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"The new album - recorded in New Orleans with Grammy-nominated producer Ben Ellman - is truly something to get excited about."
Paste Magazine - June 2016
 
"Together the group creates a brilliant record for the masses with sonic-driven guitars and swirls of musical explosions that will please your ears."
No Depression - April 2016
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Official Bio: Dead 27s
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On their debut EP, Dead 27s brilliantly infused rock-and-roll and classic soul with both raw energy and refined musicality. Now with their first full-length effort Ghosts Are Calling Out, the Charleston-based band expands their sound by pursuing their passion for loose and joyful experimentation. Working with a treasure trove of obscure and vintage lo-fi gear, Dead 27s have widened their sonic repertoire to offer up an album that’s boldly inventive but rooted in pure emotion.

The follow-up to 2014’s Chase Your Devils Down—an EP praised by the likes of No Depression, who remarked that “you can feel their music in your bones”—Ghosts Are Calling Out builds off its predecessor’s earthy sensibility and gritty spirit. But while Dead 27s maintain their soulful melodicism and knack for heavy grooves, the new album finds the band crafting gorgeously warped textures that take their music in a thrilling new direction. “Making this album, we wanted to push ourselves and bring much more attention to detail to the production—and at the same time have some fun with all these weird, distorted sounds and tones that we were coming up with,” notes Mullinax.

That creative abandon is palpable throughout Ghosts Are Calling Out, which was produced by Ben Ellman (a member of the funk/rock act Galactic) and mixed by Mikael “Count” Eldridge (a producer/engineer whose past work includes releases by Radiohead, the Rolling Stones, and a Grammy Award-winning effort from Mavis Staples). To record the album, Dead 27s headed to New Orleans and set up shop in The Living Room (a studio housed in a 1930s church by the Mississippi River). While in New Orleans, Dead 27s took advantage of their surroundings by pairing up with local musicians like Pretty Lights touring keyboardist Brian Coogan (who performed on several tracks on Ghosts Are Calling Out). The band also had a major breakthrough when Ellman sent them to the home of Ani DiFranco and her producer/husband Mike Napolitano to borrow a stockpile of gear that would play a major role in shaping the album’s sound. “All of a sudden we had all these new toys and a way bigger palette to paint with,” recalls Francis. Among those toys: a pocket amp, a miniature synthesizer, and an Omnichord (an electric harp-like device that generates what Evans calls “these very ’80s-Nintendo-sounding chords”).

Despite the playfulness of its production, Ghosts Are Calling Out attains an emotional depth first glimpsed on Chase Your Devils Down. “The title for the new record comes from a line in ‘Only One’: ‘Down on Desperation Lane/Ghosts are calling out my name,’” explains Mullinax, referring to the album’s closing track. “It’s about the ghosts of your past experiences, the things that haunt you throughout your life—not necessarily in a bad way, but in the sense that certain experiences just stay a part of you forever.”

In capturing experiences both bad and good, painful and euphoric, Ghosts Are Calling Out endlessly shifts moods and embodies a broad spectrum of feeling—a feat achieved with great help from Francis’s stunning vocal command. Kicking off with the one-two punch of “What a Waste” (a harmony-laced number featuring some fantastically skewed guitar work) and “Queen” (a feel-good track shot through with hip-shaking rhythms), the album then drifts into melancholy on songs like the beautifully bittersweet “Already Dead” and the deceptively breezy “Grey Skies.” “That song’s about someone who’s brokenhearted after the girl he loves leaves him,” explains Francis of the latter. “It’s about feeling like you can’t enjoy yourself at all anymore, and it’s meant to give you the feeling that you’re almost getting past that and moving on to something better.”

Elsewhere on Ghosts Are Calling Out, Dead 27s explore darker territory with “Scarecrow,” a song that threads its sinister guitar riff through lyrics about “watching someone get caught up with a very powerful and negative person,” according to Mullinax. With its sleepy melody, spacey tones, and smoldering guitar work, “Fantastic” slips into dreamy psychedelia but delivers a message that Mullinax describes as “wanting change instead of just accepting things that aren’t exactly right.” On the hymnlike “Emanuel,” the band quietly reflects on the 2015 shooting at their hometown’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “I was away when that happened, and when I got back I went straight to the church,” says Mullinax. “When I got home that night, the song came together so easily, although now it’s very difficult to play.” And on “Only One,” Dead 27s shake off everyday frustrations and lay down an all-out anthem whose groove gives a nod to the then-recently-departed New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint.

The intense vitality that powers each track on Ghosts Are Calling Out has much to do with Dead 27s’ undeniable chemistry, a force they discovered the very first time they played together. Initially teaming up for a one-time gig at a local festival in spring 2012, Francis, Mullinax, Evans, and Goldstein quickly decided to collaborate on a new project, and soon brought Crider into the fold. Seeking a name for the event, the band began to brainstorm ideas and decided to pay homage to 27s club, a group of musicians known for leaving an indelible mark on American music. The name stuck more for the appreciation of pushing musical boundaries and leaving nothing on the table at live shows, than a direct mirroring of any of the 27s club members sound. In that moment, Dead 27s was born.

After releasing Chase Your Devils Down in spring 2014, Dead 27s earned the Charleston City Paper Music Awards’ Song of the Year prize two years in a row, ranked in the top 24 of VH1’s “Make a Band Famous” competition, and opened for such artists as Earphunk, Galactic, The Revivalists, Marcus King Band, and Tab Benoit. Fast gaining a reputation as an incendiary live act, the band devoted much of 2015 to touring as well as writing and pre-producing material for Ghosts Are Calling Out.

With each show serving as a breeding ground for creativity, Dead 27s mine much inspiration from their time on the road. Along with setting up makeshift recording stations in their hotel rooms, the band continually sources song ideas on the fly: the new album’s “Rainbow,” for instance, was sparked by a strange piece of graffiti carved into the wall of a bar bathroom in Chattanooga. Through that near-constant writing and performing, Dead 27s have vastly strengthened their creative connection and pushed the boundaries of their musicianship. “We’ve always worked in a way where everyone adds their own flavors to the songs, but this album was much more of a collaborative effort,” says Evans. “Each one of us more was a lot more heavily engaged in the whole process, and we ended up trying new stuff that we’re all really excited about and that goes way beyond just having some good new songs to put out.”


Umphrey's McGee Announces 2nd Annual Chucktown Ball in Charleston May 09, 2016 14:30

Photo by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Press Release via Umphreys.com

Umphrey’s McGee will return to Charleston, South Carolina on September 23rd and 24th for the second iteration of Chucktown Ball at Riverfront Park in North Charleston. As some members of UM now call the Charleston area home, the Chucktown Ball is rapidly evolving into a unique Umphrey’s celebration. Riverfront Park is situated on the beautiful banks of the Cooper River, surrounded by graceful oak trees; this picturesque outdoor setting will be the backdrop for a two-day full blown Umphrey’s McGee event. Each night, two sets of UM will be preceded by very special guests: Moon Taxi and Dead 27s on Friday September 23rd; and The Floozies, Dangermuffin, and The Hip Abduction on Saturday September 24th. UM will also feature local food, libations, and vending, along with a umVIP elevated concert experience and umVIP travel packages.

For those of you interested in upgrading your Chucktown Ball experience, UM offers travel and umVIP offerings that will rock your socks off. Packages include tickets to each show, a umVIP lounge with discounted bar pricing, preferred viewing in front of the stage, a separate umVIP entrance, a pre-show BBQ on Saturday with an open cocktail hour, MP3 downloads of all UM shows, a commemorative laminate, and a dedicated staff throughout the weekend. UM is offering you two choices for our hotel packages to best suit your needs, both located in historic downtown Charleston. The brand new Dewberry Hotel and the Hyatt Place are both walking distance from Charleston’s many phenomenal restaurants and nightlife. UM will also offer transportation from your hotel to the venue.

Watch an interview with Ryan Stasik from last year's Chucktown Ball here:

Pre-sale and umVIP on-sale will begin on Tuesday, May 10, at 12:00 pm ET. During pre-sale, we will offer a limited amount of deeply discounted two-day early-bird tickets for $55.00. Snag these while supplies last. Public on-sale begins Thursday, May 12, at 12:00 pm ET.

Early bird two-day GA passes are $55.00, regular two-day GA passes are $75.00, single-day GA tickets are $45.00, umVIP only two-day packages are $359.00, umVIP Friday only are $169.00, and umVIP Saturday only are $199.00.

Chucktown Ball will contribute a portion of proceeds to the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, to aide in the incredible work they do for South Carolina families.

Watch Umphrey's McGee perform "Ringo" at last year's Chucktown Ball here: