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Sicard Hollow bring a progressive punk sensibility to bluegrass

The Nashville-quartet's latest album 'Brightest of Days' explores the boundaries of a traditional sound. Band member Alex King explains the musical direction.
Sicard Hollow: Brightest of Days album cover

Sicard Hollow: Brightest of Days album cover

By Ray Chelstowski

String bands continue to push the boundaries of what anyone thought was possible in the world of bluegrass. One band bringing a progressive punk sensibility to their sound is Nashville-based quartet Sicard Hollow. They formed in 2018, and at that point none of the band’s members had even considered exploring bluegrass as a sound. Matt Rennick (violin) was working on electronic music, Will Herrin (mandolin/vocals) was playing guitar in rock bands, and Alex King (vocals/guitar) spent years as an aspiring artist. Bassist Parrish Gabriel would join in 2019. After a few jam sessions, bluegrass somehow found them, and it happened just as the lockdown that came with the pandemic shuttered live music. Their 2020 debut record, Secret of the Breeze, would look the lockdown dead in the eye and against the odds build even more momentum behind the band. Now two years later they are about to release their sophomore effort, Brightest of Days, a record that demonstrates remarkable growth and a sense of musical maturity that will change the way you think about string bands. This is evident in the record’s entirety; themes, lyrics and musicality. The album was recorded at The Studio Nashville and Southern Ground Nashville, produced by John Mailander, and mixed and engineered by Dan Davis at The Studio Nashville. This kind of top shelf talent has helped shape the band’s sound and make it more accessible, to fans new and old. That’s on full display within the album’s first single “Face the Wreckage”.

Having crossed the country opening for artists like Sam Bush, Infamous Stringdusters, and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and performing at festivals like Summer Camp Music & Arts Festival and The Peach Music & Arts Festival, Sicard Hollow will be touring this fall in support of Brightest of Days.

Goldmine had the opportunity to speak with Alex King about the band’s formation, what it’s like to launch a jam band in Nashville, and what it took to get his mates to name the band after the street he grew up on in Alabama.

Alex King. Credit:Kendall McCargo

Alex King. Credit:Kendall McCargo

Goldmine: How do you get your band mates to agree to name the band after the road you grew up on?

Alex King: I was reluctant to use it because of that. When we started we weren’t actually a “band” just yet. We were just playing tunes together, trying to get our heads around the “bluegrass thing.” When we’d get together to play we’d turn the camera on and see if something became “film worthy.” So we posted a video in 2018 of us playing a blue grass version of “I Know You Rider” and my old neighbor Jeff Blount commented on it. It had been getting a good amount of traction socially with people saying nice things, but it had been years since I’d spoken to Jeff. He lived on my street growing up but I’d forgotten about them as a family. In his comment he said “Hey guys this is pretty good. You should name yourselves Sicard Hollow!” I kind of ignored the comment because it was personal to me; no one else in the band had any idea of the relationship between me and that name. Next thing you know they all are on board saying it was a super dope name. So we just went with it.

GM: You grew up listening to Green Day and Blink 182. This music is a long way from there. How’d that happen?

AK: There are so many different ways. The pop punk stuff was just the beginning. That’s what I first obsessed over. There were maybe four periods of my life where I did this. For example, there was a time I had a Green Day shirt for every day of the week. That just led me to music in general. Then when I got into skateboarding I fell into a group where hip hop came into play. Then I started to listen to the Avett Brothers which led me to start singing and got me to listen to folksier sounds. From here I got into jam bands. I got deep into Phish and the Grateful Dead, and then found bluegrass through Kitchen Dwellers.

GM: The band was birthed in Nashville, which isn’t known as a jam scene. Did that make it easier or more difficult to launch?

AK: It’s interesting because I didn’t move to Nashville to do this. It just kind of found me. We built it organically. We actually saw success from almost the beginning which isn’t the case for most people in this town. I think what helped is that we found our “sound” relatively early. But I think about it all of the time because I have all of these friends who five years ago I would have thought would have been on the road well ahead of me. You need a certain recipe to set yourself apart and for some reason what we are doing is working out.

GM: You recorded this with John Mailander at The Studio Nashville. John’s produced Bruce Hampton to Joe K. Walsh. What did he bring to this record?

AK: Well, we have matured and developed more confidence over time and I think that shows in the vocals, our playing, and with our intention with regard to the record. We worked with John on this record who is a fiddle player and who has worked with Bruce Hornsby and Billy Strings. I think he really helped solidify the direction that the album took, because we come in and want to jam and he helped us add things that helped everything flow much better for the listener. I’m really proud of how it all turned out.

GM: The Grateful Dead is said to have been a big influence on your sound. I hear more of that pop punk dynamic in your music.

AK: The Dead is an influence. But I don’t think that it reflects in the music that much except for the fact that we are trying to create improvisational moments. In that sense you can compare us to a lot of different jam bands. The Dead were more of a common ground that we all shared. Will is into 1980’s hair metal, Parrish is into Primus, and Matt came from an electronic background. I think the punk aspect actually bleeds through more in our music. I’m a Dead Head through and through. But with our music I don’t draw as much song writing inspiration from them as you might think.

GM: Your tour has you doing dates in Montana, Virginia and North Carolina. Is it intimidating to arrive and perform in a jam capitol like Asheville?

AK: Not really. Asheville is a “hippie haven.” These are our people and they love their string and jam band music. We’re a mixture of them both and so those are the types of crowds where we don’t have to win anyone over. There are so many friends of ours who live in that regional as well. I am though learning how to clear my head and not put as much pressure on myself because we are delivering a message that I believe in.

GM: What music are you spinning right now that might surprise fans?

AK: Wow! I have a lot of things. I’ve been listening to The Black Dahlia Murder, which is like melodic death metal. Another one that would surprise people is this girl, Lizzie McAlpine. She makes poppy teenage love song stuff from a woman’s perspective and I just saw her play in Nashville. I was definitely the only hippie-looking dude in the audience. Lastly, I discovered this group called Atta Boy. It’s psychedelic, indie, folky-type stuff with a girl singer that is very mellow. I think this would surprise people because it’s so far from bluegrass.

Alex King. Photo: Kendall McCargo

Alex King. Photo: Kendall McCargo

GM: Where is the band’s sound headed?

AK: Our sound is evolving and we’re just taking it as it comes. Whatever it calls for we are bringing to the table. I don’t know where it can end up for us, but if everyone is down with it, the sky’s the limit.

Go to SicardHollow.com for more

  

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