By SELENE SAN FELICE
Quartet Judah & The Lion grew up playing music together in church—now they’re regularly rocking festival stages. USA Today described their sound “as if the Beastie Boys got really into the banjo,” and their latest music video for hit “Take it All Back”is just that. Drummer Spencer Cross took some time to talk to us before his band hits the stage at Next Big Thing fest this week.
Tell me about how hip-hop, pop, and metal influenced your sound on Folk Hop N Roll. What artists from these genres played the biggest roles?
We obviously love folk music, and the mandolin and banjo are such a core part of our sound and our identity as a band. Entering into Folk Hop N Roll we wanted to challenge ourselves creatively and push the envelope on the way in which those instruments speak. We also wanted to be true to ourselves by letting our myriad of influences speak through. There’s so many groups that influenced this album, but a couple are: Manchester Orchestra, Noah & the Whale, and Beastie Boys. We all love so many different types of music and we wanted that to shine through, because the music you listen to is a part of who you are.
“Take it All Back “is about redefining fame and success. How are you guys keeping your priorities straight in light of the song’s popularity and the growth of your fanbase?
First of all, we have incredible parents, families, and friends who support us and keep us grounded. We also are surrounded by a great team on the road and at home who are all incredible people. Even though we’re young, we’ve been around enough to have some really “cool” mountain-top moments happen to us and have learned that those experiences aren’t the things that sustain you and bring you life. They’re really awesome and absolutely worth celebrating, but it’s about the journey to get to that place, who you journeyed with, and how you treat others along the way. We’re just happy that people are listening and enjoying our music.
You guys met at Belmont University. What advice do you have for kids about to graduate college?
You’re going to get the question (if you haven’t already), “So what’s next?” or “What are you doing after you graduate?” a million times. You’re also going to be seeing a lot of your friends do all kinds of different things once they graduate and moving to different places. My advice would be:
First, amidst “senioritis” and all the questions about the future, learn to live as much in the present as possible and enjoy your last moments in college. Stop to smell the roses. Second, don’t fall in the trap of comparing yourself to others. Everyone’s journey looks different, and everyone’s on his or her own path. You’re going to do great things, even if you don’t know what that “thing” is yet.
Playing fun live shows has been a big key to your success so far. What are the best tips you have for being on the other side of the stage? What do you think makes the best music festival experience?
A show is an experience, and it’s a special moment for both those on the stage and those in the crowd. No matter what side of the stage you’re on, coming into the show with an open mind, being ready to give it your all, and being expectant to experience something new are all important things to remember. In the words of Jack Black: “One great rock show can change the world!”
What’s on your tour rider? Tell me about the one thing you guys need on the road.
It can be hard to eat healthy on the road, so our rider is primarily healthy foods: veggies, hummus, coconut water, and the x-factor: Kombucha. Coffee is the thing we NEED on the road, but it’s not on our rider cause we always love to walk to the best local coffee shop in town to fuel up before the show.
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Selene San Felice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram and find more of her work here.