J. Roddy Walston & The Business

The third album from J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Essential
Tremors borrows its name from a nervous-system disorder that’s long plagued the band’s frontman. “It’s this condition where my hands
shake―sometimes not at all, but sometimes pretty bad,” says
singer/pianist/guitarist Walston. “I’ve referenced it throughout all our
records in some way, but it made sense to be more open about it on
this album, which is partly about owning and embracing your
weirdness instead of letting it hold you captive because you don’t even want to talk about it.” For J. Roddy Walston & The Business, who formed in 2002 in Walston’s hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee―embracing weirdness means a mumble-out-loud celebration of that great and terrible burden of being human. Forcing the oft-clashing worlds of art and rock-and-roll to make nice, the band (including guitarist/vocalist Billy Gordon, bassist/vocalist Logan Davis, and drummer Steve Colmus) deals in a scrappy yet sublime sound that honors both their Southern roots and punk spirit.

On Essential Tremors, J. Roddy Walston & The Business builds off that formula with a mix of heavy hooks and elegant melodies revealing
their affinity for artists as disparate as Led Zeppelin, pre-disco-era Bee Gees, The Replacements, Randy Newman, and the Southern soul outfits that once populated the Stax Records label. Co-produced by Matt Wignall (Delta Spirit, Cold War Kids) and Grammy-winning
producer/engineer Mark Neill (The Black Keys) at Neill’s own Soil of the South Studios (a Valdosta, Georgia-based facility where J. Roddy
Walston & The Business were the first to ever record), the follow-up to 2010’s much-acclaimed self-titled sophomore album also finds the
band crafting lyrics that ultimately serve as a secret language to the
initiated listener.
“It seems like most bands write for either the animal side of people or
for the side that’s more in tune with the spirit or even just the psyche,
but we tend to just smash all those things together,” says Walston.
“It’s like we’re writing religious songs for the animal side. We’ve got
songs that feel like party songs but if you look at it closer, it’s
something more cerebral. So for the people who want to dig in and
connect all the weird crosswires, the song can turn into something
else.” And because J. Roddy Walston & The Business is practiced in the art of subversion, he adds, “these are songs you can get away with listening to around ‘the straights.’ The danger is in what lies behind the codes and the prose, and how gently they unravel once you’ve digested them.”
Endlessly shifting from snarling and stompy to warm and soulful—and often encompassing all of the above within the same note―Essential Tremors opens with “Heavy Bells,” a powerhouse lead single that starts out breezy then gives way to a blistering chorus that threatens to rip Walston’s sweetly ragged vocals right open. The album amps up that brutal energy on songs like “Hard Times” (an epic anthem built on a mercilessly driving bassline) and “Sweat Shock” (a track that comes off like dance-floor war cry for Native American metalheads), while “Marigold” keeps it blissfully catchy and “Black Light” offers a glammed-up bedroom boogie that could be the soundtrack to a metaphysical seduction scene. Even when turning tender (such as on the heart-on-sleeve serenade “Boys Can Never Tell,” the harmonysoaked “Nobody Knows,” and the album-closing stunner “Midnight Cry”), Essential Tremors burns with a raw passion that’s nothing short of glorious.

Releasing their debut EP Here Comes Trouble in 2002, J. Roddy Walston & The Business relocated to Baltimore in 2004 after Walston’s then girlfriend (and now wife) began studying opera at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Along with putting out their first full-length album (2007’s Hail Mega Boys), the band devoted the next few years to earning a reputation as an incendiary live act that devotees aptly liken to “AC/DC fronted by Jerry Lee Lewis.” Along with touring with the likes of The Black Keys, Lucero and the Lumineers, J. Roddy Walston & The Business have brought their joyfully chaotic performance to such festivals as Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and Bonnaroo. Melting all manner of stereotypes into an as-yet-unnamed breed of New American, each performance finds hipsters hugging Teamsters and sweating till it hurts, and art-school cynics and metalheads screaming out every lyric in some gorgeously desperate attempt to connect. There seems to be a competition between the band and the crowd as to who will give more each night.

While their frenetic live show remains a key element of the J. Roddy
experience, Walston is careful to keep his songwriting process separate from touring. “I think it’s dangerous to write songs when you’re on the road, since you’re so out of touch with the normal, natural human condition,” he says. So before developing songs for Essential Tremors, Walston waited until he’d settled into the home he’d purchased in his newly adopted city of Richmond, Virginia. “I’ve sort of drifted back down South again,” says Walston, who names classic Southern writers like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor as major influences on his own writing. “I don’t think our band or our music is particularly Southern, but our sense of storytelling and use of language is very much aligned with a more Southern way of life.”
Defining J. Roddy Walston & The Business as an “American band, just as much as Creedence Clearwater Revival or Big Star or The Pixies were all perfectly American at the time they were coming out,”
Walston notes that the Southern lifestyle serves as an infinite
inspiration for his music. “It’s my experience that Southerners are fully
interested in the worlds of philosophy and science and spirituality and
nature, but with a take on life that’s softer and slower. The south has a
pace that’s based on patience.” And in creating Essential Tremors―as well as its cryptic cover art, which Walston describes as “like if someone broke into my house and took a picture of something they maybe shouldn’t have seen”―J. Roddy Walston & The Business sought to encapsulate that richness while maintaining a certain air of mystery and mysticism. “It’s not about some sort of Skull and Bones thing of gaining access to an inner circle of high society,” he says. “It’s about feeling an intimate connection with these weird secret worlds that are the legs holding up the table of what seems like a normal, average, everyday American life―but that most people might not even know are there.”

Taddy Porter

You can’t move forward without knowing where you’ve been.

Taddy Porter certainly recognizes where they came from and, in turn, where they’re headed. Even while progressing, the Stillwater, OK rock outfit consciously connected to their roots physically, sonically, and spiritually on their second full-length album, Stay Golden [out February 26th via Primary Wave Music].

“We wanted the title to pay homage to Oklahoma because it’s our collective home,” explains singer and guitarist Andy Brewer. “At the same time, it gives a broader idea of our view on life and nods to that line in The Outsiders, ‘Stay gold, Ponyboy.’ It’s about holding on to your innocence and optimism. You’ve got to stay golden in the face of life’s curveballs, and stay true to yourself. As a band, that’s was our singular goal when we set out to make this album. We needed to remain true to the music we want to make.”

Embracing that mindset, the group found themselves evolving and experimenting with a more expansive and eclectic rock soundscape, all while still managing to preserve the foundation they established on their acclaimed 2010 self-titled debut. This time around, they distill elements of Southern blues, Motown soul, raw rock, and psychedelic pop into eleven intoxicating and irresistible songs. Taddy Porter—Brewer, Joe Selby [lead guitar, backing vocals], brothers Doug [drums] and Kevin Jones [bass]—cruises seamlessly into this next chapter, and everyone’s invited along for the ride.

In January 2012, the quartet hunkered down in a Nashville studio with producer Dave Cobb [Chris Cornell, Shooter Jennings] and producer/mixer Mark Neill [The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach] to record, before eventually finishing a few tracks in San Diego. Cobb and Neil, co-producing together for the first time, each brought a unique arsenal of sonic weapons to the recording process. Their combined firepower left an indelible mark on the overall vision & vibe of the music.

Raiding Cobb’s impressive collection of vintage gear and his encyclopedic knowledge of music, the band tapped into a warm sound that evoked their influences and simultaneously conjured a new vitality.

“Dave saw where we were going with the tunes and helped us zero in,” explains Selby. “He’d pull out records for us to listen to that were incredibly inspirational. We ended up listening to The Zombies, The Kinks, and these amazing late British Invasion bands.”

The first single “Fever” stands emblematic of the group’s progression. A robust beat gives way to a swaggering, sexy guitar groove punctuated by organ, thumping bass, and Brewer’s soulful delivery. Lyrically, it’s a sweaty admission of yearning for an unattainable vixen.

“It’s an observation of an untouchable girl who can’t get enough of the nightlife,” reveals the vocalist. “You want her, but you can’t have her. While she’s sexy and has everything that will make you go crazy, she’ll never let you get close enough to figure her out. You can’t get enough of her, and you’ve got the fever.” You’ll have the fever too once you hear it.

On the other end of the spectrum, “Changes” boasts an anthemic revolutionary chant, a fuzzed-out wall of reverb, and a searing solo courtesy of Selby.

Brewer adds, “When we were working with Mark and talking about the direction our sound was taking, he kept joking around in this Southern accent and saying, ‘There’s going to be some changes made around here.’ We were just screwing around, but I thought that would make for the perfect hook so we recorded it. It also spoke to the changes we were making as a band. In our opinion, we felt the only way forward for us as a band was to explore these new musical avenues.”

On “The Gun (Part 1),” the band tells a cinematic Spaghetti Western-style story of a hitman on the verge of vengeance with an airy twang and surf guitar echo a la Dick Dale.

“It’s a progressive slow-moving, eerie tune,” affirms Selby. “There are certain tones that give it a distinct feel. It shows another side of what we’re doing here.”

Of course, this creative expansion didn’t happen overnight for Taddy Porter. Since their first record dropped, the band has constantly turned heads. Their music has been featured prominently in HBO’s Newsroom and Entourage, Showtime’s Homeland, Monday Night Football, ESPN’s SportsCenter, ABC, NBC and more. They shared the stage with everyone from Slash to Band of Skulls, and released a video starring Steven Tyler’s daughter Chelsea Tallarico for “Long Slow Drag.” But after touring non-stop and playing more than 250 shows in a year, the band took stock of the course they were on.

“With the first record, everything moved really fast and we appreciated everything that was happening. But we were unsatisfied creatively and began to realize that we had to get back to our roots and just be more honest with ourselves about the music we wanted to make,” admits Brewer.

And so, the songs on Stay Golden were born. The album points not only to Taddy Porter’s intrinsic identity but who they will ultimately become. Change is scary but it is part of everyone’s journey. “Our first goal is to spread a positive message,” Brewer concludes. “We want people to stay true to themselves and follow their own impulses. It’s okay to change because that’s our very nature. At the same time, you can also get down and dance to the music. We’ve learned that you feel so much better when you can just do what you want.”



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