April 2013 “Band of the Month” – BETHESDA
When I started the “Band of the Month” feature last year, I had no idea we would be introduced to all the amazing artists that we wound up working with. From a feature with now-indie-giants, Of Monsters and Men, to the beautiful bedroom tunes of Faye Webster, the site found community and excitement in this feature. As we move forward into 2013, we plan to continue to share with you music that we’ve grown to love. Thanks for all your support these past few years.
– Sean Pritchard
Our introduction to the band came at MidPoint in Cincinnati last year. We had settled in for a drink and begin chatting with a bartender (who consequently was from our hometown), before being abruptly cut off by this strangely beautiful noise coming from the stage. Enter Bethesda… What was the MidPoint experience like for you all?
Shanna: The MidPoint experience was wonderful. We played at the Know Theatre, and the sound guy was very professional and the bar staff was kind and helpful. Everything was well-organized.The crowd was really energetic and courteous. You could tell that people were there to hear music. Sometimes when a band goes to perform, the music can be an afterthought. However, Cincinnati has a rich and growing scene where people respect and love music. We were so honored to be a part of that.
Eric: The MidPoint fest was awesome! We met a lot of great people and the crowd responded really well to our music! We are so impressed with the Cincinnati music scene and its dedication to original music!
With all the time spent on the road last year, did the decision to write the new album come following your fall dates or was it a work in progress?
Eric: A bit of both, really. We are always working on new material and are always working on the next record. However, without a deadline we find it difficult to “complete” songs. So, for this album, we set the summer dates for recording and proceeded to work our tails off to make the songs as “complete” as possible before the date. A time crunch forces us to be decisive and sort of live with the songs, which makes it a very intentional process, rather than passive and elongated.
Due out April 9th, The Reunion is a collection of stories, both personal and from your listeners. Explain to me what exactly you did with getting your audience involved in the writing process of the album.
Eric: It really is more of an observational exercise than anything. We are very close with our friends and fans and try to be in tune with their struggles and successes. When we are moved by a story, we write about it in hopes that others resonate with it as well. As songwriters, we strive to write songs that give justice to the stories being told, whether they are our own or the stories of others. We believe we are storytellers and are inviting our audience to live in the stories that we have been given to tell. Recently we have asked our fans that donated on Kickstarter to give us 5 facts to write a song about their life as a reward. None of these songs show up on this album, but a few of them very well might end up on the next one. It is the commonality of our stories and the hope that is injected into each of them that keeps us pushing on and ignites our desire to write.
Shanna: I love all of our songs on the album, of course. However, the one that is most personal to me is “Fit to Leave.” The song was written from my brother, Stevie, who passed away in a motorcycle accident several years ago. I had always wanted to write a song for him, but every time I tried, it never really came out how I wanted it to. Finally, on this album, we were able to come up with a song for and about him that captures my feelings on his passing. Part of the song is a first person narration from Stevie’s perspective, viewing himself as an unlovable, unworthy person due to his mistakes. The song is in part about unfairly judging people while they are alive and that there is love and hope for all, no matter what their mistakes may be. This album is made up of stories that we hope people will connect with that will bring them hope, peace, and joy. If more struggles come out of listening, that’s okay too. We just want people, including ourselves, to hear the album and let it impact them in some way.
Eric: I am personally invested in each of the songs on this album. Probably the one that resonates the most is “The Reunion”. A few years back, my grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He called me up and asked me if I would write a song about his life, and I agreed, of course. I worked my tail off trying to write a song that gave justice to his life, but I just couldn’t put something together that did him justice. It wasn’t until his funeral where everyone came together to pay homage to his life, that it hit me. These people were all carrying parts of my Grandpa’s story and had reunited to make his story whole – what a beautiful way to send him off. The song tries to capture the beauty of that day and couple it with the joy my grandpa was feeling knowing that he was both meeting his maker and reuniting with his wife who had passed a few years earlier. It’s one of those songs still evokes all kinds of emotions when I hear it. I hope others resonate with it as well.
When picking the track order for The Reunion, did these stories play into how you arranged the songs or was it based on the musical composition?
Eric: When we were discussing the order of the tracks, we decided that we had two options. 1) To organize the songs based on musical composition and how the melded together and 2) To mold them together in such a way that the stories have a purpose and we are delivering a message through song. We chose the second, because, really it is what is most important to us. The album starts with this anthem towards death, inviting it as a reunion with all of those that have gone before. It moves through a series of stories in which loved ones are reunited, life struggles challenge unions, hardships are overcome, and it ends with a peace (“Patterns”) where we know that “we are gonna get to where we’re goin’.” By our best understanding and through the collection of our stories, this spans both life and death and breathes hope into each.
Shanna: We recorded our first full-length and ep with Tim Gerak (formerly of Six Parts Seven) of Mammoth Cave Studios when he lived in Akron, Ohio. We formed a relationship with him and his wife and also admired his talents as a recording engineer. We didn’t really want to go with anyone else for the album, so we followed Tim to Denver, CO to record The Reunion with him at the beginning of July 2012.
Eric: Exactly! Tim knows our sound so well, and is a magician in the studio. We decided to give him more control over how the record sounded by asking him to produce as well as engineer, and we are really excited about the results. It may have seemed crazy to travel half-way across the country for a recording, but we think the results speak volumes! We are already planning on going back for our next one!
Eric: Haha! Not at all! We feed off of the energy, and it was the same with the Irish dancers. They brought so much talent and dedication to their craft, and performed with such grace that it brought the best out of us. We have always been the band that has its best performances to the most engaged crowds. In fact, the dancers actually performed with us at our local pre-release show in Arkon on March 2nd. It was incredible!!! Energy is always contagious. So next time you all are thinking about dancing at a show, DO IT! It just might take the live experience to the next level!
Shanna: Ashley Brooke Toussant (singer-songwriter), A Band Named Ashes (folk), Winslow (Soul/pop/funk), The Mitchells (indie-pop), and many more. There are really so many wonderful acts coming out of this good state of Ohio!
If people want to buy the new record, where would you suggest they visit?
Shanna: iTunes for the week of April 9-16th. We have a special and exclusive digital pack we will be giving out to those that download the album from iTunes in the first week. For more on that follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bethesdaband
Eric: We are so excited for this fest. This show is occurring on our (Shanna and Eric) wedding anniversary, and Belle & Sebastian is playing that same day. I used to make mix cd’s for Shanna that included quite a bit of Belle & Sebastian, so we are really excited. I couldn’t think of a better place to spend our anniversary!
Eric: Kent is a place for friends. Find a local coffee shop or pub and inject yourself into conversation. You will find a friendly and intellectual community that promotes the arts and pursues unexplored territory daily. We are just glad to be a part of it all!
The 2013 Grammy’s were:
Justin: Typical. Same players, same winners. It’s nice to see some independent artists get more recognition than in years past. However, there is still a long way to go before this celebration of music is all-inclusive. They keep eliminating categories making it even more difficult to break in.
Eric: On? I missed them….intentionally? Maybe :D
Shanna: I second that. Given Eric and I are school teachers by day, we were most likely fast asleep for that 5:30 am alarm clock.
Best Chili in Ohio:
Shanna: I can’t stand chili, but my mama makes the best. I can tolerate her chili at least, and others say it’s the best they’ve ever had!
Justin: Whitey’s Booze’n Burgers in Richfield. They have the BEST I’ve ever had and I’ve had a lot.
Favorite local beer:
Shanna: How about a warm, cup of tea for us grannies?
Eric: Great Lakes Brewing Company – CLEVELAND LOVE!
Shanna: Oh, wow. We have been in some crazy places. I would definitely say Rochester, NY. I don’t want to name the venue, because it’s actually a fantastic place to play and the booker is a great guy. However, this is where we coined the term “Rochester weird.” It was just a series of crazy events one after another from the bouncers yelling at us because they didn’t think we were in a band and wouldn’t let us in the venue, eighty year old men playing flutes and reciting humorous poetry before our set, people dressed like elves doing a dance in the middle of the room, a razor used for coke sitting on the bathroom sink, a guy getting thrown up against our van by the cops, another guy falling in front of our van getting whisked away by an ambulance (maybe it’s the van), etc. These events were only drops in the bucket of our experience with Rochester this particular night, but we continue to go back because the city is really awesome! ( I guess this wasn’t a short answer…haha..you may shorten)
Eric: Trenton, NJ in a basement club where there were multiple layers of urine covering every square inch. We played anyways and ended up inviting in and dancing along side a homeless lady who later invited us to breakfast at the shelter. It ended up being a great and memorable night, but we certainly weren’t sure as to what might be transpiring when we first showed up. It is by far the shadiest club we have ever played. But music softens hearts and brings the unlikeliest people together. That is why we do what we do.
Shanna: Listening to a year’s worth of hard work, sweat, and tears mix together and come out of the speakers to create something you wouldn’t even imagined on your own with your band family.
Eric: The end product!!! Everything else is a marathon and it ain’t easy. But when you hit the finish line, you may be exhausted, but you also know that you have completed something that can’t be taken away….ever. We have etched our place in the micro-history of music. And THAT feels great!
Ultimate tour cuisine:
Shanna: Cheese pizza (although I have to eat it with olive oil/garlic sauce instead of red sauce when touring because sadly it’s bad on the old pipes)
Justin: Chicago style hot-dogs and Dr. Pepper.
Eric: Chicken & Waffles in Austin, TX. Changed my life!!!!