Ahead of our collab show with headliners The Underhill Family Orchestra at The Earl on Feb. 23rd, the band takes us through their debut album, the challenges of working together from different states, and striking balance among music and other career pursuits.
Bringing southern progressive pop to the forefront of their 5-part harmonies, The Underhill Family Orchestra brings fluid southern elements from their family roots of the delta area. With three lead singers — Joelle Rosen, Steven Laney and Ben Cook — and additional vocals from Roy Durand (Drums) and Joe Grove (Bass), Underhill captures that warm family feeling. After putting out its debut album, Tell Me That You Love Me, last May and touring across the country, Underhill has continued to challenge itself by continuing to work together, despite some members living in different states, and striking a balance between the band and other creative pursuits.
Creating a successful place among the booming Atlanta music scene, The Underhill Family Orchestra has been able to put all its heart and soul behind the diverse and inclusive spaces the scene has to offer. As a DIY hub, Atlanta’s creative community has offered support and encouragement, especially to frontwoman Joelle Rosen. “Mixing your career and passion can be really scary but also really rewarding,” Rosen says. “I kind of bounce between the scary and rewarding on a daily basis.”
As a musician and editorial photographer, Rosen is constantly working to merge her place on the stage and behind the camera. Experimentation and gut instincts play a huge role in Rosen’s career and lifestyle, as her creative pursuits weave and entangle themselves in her path. Rosen finds that her “Patsy Cline on Vacation meets ‘70s couch” personal style translates into her “retro dream grunge” editorial aesthetic, which then finds its way onstage with the band. “Sometimes it doesn’t work, but I think just experimenting and trusting yourself goes along with getting to know yourself and feeling comfortable in your own skin,” Rosen says.
Underhill’s debut album, Tell Me That You Love Me, serves as the band’s introduction and propels these themes of growth and balance, through soulful tracks and cry-worthy narratives rooted in New Orleans elements. Rosen’s has familial ties to the delta, which trickle its way into the album with interludes of her grandmother speaking. One excerpt at the end of the album extends the ancestral bonds, as Rosen’s grandmother laments the loss of her husband over homemade gumbo, describing her last days with him.
Underhill’s strong communication and ability to listen to each other's diverse personal tastes has an effect on the group’s songwriting, since each bandmate contributes to the process. Underhill’s music is personal, combining past inspiration with present day feelings. “Chickasaw Fields” is one track especially teeming with memories. “I remember sitting in my old living room years ago when Steven came to me with the idea. I love the Johnny and June back-and-forth verse style and think it’s definitely a quintessential Underhill vibe,” Rosen says.
The Underhill Family Orchestra continues to change, but the familial ties remain. The band is currently working on their sophomore album, on which they plan to experiment with more unorthodox instrumentation while retaining lyrical themes of love and loss. Whether playing together in Alabama, Louisiana or Georgia, The Underhill Family Orchestra will continue to share vulnerability and warmth with their listeners.
Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan began making music together as close friends. The duo soon came into their own as Ratboys, after discovering their musical compatibility, and mutual love for a good melody and intimate storytelling. The Chicago-based group is now two albums and multiple EPs into their career, with no signs of stopping.
We chatted with Steiner after her opening set for Soccer Mommy, in November of 2018, at Atlanta’s Masquerade. Sitting amongst the cigarette-smokers and abandoned tallboys outside the venue, we talked about Ratboys’ past 3 and a half years of touring, and what comes next.
Sagan and Steiner began collaborating musically during college, after finding each other in a niche group of artists at Notre Dame. While their sound has evolved, it remains centered on melodic songwriting, infectious energy and pangs of nostalgia. Steiner says the most noticeable change in their sound was between 2015’s AOID and 2017’s GN. GN presents tracks that are more storied and nimble, including their well-known hit, “Elvis Is in the Freezer.” Electric guitar is more present on their second LP than their first, taking Ratboys beyond an alt-country or indie band, to something less tame.
The most recent release from Ratboys, GL, may only be a 4-song EP, but it’s packed to the brim with evidence of a more dynamic sound to come on their next full-length release. Steiner notes that her favorite track on the EP, “You’ve Changed,” is one that she’s wanted to record since high school. The song has aged well, seamlessly carrying over from the heaviness of losing friends and enduring dramatic changes under the spell of high school angst, to the impermanence and constant oscillations of your early-to-mid-twenties.
Ratboys expects its third LP to come this year, but the duo hasn’t set a date yet. Steiner and Sagan typically use a stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting, but they have trouble writing on the road, making it difficult to pin down a release date. Some of the tracks are finished, though, and they describe what they’ve recorded so far as having more “live show energy” than anything prior. Despite the writing setbacks due to touring, Steiner says some of her most creative song ideas come during the fast-paced routine of soundchecking, night after night.
Starting in April, Ratboys will be going on tour with PUP, opening for the punk band for a five month stint. This tour comes as a precursor to the next album, and is evidence that Ratboys is expanding their breadth of sound into something that is more punk-fueled than indie rock-based.
By Kristy Guilbault
It’s easy to gloss over the bands listed in small fonts at the bottom of lineup posters. Throughout this week, we’re magnifying the fine print of Shaky Knees, with interviews and highlights of artists you won’t want to miss at this year’s fest. Check out the first edition here.
»»» Sat., May 5 «««
Hailing from Nashville, Sun Seeker craft psych rock with a distinctive southern folk attitude. And while the group is frequently labeled as Cosmic American, frontman Alex Benick (guitar, vocals) wants to make it clear that that’s not the case.
“It’s weird a lot of the press that I’ve seen says that we’re self-described as Cosmic American music,” Benick says. “I can assure you that I never self-described us with that term. I honestly don’t really know what it means, but I guess it’s a nice thing. I’m definitely not passionate about it, or feel like that’s a guideline that we set ourselves to. I suppose that it’s like folk music that’s a little bit spacey, because of the cosmos or something.”
Spectral synth and acoustic guitar dot the band’s 2017 EP Biddeford, but the 60s seem to have a more profound influence on Sun Seeker’s sound than the cosmos. The opening track “Churchill” breezes by with Beach Boys-esque harmonies and drummer Ben Parks light yet energetic percussion. Benick notes that Biddeford feels a bit outdated, and even did at its release, but new material is on the way.
Starting in July, Sun Seeker will record their debut album in their hometown, under Third Man Records. Details are sparse, but the band hopes to branch out a bit from their current sound, and will play a few of the new songs on the road this summer, most notably at Shaky Knees.
“I’ve never been to Shaky Knees, but that seems to be the festival to be at,” Benick says. “We have a bunch of friends that have played before, and I’m really liking the lineup this year for sure. I’ve been a big War on Drugs fan for a long time, and we’re playing the same day as them, which I was really excited about. But, also, I think we’re going to stay the whole weekend. So seeing Courtney Barnett will be great, and I have a huge soft spot for Fleet Foxes from middle or high school days.”
It’s rare to come across a band that possess the ability to stop time with their music. In that regard, Charly Bliss is a diamond in the rough, crafting grunge pop that does more than halts time, it transcends it. With frontwoman Eva Hendricks’ honeyed vocals and unruly guitar riffs, the Brooklyn four-piece transports you back to the days of dancing around your high school bedroom to angsty pop punk.
The road to Charly Bliss’ debut full-length was long and bumpy, but ultimately successful. After years of touring, an EP, multiple recording attempts, and a few entire scrapings of projects, Guppy was born, to both critical and commercial acclaim. “People forget sometimes that expressing joy is just as important as examining despair,” says bassist Dan Shure in a press release. “People need joy, especially right now. We’re all about writing tight pop songs, but also giving people this super enthusiastic release. These songs are kind of the sound of expressing something that you can’t really contain. These are songs you play really loudly when you need to freak out.”