It’s not often that you hear about a Pop band out of Louisville, Ky., a place more associated with the folky acoustic tunes that arose from the state’s bluegrass heritage; A Lion Named Roar is an exception to the rule. Recently named one of MTV’s “Buzzworthy Bands,” A Lion Named Roar has a bright future.
The group will be playing Waterfront Wednesday in Louisville on April 26 as well as the Forecastle Festival this July alongside music heavyweights like My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, Avett Brothers, The Flaming Lips, Old Crow Medicine Show, Robert Plant, Jim James, and Alabama Shakes.
A Lion Named Roar “This Won't Last For Long”
With a blend of pop and Americana, A Lion named Roar still evokes their Louisville heritage while adding an overall upbeat energy. The quintet’s superb harmonies and ability to move across musical genres set them apart from the crowd.
Founded in 2010, A Lion Named Roar was formerly known as Waketheday, and it was under that name that the band was selected out of 6,000 candidates to make it on Fox’s reality TV show, “The Next Great American Band.”
Having evolved since their reality TV days, A Lion Named Roar released their EP, “Foreign Land” in November 2012.
Lead singer Chris Jackson and guitarist Tyler Anderson talked to us about upcoming shows, their Louisville Heritage as well as their plans for this year’s Kentucky Derby, which includes eating at least three Derby pies.
Mary Frances Dale: Your band has evolved a lot since its formation six years ago in Louisville under the name Waketheday. How did being selected from among 6,000 candidates to make it on Fox’s “The Next Great American Band” propel the band forward?
Chris Jackson: That was a crazy experience to say the least. We really saw what “reality TV” was all about. As far as it propelling us ... other than an awesome trip and some funny stories, not much came from it. But it was an honor to be selected.
Mary: Being on Fox was obviously a pivotal moment in the band’s history since your name and sound have changed so much since being on the show. How would you describe this change?
Tyler Anderson: I think the change was finding our voice in music. Although a fun experience, I think it propelled us into finding our identity and getting back to writing. This band is a better representation of who we are and what we were trying to say years ago.
Mary: If you had to describe the band’s current musical style in three words, what would they be?
Tyler: Scenic, Savvy, Reflective.
Mary: A lot of people have categorized A Lion Named Roar as part of the pop genre. Pop music and Louisville are an unexpected combination. How does your band reconcile these two?
Tyler: Sometimes it feels less like reconciling and more like refusing to adapt. We don’t want to force ourselves into recording vibey, folk music, for example. To be honest, we’d be really bad at it and competing with other talented artists in this town who would run circles around us in that genre. I think the occasion arrived where we had to eliminate what we couldn’t do well. Our producer, Neil DeGraide, did an incredible job of helping us bring out the qualities we were good at. Our EP “Foreign Land” is a great example of us finding ourselves. We may be one of very few alternative pop bands in Louisville, but we’re completely at peace with that.
Mary: Can you tell me a bit about each of the members and how they became part of A Lion Named Roar?
Chris: Well, Tyler and I met in high school around 03. It was one of those: “Hey, I play guitar and you play guitar - we should start a band” kind of things. That’s pretty much how that bond was forged, and we’ve been trucking along ever since. We met Michael Brown, our bassist, from a referral given by our former bassist … funny how that works. Taylor Barton is our newest member and we've been friends for a few years now. Taylor would fill in on shows now and again; and then when a spot opened up, it was no brainer to add him. Much like a lot of other bands, we’ve had a few members come and go (sometimes the same members twice), but we wouldn't have it any other way. It has taught us a lot about ourselves and who we are as a band. I feel like this lineup now is solid, and I am stoked to see what the future has for us.
Mary: Tell me about A Lion Named Roar’s Huddle Sessions? What was your inspiration? Any ideas for your next Huddle Session?
Chris: Oh, the Huddle Sessions ... I love ’em! Growing up we all listened to various singers and songwriters like James Taylor, Jim Croce, Neil Young, etc., and there is just something about a stripped-down version of a song that takes you somewhere emotionally. I think the Huddle Sessions, for me at least, was a response to my inner songwriter. As for future Huddle Sessions - we have a few ideas we’re really excited about, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
A Lion Named Roar
Mary: You’ve got a lot of big shows lined up, including Waterfront Wednesday in Louisville on April 26 and the Forecastle Festival this summer. What shows are you most excited about?
Chris: Both! We’ve wanted to play Waterfront Wednesday for a while now but something always came up. Now that it’s finally happening, and with such a great lineup, we couldn't be more elated. As for Forecastle, it is an honor to be one of many bands representing Louisville this year. When we got the call asking if we wanted to be a part of it, we asked if they had the wrong number.
Mary: If you could describe your bands quirkiest habit, what would it be?
Chris: We all have a lot. It's hard to narrow it down. We are weirdos.
Mary: Being from Louisville, the home of the most iconic Thoroughbred racing event in the entire country, what are your favorite things about the Kentucky Derby?
Tyler: I love the people it brings to our city and what we have to offer those visitors. We always brag about Louisville being a smaller Austin, Texas. The capacity that this city has for young-and-thriving businesses rivals any city in the U.S. I think people see that when they come in for the Derby. There’s a heritage and tradition here that’s rarely overshadowed by the gleam of huge franchises and corporations.
Mary: How will your group be celebrating the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby?
Chris: We will be hitting the town for sure. We are playing couple of parties including the Barnstable Brown Gala. We’ll be hanging with some close friends and celebrities, so it should be interesting. I’ve never been to Derby but this may be my year. At the end of it all, I just plan on eating at least three Derby Pies!
Make sure to check out A Lion Named Roar’s website and if you’re lucky enough to make it to Louisville for the week of the Derby, you can catch them playing some of the week’s parties.
Listen to their EP Foreign Land here: