Tony Cummings reports on a Nashville band with an organic roots sound, THE VESPERS
Not many bands release their first two albums and find both of them getting glowing 10 square (indispensable) Cross Rhythms reviews, but then Nashville's Americana and folk roots band The Vespers aren't your ordinary run-of-the-mill group. To quote their biography, "It's two sisters, two brothers, four friends, 11 instruments, one fun little folk band. However you do the math, The Vespers are a force to be reckoned with." Broadcaster Mike Rimmer quizzed Callie and Phoebe Cryar and Taylor and Bruno Jones about the band's beginnings.
Explained Phoebe, "We met [the Jones boys] at a bluegrass band jam at one of my really good friend's house." Continued Taylor, "I mostly was just hanging out cos I don't play anything but drums so me and a bunch of acoustic guitars, I was 'Okay. Let's see what kind of food we got and just hang out.' We had a mutual friend, that's how we all got there and me and him were playing in different bands just for fun, bars and stuff like that. They were playing in coffee houses and stuff like that and so we heard them play, they heard us play and that was the end of it for a while. Then a few months later we were all at the same point and decided to see what would happen if we did get together. And we did, we just jammed once or twice and everybody seemed pretty happy and it sounded like something we hadn't played before."
Right from the off The Vespers were featuring original songs. Explained Callie, "Phoebe and I were Vespers, an acoustic duo ourselves, playing our songs we'd written before we even knew [the guys]. So when we got together to jam I called them up to see if they wanted to back us up for some shows and they said sure. So we decided to learn our songs and we loved it so much we wanted it to be permanent."
Callie and Phoebe grew up in a musical home. In fact, their father Morgan Cryar had a long history in Christian rock with members of Kings X and Galactic Cowboys once being members of his band and with a string of impressive solo albums like 'Keep No Secrets' (1984), 'Fuel On The Fire' (1986), 'Like A River' (1989) and 'Kingdom Upside Down' (1990). Remembering her dad Phoebe said, "We would sing a lot with him when we were kids. I grew up singing in studios because of connections that he had. So mainly we learned about how we could vocally perform to service other people and ourselves. I didn't start playing any instrument until high school and he showed me my first three chords on guitar, which I forgot about for a while then picked it up later. I don't even remember when or why or what made me do it. Then I started writing songs on guitar. I don't even remember ever asking his advice on song writing; I just started doing it. I'm sure if there's ever a time when I'm stuck and I need help I'll ask him. Sometimes I'll take the advice and sometimes I won't."
In the winter of 2009 the band recorded their debut album 'Tell Your Mama'. Said Bruno, "We tracked it at a friend's home studio and then we had another good friend mix it." Enthused the Cross Rhythms reviewer, "I totally love the album's title track with its gorgeous atmosphere and understated spirituality and it seems that this song sums up everything that is great about this band. Check out the lovely 'Cottonfield' or the quirky 'Happy Lessons' and the intense 'Pick A Fight' and find yourself falling in love with The Vespers."
Phoebe spoke about the origins of "Pick A Fight". "I don't know if I was thinking of a particular story when I wrote it but it's kind of come to mean something like this to me: when you try to work the things yourself and you get to a part that you can't do it by yourself and you've got to turn to God. . . or you run away from your problems. So it's about picking good fights."
After 'Tell Your Mama''s release the band toured "anywhere people would let [them]," and this continued into 2011. In the beginning of 2011, they began to think about their next record, writing most of their songs while on the road. They recorded the new music in two pieces, during breaks from touring in May and August 2011, with the help of producers Anderson East and Daniel Scobey. This second record, 'The Fourth Wall' was released in the US in April this year. The "fourth wall" refers to the invisible wall between the performers and the audience, and the band's goal is to break down that wall with each show. Phoebe spoke about the album and its opening track "Better Now" to the Good Music Fox website. "It's a song about how Jesus healed that man who was blind from birth. Basically, no one believed the guy at the synagogue and he had to explain and all. . . My life is Jesus Christ you know, I don't have any reason to be alive and I wouldn't be breathing if it wasn't for him. So it's hard not to find it in my writing just because it is my entire life. I get a lot of inspiration from the Bible and God. Every time I'm inspired, well, it's him. I don't think I ever wrote a song on my own. I can't even take credit for any of that."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.