Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lions For Real Growl Emerging Artist

Lions For Real
A couple of years ago, The Loft, an unsigned Nashville-based indie rock band with plenty of grit and promise, shrugged off their seven-year run and called it quits. Like many indies, they had sacrificed plenty over the better part of a decade. Most members were done.

John Banzhoff (vocals) and Jonathan Biggs (drums) were the exceptions. They didn't see the split as the end of something as much as the beginning of something else. So they continued to jam together whenever and wherever they could, all the time wonder what might come next.

The answer came to them somewhat unexpectedly. At the same time their band was winding down, two others that played the same circuit were coming close too, freeing up guitarist Andrew Adkins (Mellow Down Easy) and bassist Kyle Blankenship (The Goodside) to start Lions For Real.

"John, Biggs, and I met up late one night after a show for a few beers, drinks, and a jam session," said Adkins. "From that moment on, we occasionally jammed together. But it was probably when we caught wind that Kyle would jam with us that we realized that what we made together was magic and unique."

They weren't the only ones to think so. After working with the Gavin DeGraw family to put together a demo, some of the new band's recordings made their way to Los Angeles, where a 5-year-old experimental label made up of long-time friends Timmy "The Terror" Anderson and actor Ryan Gosling. The label, Werewolf Heart Records, had recently recruited a former Atlantic Records scout who happened to be friends with Banzhoff. They heard pretty much what we heard.

"After the recordings were passed to Werewolf Heart Records, we were on a plane to L.A. within a couple of months," says Adkins. "We're currently recording our first album now. There will be a couple of songs people have heard, some reworked songs from our live shows, and new material that we've been writing, scrapping, and writing again."

The Movement, which is one of a handful of songs that were originally meant to be released as an EP, captures the indie funk rock sound that is likely to be a signature sound for Lions For Real. Most notably, it showcases Banzhoff cutting loose like that he rarely did with The Loft and backed by members with an ear for funk, rock, and soul.

"The entire process is definitely a 4-way process. One member might come up with the original melody, rhythm, or idea, but the rest of it just sort of falls into place," says Adkins. "There is an unspoken chemistry that happens here that is unlike any of our previous bands."

By the sound of the initial recordings, some of it is the style. In composing The Movement, Adkins was listening to artists like Kanye West, Wu-Tang Clan, and Fela Kuti when these rhythmic-oriented artists sparked the main riff. From there, the rest of the song unfolded with the band and Banzhoff writing something universal in the lyrics that he could deliver with a smoky Southern rock passion.

Adkins says the passion is real, with almost every song that survives the creative process being bits and pieces that are significant to each member. It's important to them, he said, to craft songs that capture their personalities as much of their musical abilities. And everything, everything, is a jam session anywhere.

Heavy Stereo, which is one five tracks the band is currently sharing around as part of a pre-release package, naturally sounds fuller. Banzhoff and Adkins pull it off nicely as an acoustic. Add in Blankenship's well-placed and pronounced bass along with Biggs' drum progressions and the song, although light on lyrics but heavy on emotion, defines what they call a powerful cooperative of talents.

The same can be said for any one of the five recordings out on the net. Fever and On The Run are especially solid, bringing in some influences from generations past while precariously carving out their own direction. They also have much more to draw upon, with more then 20 songs recorded.

"Over all, we have recorded around 20 songs, all of which we've played during shows," says Adkins. "The reaction of these songs in front of a live audience has definitely influenced our choices in scrapping them or keeping them around. We want to make and keep a connection with the crowd."

There is little doubt that the connection is made. Lions For Real manages to put down most of their music as if they're performing live. Never mind that everything that they have recorded to date has been done in their own studio. It's this sound we're hoping to hear soon when their label releases the debut — one that Adkins says they hope reaches a broad audience but never becomes overly processed or embarrassing like some commercial bands.

The Movement By Lions For Real Shakes Up 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

With most members of this Nashville-based four-piece having put in at least a decade of time and sacrifice into their music, there is legitimate excitement in seeing them on the doorstep of what they've been working toward. With the raw DIY aspect of the band intact, expect to see them hit the road soon and see their debut album follow suit.

Links to the album will be added after the debut's release, but you can still catch five tracks from the band on Bandcamp. Their upcoming shows will be soon listed on Facebook, were you can hear both The Movement and the studio version of Heavy Stereo in anticipation of the album's release. Put them down on your watch list this year.
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