Jon Snodgrass was born and raised in St. Joseph, Missouri, USA. Later settled in Fort Collins, Colorado, before forming Armchair Martian in the early ‘90s. In 1996, he started recording songs with ALL singer Chad Price under the moniker Drag The River. Since then, he has continued putting out music with both bands, as a solo artist, and as a member of Scorpios. Snodgrass has toured North America and Europe endlessly and has provided support from everyone from Frank Turner to Flogging Molly to Descendents to Chuck Ragan to Cory Branan.
While listening to “Odds” one can get the feeling of going deeper and deeper into the woods, mighty trees and pines protrude into the sky. There are so many trees that the new canopy of the forest becomes the sky itself. Our only steady companion is Lehmann’s voice with its emotional intensity so tremendous at times, it let’s these vast orchestral structures tumble and fall and so frail at others that it threatens to disappear. (Henrike Schröder)
Members: Kai Lehmann, Ronny Wunderwald, Neli Mothes, Lars Hiller, Frank Heim, Karsten Pretschner, Ludwig Bauer, Benjamin Arnold, Alina Gropper, Philine Jobst, Filip Sommer, Gunther Strehlau, Bernd Wunderwald, Markus Altmann
It’s been over two decades since the songwriter packed his bags and left Bloomington, Indiana, the Midwestern town where he spent his childhood years falling in love with rock & roll, embracing his punk roots, and standing his ground whenever intolerant locals didn’t understand his way of life. He returns to that place—both creatively and physically—with his seventh studio album, Immortal Americans. Written after a tumultuous period that found Lucas getting sober, supporting his partner through a battle with cancer, and breaking up with his longtime record label, Immortal Americans is a clear-eyed album for murkier times, rooted in stripped-down heartland rock songs that find the artist reflecting upon the changes in both his hometown and himself.
Co-produced by Lucas and Will Johnson (Centro-matic) and recorded/engineered by Steve Albini and captured in a series of live, full-band performances, Immortal Americanswas written after Lucas resettled in Bloomington. He’d been away for years, touring the world as an independent solo artist before signing a record deal with New West in 2013. In many ways, the albums he released during that period were reflections of the music he’d grown up with, from the mountain music of his father (bluegrass musician Bob Lucas) to the punk records that soundtracked his teenage years. Appropriately, Lucas earned a fan base as a folksinger with punk roots—or was it the other way around?—while touring the country with artists who represented both ends of that spectrum, sharing shows with Willie Nelson one minute and Chuck Ragan the next.
Somewhere along the way, his vices began to get the best of him. He started drinking too much. He gained weight. His marriage crumbled. Albums like 2013’s cowpunk-inspired Stay Reckless and 2016’s Between the Moon and the Midwest shone a light on those challenges, tackling everything from divorce to depression. When Lucas hit rock bottom though, he stopped writing about his temptations and instead, left them behind for good. He headed back to southern Indiana, resettling himself in a town that had changed considerably since he left.
There, in a region suffering from an opioid epidemic, an HIV crisis, and a homelessness problem, Lucas focused on rebuilding his career and his body. He got sober, shedding more than 100 pounds. He recounted the stories of his youth, where, as an outsider in a small town, he dodged beer cans hurled by passing drivers. As he once more walked the Bloomington streets, he learned to embrace his own fighting spirit again. The album’s title track, “Immortal Americans,” emerged from that period of self-discovery.
“My friends and I had to fight for who we were,” he remembers of those early days in the Midwest, “and it was an alienating, anxious, and oftentimes scary way to live. This song is about that fight. It goes out to the most marginalized and at-risk human beings who live in our country, all the people who live on the outside of mainstream society and have to fight every day for their identities and for their existence—because those are the true immortal Americans.”
Meanwhile, Lucas’ new partner was fighting a different sort of battle. Lucas had discovered a lump on her body during their first evening together and the mass turned out to be cancerous. He became not only her romantic partner, but her caretaker too, nursing her back to health after a life-altering surgery and a string of energy-sapping chemotherapy sessions. Lucas continued writing music throughout the process, strumming an acoustic guitar quietly while his girlfriend slept in the next room. Although much of Immortal Americans is influenced by that experience, album standouts like “The Shadow and Marie” tackle the experience directly, shining a light on his partner’s vitality and unending beauty.
“The song opens up with dark lyrics,” he admits, “but the overall point is, ‘We’re still alive. We still have so much to be grateful for. As long as we’re still here, there’s beauty and joy.’ I wrote it to remind my lover that even though she’d been through a crazy ordeal in which her body was permanently changed, she was still beautiful to me. The song may start out on a low note, but as it builds, it goes to a place that’s brighter. It pushes toward something better. In many ways, that’s the theme of the whole record.”
When it came time to record his new songs at Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago, Lucas didn’t reach too far beyond the songs’ unplugged origins. He’d already been cut loose from his record label, which meant he was free to chase down his muse without any sort of outside influence. He consolidated his sound accordingly, stripping away the electric guitars and dense sonic landscapes that had permeated his recent albums. In their place, he focused on acoustic instruments and a restrained rhythm section, gluing everything together with lyrically-sharp songs that measured the distance between his rocky past and even-keeled present. The band—whose members included his Dad, who’d traveled north to play banjo with his son—crowded into the same room at Electrical Audio and played together, resulting in an all-analog album that’s both raw and real.
“I wanted it to sound like human beings playing instruments,” says Lucas, “I knew the best thing for this batch of songs was for them to sound as organic as possible. I sang live, playing guitar at the same time, and we worked very quickly. It was an in-the-moment kind of album.”
Immortal Americans is Austin Lucas’ homecoming album, created during a whirlwind period of tumult and regrowth. With its gothic heartland sound and autobiographical lyrics, it’s also Lucas at his most honest, rooted in a string of largely unamplified anthems that don’t rely on electricity to pack a punch.
“I was watching the changes in Bloomington and reflecting upon the changes in my own life,” he sums up. “Not all of this is happy stuff, but there’s hope. There’s light in the darkness. I really do believe in second and third chances, because I know how many chances I’ve received. You have to keep fighting, because that’s what makes life worth living.”
Or, in other words, that’s what makes you immortal.
When Hayden and Kenny Miles first played in a band together, they were only eight and thirteen. Their father had founded a church in their hometown Whitesburg in SouthEast Kentucky and they were backing the services on drums and bass. Music has been an essential part in the family for over three generations. Hayden learned how to play the drums by watching his uncle and Kenny was taught by his father and cousin. Even their grandparents were singing and playing instruments. Life revolved around three pillars: family, hard work, and music.
Still nowadays, Whitesburg is an isolated place. The area, and that’s a scientific fact, has one of the lowest qualities of life in all of the US. Since the mid 1970s the area is in a state of constant recession. Lowest per capita income, shortest life expectation, firm republican domination. The name Wayne Graham is a composition of both their grandfather’s first names. Both were coal miners as well as Kenny’s and Hayden’s father and uncle. The latter actually witnessed the violent riots of the United Mine Workers Union Strikes, which were put into pictures by Barbara Kopple in her Oscar winning film HARLAN COUNTY, USA .
The answer to how the two brothers and their delicate and ornery Alternative Country fit into that picture is rather simple: they don’t. There’s a bit of Hard Rock in the area but apart from that, music mostly takes place in churches. Ideally, it ought to be kept strictly ‘oldtimey’.
Wayne Graham’s album “Mexico” the first one to be released in Europe is already their fourth, even though the two brothers are only 26 and 21 .It’s not entirely clear whether it is their upbringing or the feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world but the album oozes a seemingly supernatural maturity, “Mexico” , is concise and clever. Extremely catchy but never mundane. Artistic but not overly intellectual .
The songs are often rather short and the remarkable, airy production , which takes place in the basement of their parents’ house, feels like an excercise in reduction. Beautiful chords and melodies , an incredibly melodic style of drumming and always at the right moment, wayward little details, breaks and lyrics , written for eternity.
When asked about it, Songwriter Kenny Miles modestly states that he doesn’t want to steal their audience’s time. Eventually, his songs are like answers to questions, which might not have been asked in the first place.
Thematically, Mexico circles around the tragic death of their best friend last October. The first verse of the title track goes: “It was in your bloodstream on the day you died, til they replaced it with formaldehyde.” The It resurfaces in almost all of these songs but is never properly named. It is not a substance nor a trait, but the mystic connection between the three friends , which have played music together since their early childhood. Fellow Man tells the story of one of their last nights together an endless late night front porch conversation, when suddenly they hear a clicking sound approach. It turns out to be a wolf walking down the nightly streets of Whitesburg, passing them by as they sit breathless on their their porch. Here’s how Kenny Miles puts it into words: “Like the wolf outside we are led by desire, we are ruled by by the time we have lost.” And suddenly one gets reminded that music actually possesses these abilities: to express something beyond pitiful facts and numbers, an essence of something grand and almost unthinkable.
Members: Kenny Miles- guitar, piano, vocals I Hayden Miles- drums, vocals I – bass I Lee Owen – guitar, vocals
About eight years ago Stefan Prange, creative head and songwriter of The Green Apple Sea from Nuremberg, decided to move to the countryside out of despise for the mechanisms of modern day life. He slowly said his farewells to the Indie music scene, planted potatoes instead and trained the local kids football team.
He didn’t want to be a musician anymore, songwriting was not an option either. He was sure, he never wanted to play live again. His home was his castle. The only problem: his songs didn’t think much of that. They kept coming and somehow even seemed alright at first glance. Hence, Prange began singing them into his phone, in secret of course, and scribbling down lyrics on electricity bills. His former bandmates, to whom he eventually slipped his new ideas, were as enthusiastic about the new songs as he was. So step by step Stefan Prange said goodbye to his football coach job and instead of growing potatoes, he entered Open-Mic nights on Sundays, to test the new songs in front of an audience. Subsequently he travelled to London to play a Communion Records Clubnight and a Daytrotter Session – things that laid beyond his wildest dreams. Shortly after, the band went into the studio and began recording a new album. It took them four years. It is here now and goes by the name “Directions”.
The recording of “Directions” was more difficult than any of its predecessors for The Green Apple Sea. They wanted to create something really good after Pranges long creative break and their last record “Northern Sky/Southern Sky” (2010), which had received rave reviews upon release. Everything took longer than planned. Years and years and years.
What remains is the organic band sound which is so typical for The Green Apple Sea. Everything is intertwined and yet, every instrument and every melody has its place and remains distinguishable. Choirs and harmonies stay one of their trademarks and almost every song starts with a signature melody, most of them played by producer Chrisitan “Wuschi” Ebert on keyboard or piano. Melody as the basic ingredient of songwriting. The song starts and everyone immediately knows which band is on.
Like almost no other band The Green Apple Sea know how to connect melancholy and bitterness with sparkling, country influenced pop songs. However, it is not only the inherent contradiction, the splendid contrast between lyrics and music, which makes this band so extraordinary. It’s also the songs. These handcut, finely crafted songwriting prototypes. If anyone should ever ask what songwriting is about, just play them any random title by The Green Apple Sea. This should answer the question. Each and every song on “Directions” has got such a disarming radiance it seems crystal clear why it took them eight years to come up with them. It feels as if they are going back to the term ‘album’ in it’s original sense with “Directions” – a collection of singles. This is not a album on which songs depend on one another, they don’t require the context or the neighbourhood. Each and every one deserves the limelight.
Members: It’s complicated! All these people are The Green Apple Sea sometimes: Henrik Schoch, Frank Theismann, Christian Ebert, Frank Mollena, Stefan Prange, Lena Dobler, Hans-Christian Fuss, Tobias Helmlinger, Flo Kenner, Patrick Göbel, Frieder Graef, Frank Schwab