Photo | Skate Mountain Records / Alyx Gardner
Band: The Underhill Family Orchestra, MYFEVER
Date: Friday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St.,
Tickets: $8 at the door
It’s 4 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. Skate Mountain Records’ The Underhill Family Orchestra has been on the road since daybreak. However, the road is both a familiar and welcome environment for this ragtag group of local musicians, and the band’s frequent, extensive tour runs are rare in the local scene.
Guitarist Steven Laney says the band’s dedication to touring comes from the ideology “you don’t get anywhere by sitting still.” This statement also resonates throughout the band’s music. Their versatile sound is an inventive form of indie roots rock with Americana overtones that tends to take listeners through a variety of emotional states, from elation to serenity. This aural personality is personified through a live show that quickly establishes a passionate bond with audiences as well as bands who share the stage with them.
The positive impression Underhill portrays both on and off the stage can be rewarding both musically and socially.
“We get asked a lot if you get to spend money on hotel rooms, but we don’t,” Laney said. “We like to sleep on floors and hanging out with the people who come out to our shows. We have friends everywhere. We want to hang out with them. We sleep on their couches and have a good time.”
Laney says the social network aspect of Underhill has also played a great role in gathering listeners into the fold as well as opening new stages in different cities. This particular run of shows is taking the band back to Charleston, South Carolina, for a show with She Returns from War.
When singer-songwriter Hunter Park brought her She Returns from War project to SouthSounds Music Festival in 2016, she and the members of Underhill became fast friends, which opened channels for shows in the two group’s respective hometowns. Laney says SouthSounds has been instrumental in making connections with bands from other cities, and the band looks forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at SouthSounds this year.
“I think SouthSounds is a really fun way to do that,” he explained. “Since it’s coming back around, we have a lot of bands that we’re excited to see. That’s where we’ve met a lot of the bands that we play with in Charleston, specifically She Returns from War and High Divers. That’s how we got hooked up with our friends in SUSTO.”
Underhill is also heading to Charleston with the future in mind, preparing for its first album on Skate Mountain Records. One of the label’s first clients, Laney says Skate Mountain has provided a family environment for Underhill. Laney and fellow band member Roy Durand have dedicated some of their spare time working at the label, and the band thrives in Skate Mountain’s practice space, which Laney says has strengthened their creativity.
Underhill’s first offering on Skate Mountain is what the band describes as a “digital 45,” which will fill the time until the release of a full-length. Laney says the moniker for this double-serving of singles is a tribute to the vinyl medium with which singles were released in the past.
“The 45 release is such an important part of the legacy of music,” Laney said. “When we looked at the songs that we had and what we wanted to be on the album, we had a couple of songs.”
One side of this digital 45 will feature a song familiar to seasoned Underhill fans. The band originally released “Showdown at St. Lawrence” in 2013, with a companion music video. When the tracks for this song were originally laid, Underhill featured Jimmy Lee, Jeremy Padot and Brian Wattier. Not only does this track reflect the band’s reformed lineup but it also incorporates recently conceived musical elements.
“We had been toying with new ideas for it, so we wanted to share those ideas and immortalize them,” Laney said. “We’re really amped on those songs. I get to play some really cool guitar stuff on ‘Showdown at St. Lawrence’ that I really love.”
The B-side of the digital 45 will be Underhill’s version of The Monkees classic “I’m a Believer.” However, the group’s rendition is worlds away from the classic pop rock hit penned by Neil Diamond. Laney describes Underhill’s version as “more of a slow dance than a hand jive.” Underhill delivers “I’m a Believer” with a slow, loving poignancy that transforms this song in to a modern indie love ballad that blends well with the lyrical aspect of the song.
“The song is really beautiful,” Laney said. “The illusory material and the lyrics are proudly and smartly written. I’ve always loved those words. When it came time to play it, the only way that made sense was to make it sweet and sentimental.”
The digital 45 serves as a harbinger for the band’s upcoming full-length, “Tell Me That You Love Me,” to be released “around summer or middle spring.” However, Laney says the band already has tentative release dates for singles leading up to the album’s release.
The guitarist said the album will be driven by dynamics adding a dramatic aspect. According to his description, “Tell Me That You Love Me” will take on the nature of a stage play in three acts, with a “fun” introduction and a “cinematic turn” in the final song acting as the grand finale.
Underhill divided studio time between Dauphin Street Sound in Mobile and White Buffalo Studios in Los Angeles. Throughout the process, producer Noah Shain (Jimmy Lumpkin & the Revival) was there providing guidance. This was Underhill’s first experience with a producer and Laney said the band welcomed Shain’s input throughout the process. He especially appreciated Shain’s “loving quality that he has for creating.” However, Laney says there were times when Underhill had to acclimate Shain to their reality.
“We recorded it during Mardi Gras, one of the biggest celebrations in Mobile,” Laney said. “Noah was kinda struggling with how the music was supposed to feel. We said, ‘Come hang out at the parade for a minute.’ We were working on a song that lives in and enjoys that second line band kind of feel. As soon as he heard, he came back in and said, ‘You know, I think I understand this.’”
Even though the full-length is months from being released, The Underhill Family Orchestra remains busy. Laney says they will be shooting “maybe a couple” of music videos and releasing “maybe three singles,” as well as promoting the release on social media — which Laney says is obligatory for the current music industry model.
Of course, the band will also be playing as many shows as they can in as many cities as they can visit, and making more friends along the way. Laney says the Callaghan’s crowd should enjoy their friends/showmates MYFEVER, which he describes as maintaining the “sentimental part of Manchester Orchestra” while featuring “a lot of the same elements as SUSTO and Motel Radio.”
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