It’s been two years since Brooklyn-based band The Lone Bellow took the Memorial Opera House stage. Soon the three piece are poised to make their eagerly awaited return to Valparaiso’s historic venue as a part of Imagine Music Production’s 2016 season. In preparation for their sold out show, I recently caught up with band member Zach Williams about what the group has been up to within the past two years, their new album, and returning to storm MOH.
It’s been a big couple of years for Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist. They’ve released their second album ‘Then Came the Morning’ in early 2015 that garnered critical acclaim, and have subsequently toured the country, appeared on many festival lineups, played on nationally syndicated television, and are soon touring with Cincinnati-based indie rock band The National. At the time of their last visit it had been near the end of an exhausting bout of touring, and Williams noted that a lot has progressed since they were pounding the pavement from show to show.
“One of the biggest things is that during that time span we were able to stay prolific and write, which turned into our second album. We went into the studio and worked with people that we really look up to, and could probably save us in a life or death situation, like Aaron Dessner from The National. That’s really been a beautiful friendship and working relationship.” Williams explained. “I feel like we’ve become more of a band as well over that time. I think we now know how to live together as a band; see each other as human beings even as we’re together weeks on end. There’s been lots of opportunities to play in front of people we’ve never met. So many, many things. It’s been a surreal journey, looking back on it.”
Even after all of their personal and professional accomplishments, Williams still puts releasing ‘Then Came the Morning’ at the top of the list. The album is a more taut and focused, it’s a piece that has further etched The Lone Bellow’s mark on the music scene and proved their work was collectively, and indicatively, them. Their time away from the studio between the first and second album allowed all three to create music that would let them bring something to the table, so much so that at one point the band had nearly three dozen songs to choose from. A lot of thought went into which ones made the cut, and which ones would be left on the floor, but Williams noted that the biggest test for the songs were their durability. Were the songs ones that could last not only on the album, but on tour? Were they works that could stand the weathered test of live shows?
“About a year into touring the first record I remember making the set list and really thinking ‘I do not want to sing that song ever again in my life.’ When we started making the second record I remember the other band members saying, you know, ‘Are you sure?’ before we make it official and put it on this record.” William stated. “I think that was a really good thing to think about. These songs have to mean something when we’re up there. When we’re playing on the road and away from home, these songs are our entire reality. Your entire day on the road is looking forward to this hour and a half that you’re really excited/nervous/anxious about and those songs have to make you feel alive. They need joy, sadness, the emotion of life. It’s a tightrope walk.”
Bringing that album (and, of course their older work) to the Memorial Opera House stage will prove if that theory has worked for them. With songs that are on the different ends of the spectrum like ‘Don’t Call Me Heaven’ and ‘Marietta’ that could possibly be on the bill, Williams does say that no show “can have the darkness without the light”. Regardless, their concert in early 2014 surely made a lasting impact on the audience members, as most of them will be returning on the 26th. Only time will tell on what The Lone Bellow will bring this time around, but they are looking forward to making their anticipated return.
“That was a great show, and it was a great venue. The acoustics were great, and it’s such a unique venue.” Williams stated. “It’s truly an honor to play in an establishment like that. We’re looking forward to seeing new and old faces.”