Thu, November 9, 2017
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm
The Strumbellas know how to plot a long game. The six-piece collective may have rocketed to mainstream success two years ago with their breakthrough hit "Spirits," but have always been thinking one step ahead. For their new single "Salvation," out November 30, the group looked back to ideas that were hatched around the time of its eponymous debut EP in 2009, parsing through voice notes that predated the first album.
"It's like a jigsaw puzzle," explains Simon Ward, The Strumbellas' vocalist, acoustic guitarist and main songwriter. "I find pieces that feel like they could fit together, then I change the tempo and melody until it sparks. I say alright! This is what I've got! Then it gets pushed forward and everyone gets in and adds their parts."
For the group, which also consists of David Ritter (keys), Jeremy Drury (percussion), Isabel Ritchie (strings), Jon Hembrey (guitar) and Darryl James (bass), "Salvation" marks a stylistic turn from their melancholy, introspective releases. Over a punching backbeat, Ward sings optimistically of life and the good that it can bring: "I like to dance under streetlamps and walk upon the clouds/I like to shout from the rooftops and surf on top of the crowd/For many years, many years I was scared of the person I was/And I'm not perfect, they say, but I know that I was born to be loved."
"A lot of our music is known for being dark," says Ritter. "I like that people can turn to our music in dark times, but we were interested in seeing whether we could make something a little more hopeful and positive. I think the song has a more positive feel than our previous stuff."
"Salvation," produced by Tim Pagnotta (Elle King, Walk the Moon), is a decidedly notable pivot towards pop for The Strumbellas, which describes itself as a primarily "country, folky band." But they also explain that they're "pop music junkies," and that their catalog has been edging towards an increasingly accessible sound from the start. "Our whole dream has been to make cool, small-town music with just a fun, poppy feeling," says Ward. "Every record we do, we get closer to that. 'Salvation' is exactly what we wanted to do, what we were hoping to get out of this song and record: fun, poppy songs that are sad and weird."
The band, which is currently in the studio working on its fourth album, is riding high on the success of its last project Hope, which released in 2016 via Glassnote Music (world ex-Canada) / Six Shooter Records (Canada). "Spirits" became a runaway hit for The Strumbellas, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and cracking the international market in countries including Germany, Italy and France. They spent the past few years on the road, touching down at festivals including Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. In 2017, they won the iHeartRadio Music award for Best New Alternative Rock Artist of the Year, and collected the JUNO Award for Single of the Year ahead of Drake, The Weeknd and Shawn Mendes.
For The Strumbellas, though, accolades are secondary to connecting with their fans, and making sure their music is received the way that they intended. "If we can add a little of color to somebody's day, that's the ball game for me," says Ritter. "Everything we put out is genuine," adds Ward. "I want 10 million people to sing these songs in my lifetime and I can be there to sing it with them in the crowd, on the same level. I just want everyone to believe in it and love it and be part of the journey."
No matter how far you go, you bring home along too.
Within two short years, music quite literally carried 22-year-old singer, songwriter, and artist Noah Kahan around the world—a long way from his native Strafford, VT (pop. 1,045) and the 133-acre tree farm where he resides. On the trip, the alternative troubadour notched an international hit in the form of “Hurt Somebody” [feat. Julia Michaels], which tallied 200 million-plus streams in the span of a year, went triple-platinum in Australia and gold in six other countries, and was the third most played song on Australian Top 40 radio in all of 2018. Additionally, he performed the single on Late Night with Stephen Colbert during his late-night television debut.
As Noah steadily averaged over 5 million-plus monthly listeners on Spotify, his songs “Young Blood” and “False Confidence” racked up millions of streams and he sold out tours in North America, Europe, and the UK. Not to mention, he garnered acclaim from Billboard, Stereogum, Clash, Idolator, and more. In the midst of this whirlwind he assembled his highly anticipated upcoming debut album Busyhead to be released on 6/14.
For as much as the road twisted and turned, the journey led right to the album...
“My life has taken a 180° turn,” he admits. “I’m on a very different path than what I thought I would do. I feel nostalgic for a time when I was younger and had less to think about. I had the latitude to be whimsical, free, and young without knowing what’s going to happen. I get nostalgic for the locale where I grew up, because the scenery is so beautiful. Going from this to bigger cities and tours is crazy for me. The transition informs the storytelling. I’m getting a little more cunning and self-deprecating. The truth is—regardless of where I’ve gone—my parents still yell at me to pick up the dogs’ shit when I’m back home,” he laughs.
The first single “Mess” illuminates his marked growth as a songwriter and storyteller by way of its biting lyrics and undeniable sing-a-long. The song underscores a heartwarming and often hilarious portrait of hometown longing.
On the hook, he chants, “I’d move back home forever, I’ll feed the dogs, and I’ll put all my pieces back together where they belong, and I’ll say, ‘I’m mess!’”
“I was really overwhelmed with a lot of the stuff going on in my life,” he goes on. “I was super happy, but it was a lot to process. So, I went home from the studio for a bit. I relaxed and started writing. In doing so, I came up with this cool idea about actually going home and what that means. I’m wondering if I should go home and leave everything behind. Would it bring me more happiness? Would I be able to connect with others? I think it brings the whole concept of the record together for me.”
In the end, Noah makes the kind of music that can travel with you forever, but it feels even better at home.
“I’d love for everyone to hear this true and honest description of my life and maybe come away being more honest with themselves,” he leaves off. “That’s what I love about music. I feel less vulnerable and alone when I hear something I relate to. I hope it can inspire people on their own journeys.”
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Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001