Judah & the Lion – Going to Mars Tour with Colony House and Tall Heights
Colony House, Tall Heights
Wed · February 28, 2018
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
$25.00 - $80.00
This event is 18 and overhttps://www.georgiatheatre.com/event/1567142/
With their second full-length album Folk Hop N Roll, the guys shine a light on the place where their influences overlap. It's a wide-ranging sound, with fuzz bass, hip-hop percussion, distorted banjo riffs, and super-sized melodies all stirred into the same mixing pot.
"There's no boundaries," says front man Judah Akers, who shares the band's lineup with drummer Spencer Cross, mandolin player Brian Macdonald, and banjo wiz Nate Zuercher. "We wanted to make something raw, something with attitude. We all grew up loving these hip-hop beats, so why not make an album that has the grit of Run DMC or Beastie Boys, along with all the folk instruments that we play?"
Like Kids These Days — the band's debut record, which climbed to number four on the Billboard Folk Chart and number two on the genre-wide Heatseekers chart after its release in September 2014 — Folk Hop N Roll was produced by award winner Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton). Cobb captured the band's new songs in a series of quick, inspired takes, aiming for performances that sounded real and raw rather than polished and perfect. Everything was done in just two weeks. The goal was to fuel the album with the same electricity that fills the band's live show.
An independent band whose success has arrived not on the back of some big budget major label, but through the band's own touring, Judah & the Lion have built a large, loyal fanbase on the road. They played 150 shows in 2015 alone, stretching their gigs all across America and Scandinavia. Along the way, they shared stages with artists like Mat Kearney, Drew Holcomb, and Ben Rector. That sort of drive — the commitment to chasing down their dreams, one encore at a time — also fuels the lyrics that appear on Folk Hop N Roll, a record whose songs spin stories of struggle, triumph, and all points in between.
"This record was made for the live show," Akers promises. "Our shows are all about the experience we share with our fans. We know that people work everyday jobs or go to school, and they're dealing with life, and yet they're still choosing to spend the night with us. We don't take that lightly. We give them an experience. We throw an absolute rage. And all the songs were made with that in mind. They're fun, carefree, and youthful, and we live our lives that way, too."
Anthemic and wildly creative, Folk Hop N Roll is unlike anything else in modern music. It's a rule-breaking record, with Judah & the Lion creating a sound that belongs entirely to them. From the earthy stomp of roots music to the bold bounce of hip-hop, Folk Hop N Roll casts a wide net, proof that Judah & the Lion — who are now four releases into their career — have developed quite the roar.
Judah & the Lion followed the release of Folk Hop N Roll with a massive tour spanning most of 2016. Late in the year, after being named iHeartRadio’s Artist on the Verge, their single “Take It All Back” began to climb the ranks at Alternative Radio, eventually culminating in a three week stint in the #1 spot to kick off 2017. In tandem with their first #1 song, Judah & the Lion also kicked off a tour as support for Twenty One Pilots which brought them to arenas all across the US.
Inspired by how their genre-blending style was connecting with fans, Judah & the Lion headed back into the studio in early 2017 to record 4 brand new songs dubbed the Going to Mars Collection, which, when combined with Folk Hop N Roll, make up Folk Hop N Roll Deluxe. In support of the Deluxe Edition, the band embarked on The Going to Mars Tour this Spring and Fall – taking them on their biggest headlining run to date. In between, they hit the road for select dates with Kaleo and hit amphitheaters this summer with Jimmy Eat World and Incubus.
The rebooted version of the album includes the band’s follow up to “Take It All Back,” the equally high energy and anthemic “Suit and Jacket” which debuted on Jimmy Kimmel Live! this September and is currently Top 5 at Alternative Radio. With no intention of slowing down anytime soon, Judah & the Lion will embark on yet another massive headlining run in 2018!
It’s this idea – that your band is your life and vice versa - that bonds the four members of Nashville-based rock band Colony House. Frontman Caleb Chapman, drummer Will Chapman, guitarist Scott Mills, and bassist Parke Cottrell are all married guys in their twenties, so they don’t really fit the rockstar cliché: there’s no champagne cork popping or model chasing with this crew. “We always kind of joke – you think people think we’re a cool band?” says Caleb, chuckling. “The joke is that we know we’re not a ‘cool’ band. We’re regular guys.” But when it comes to that most sacred rock and roll thing, where you move on a mission from town to town and stage to stage getting “gnarly and sweaty” as Caleb puts it, in honor of the thing you love, this band has that part down cold. “We’re not sex drugs and rock and roll,” Caleb says, laughing. “We’re just rock and roll.”
Colony House is gearing up to release their major label debut, Only the Lonely, via Descendant/RCA. The title is a shout-out to the king of elegiac melancholy - “Obviously it’s a direct Roy Orbison reference,” says Caleb. And that might initially seem at odds with Colony House’s sound, a madcap aural rollercoaster borrowing from the anthemic swell of the Killers to the harmonic sass of the Beach Boys to the wit of Vampire Weekend. But beneath the band’s whirlwind of ecstatic guitar playing and intricate melodies you’ll find their real signature: emotion. They write about being desperately lonely. They write about being desperately joyful. But what makes a Colony House song a Colony House song is the sheer feeling it conveys. “We want to connect with people,” explains Caleb, mentioning a favorite quote by van Gogh. There’s a great fire that burns within me but no one stops to warm themselves by it, and passersby only see a wisp of smoke. “I mean, this is Vincent van Gogh we’re talking about!” he continues. “The whole world knows his work! But he felt this loneliness, this sense of, I have so much I have to offer but no one stops to see it.” Colony House’s primary aim is to see that fire. To witness it, as Caleb puts it, “in ourselves, and in the people that come to see us play. That’s what we’re about.”
If this sounds like an unusually high-minded goal for a bunch of twenty-something dudes in a rock and roll band, there’s a reason for that: the guys in Colony House may be young, but they’re serious about their work. And they’ve been at it a while. “So … me and my brother, we know each other for obvious reasons,” says Caleb, as he begins to explain how they all met. Caleb is older, “by sixteen months,” he points out. “I think we have twin tendencies.” The two brothers come from a long line of musicians. “If you’re ever in Paducah, Kentucky and you see ‘Chapman Music’ on the side of the road, that’s my grandpa’s music shop,” Caleb says. Grandpa Chapman’s son, Steven Curtis Chapman, Caleb and Will’s dad, is also a musician. He grew up “playing southern gospel and bluegrass,” in Kentucky, Caleb says, then moved to Nashville and became a songwriter. “He found success in the contemporary Christian music world,” Caleb continues. “This is a proud son thing to say, but he really helped shape what that industry is.” For Will and Caleb, visiting dad at the office meant climbing aboard a tour bus. “That’s what really inspired me and my brother to start playing music,” Caleb recalls. “We were like, we want to do what dad does.”
Knowing what you want to do and actually doing it are two different things. It took the Chapman brothers a while, but by the end of 2009, around the time they met Scott, things really started to gel. “My cousin brought him to our little sister’s birthday party, and he’s like, Scott plays guitar if you ever need a guitar player.” They actually did, and eventually Scott became the first guy in the band not named Chapman. Scott knew of Parke from back home in Knoxville. He had a reputation as killer guitarist and piano player, but they’d never met until Colony House asked Parke to open up, as a solo artist, for one of their Knoxville shows. He did. It went very well. And thus began a multi-year getting-to- know-you period between Colony House and Parke. Three years after that show in Knoxville, Colony House asked Parke to come out and play bass with them for a couple weeks. Parke borrowed a friend’s bass, met the guys in Atlanta, and has played every show since. He was officially added to the line-up in the spring of this year.
It matters, when you tour with the intensity Colony House tours, that all the people you’re sharing a van with have your back. And it matters that all the people waiting for you back at home do too. “For us at least, they go hand in hand,” Caleb says. “If you’re falling apart in one place, it directly impacts the other.” After the band released their 2014 debut (on Descendant) they proceeded to play over 200 shows the following year in support of it. “We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, this is the dream,” says Caleb. “But it’s also work.” Discovering that they could be exactly where they wanted to be, living the dream out on the road while simultaneously missing home gave the band a new insight into what they see as a universal human struggle. “Everyone has things they miss, everyone has things they’re worried about – even when life is going great, it can still feel hard, and there’s no shame in saying that, there is no shame in saying you’re lonely or sad, that’s part of the beauty of life,” Caleb says.
And that’s really what Only the Lonely seeks to capture in thirteen impassioned tracks: joy reached via a shared appreciation of struggle. The album’s first single, “You & I,” reflects this quest for communal catharsis. It started as Caleb’s attempt to step outside the super-personal stance he usually takes with lyrics and move instead towards something more of the times. “I was challenged by a friend of ours, he was like Dylan or Kristofferson or the Highwaymen, they wrote songs about the times, about the political climate and the social climate, and you just don’t hear as much of that in our music.” He was right, Caleb thought. “So I decided to give it a shot.” “You & I” is not a political song, per se, but it’s as close as the band has come thus far. “I’ve seen the same thing on the news over and over again and it’s heartbreaking, infuriating, depressing,” he says. “Basically, when someone says, ‘I disagree with you,’ what’s normal seems to be to say, ‘okay, build the wall!’ I feel like my role is to keep that wall from being built as long as possible.”
Another of the album’s stand-out tracks is “You Know It,” which Caleb accurately characterizes as “this total surf rock jam.” The song gets at that “push pull,” as he puts it, of wanting to pay enough attention to all the different things you love in your life. It opens with lyrics directed to his wife, reassuring her that he’ll be back from the road before she knows it, and mid-song, flips to say the same thing to the crowd. “I want to be both places,” he says, smiling. Caleb finished writing the song, appropriately enough, in the back of the van, on a sleepless cross-country sprint from Nashville to San Francisco, with a stop over at the Grand Canyon. They had to drive it straight because they’d stayed home as long as possible, but the drive was so inspiring, they played the newborn track at the very first tour stop.
“The greatest performers, whether they’re jumping all over the stage or standing still the entire night, they manage to connect with everyone in the room,” says Caleb. “They are able to make you feel not just like, I was honored to be in the room that night, but like, I was a part of something that night.” That feeling is what drives and inspires Colony House. And it drives and inspires them to very lofty goals. “When we play our music, we dream about hearing it in an arena one day,” Caleb says. “Some people say you shouldn’t dream so big, but why would we put a ceiling on something that we love so much?”
They’ve reached their biggest junction so far — Neptune, out now, is Tall Heights’ first album for Sony Music Masterworks, and the latest step in the ongoing evolution of their sound and style.
Harrington and Wright formed Tall Heights in 2010, keeping their songs stripped down to their essential elements, in part, to make it simpler to perform on the streets of Boston.
Neptune is a far lusher construct: along with pristine and emotive vocal harmonies, there’s subtly chugging electric guitar and a spare descending bassline on “Iron in the Fire,” ethereal synthesizers and a spacious drum part on “Spirit Cold,” a brittle splash of percussion to open “Backwards and Forwards” and feedback created by two cellphones on “Cross My Mind.”
“It was helpful and I think comforting to define ourselves as two vocalists, guitar and cello,” Wright says. “There was a beauty and a simplicity, and stepping outside of that box is pretty scary, because you’re forced to redefine yourself and do some sonic soul-searching. I think this record reflects the results of that scary step.”
The band’s broadening sound came from the musicians’ conscious effort to push themselves, and each other, to create in new ways. By relying on a few core elements at the start, the duo learned to make the most of their minimalist set-up. “It taught us to be lean and mean and effective with just two voices and two instruments,” Harrington says. “It made us consider vocal tone and the way voices can mesh and interact.”
As those lessons took root, the pair essentially gave themselves permission to push their musical boundaries outward over three separate recording sessions at Color Study studio in tiny Goshen, Vermont, that yielded songs for their 2015 EP Holding On, Holding Out, and for Neptune. Not only did Harrington and Wright expand their sonic palette throughout the process, they also altered their approach to writing. The musicians tend to develop ideas separately, before one brings a new song to the other for further development. It’s a reflection of their early days sharing musical ideas, when Wright was living overseas and Harrington was finishing up college.
“We would send each other terrible sound-recorder voice memo files and we’d write these nice emails to each other about each other’s songs, so creating concepts independently is something we’ve always done,” says Wright, who has been friends with Harrington since they were kids growing up in the central Massachusetts town of Sturbridge.
They changed the formula on Neptune. Four songs on the album — “River Wider,” “Infrared,” “Cross My Mind” and “Growing” — are the result of one musician looping a simple instrumental part and letting the other write lyrics for it. With the last recording session looming, the duo worked faster than usual on those songs, particularly the somber, atmospheric “Cross My Mind.” “We were under the gun, he was downstairs making one thing, I was upstairs making another thing, we put them together and then we workshopped it in the car on the drive up to the studio,” says Harrington, whose Boston apartment is literally upstairs from Wright’s.
Their ever-closer collaboration, and the time they gave themselves in the studio to develop it, is indicative of the band’s developing approach to making music. “I can hear the evolution happening,” Harrington says. “I feel like we’re walking across a bridge from one place to another, and maybe I’ll always feel that way, but I’m really happy with how we’re moving.”
“Intimate and arresting” – NPR
“Tall Heights employ a collection of acoustic guitar, cello, and electronic drums, reminiscent of contemporary indie folk giants like Justin Vernon and Fleet Foxes.” – XPN
“In addition to finger-picked guitar, swelling cello and tight, prismatic vocal harmonies, ‘Spirit Cold’ boasts a bold, airy drum part that propels the song through the peaks and troughs of the arrangement.” – Wall Street Journal
“It’s a contemporary sound that is not without its ageless qualities.” – Chicago Sun Times
“Certifiably unclassifiable” – Boston Herald
“There have been many bands in recent years that have employed beautiful close harmonies, but when you add the strings and the great songwriting, Tall Heights is a notch above the pack.” – WBEZ
“Call it simply gorgeous.” – WFUV
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