Goodbye June serves up southern comfort
BY ANDY FRYE For Sun-Times Media
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Southern Rock has found its savior. More importantly: American Rock ‘n' Roll has gotten the kick in the pants it needs.
It's all thanks to guitarists Tyler Baker and Brandon Qualkenbush, and vocalist Landon Milbourn, who together make up Goodbye June. CVR Music released the band's debut album, "Nor The Wild Music Flow," around Labor Day.
The three cousins that make up the band started composing music together in 2005 and went full throttle shortly after, moving to Nashville, TN, one of the great music capitols of the world.
The band's electric single entitled "Microscope" hit the streets right before the release of the album, and as a result, Goodbye June got some notoriety from the video, going viral on Yahoo.com in the late summer. Country music star Steve Holy and NFL head coach Jeff Fisher, of the St. Louis Rams are featured in the video. Microscope's video depicted a high speed car chase and gun skirmish in the Tennessee woods between the band members and two bad cops, played by Fisher and Holy.
We were hanging around one night," said Baker, "just throwing around ideas for the music video, and Jeff - who is friends with all of us - came by to just hangout. We talked about our crazy ideas about staging a car chase and he loved it."
With the help of a production company in Nashville, the band members shot the video over the span of a day last winter on Jeff Fisher's Tennessee farm.
What music lovers will find on "Nor The Wild Music Flow" is hard-driving songs that are pacey and melodic, but not without emotion. Not only do the guitars rock, but also Milbourn's vocal are reminiscent of Soundgarden's Chris Cornell with whispers of The White Stripes' Jack White.
On the album's opening track "Man I Am," the song's arrangement and slow, unbreakable beat appears to take some influence from the Led Zeppelin in the likes of "When the Levee Breaks." Meanwhile one of Goodbye June's softer and more impassioned ballads called "Indiana Boys" is reminiscent of "The Rain Song" from Zeppelin's fifth album, Houses of the Holy.
"We're big fans of course of Led Zeppelin, and take influence from number of others such as Jimi Hendrix, The Kings of Leon, The Black Keys and Hank Williams," said Milbourn.
Even with their style influences noted, the band's songwriting style is original, powerful and refreshing amidst a rock music scene of the last few years that has heralded introverted bands with ambivalent lyrics over songwriting that just lays it out there.
Other songs on the album such as "Strut Your Stuff" and the anthem-like "Lady Luck" balance out the few softer songs and let Baker and Qualkenbush run away with their guitars and old style rock energy.
More spirited and ambitious than many popular bands of the American South, Goodbye June eschews the humdrum lyrics that reference Southern winds and clichés often fashioned by bands thrown into the Southern Rock bucket by music pundits. Instead, the trio jams hard with wicked licks and lashing guitar melodies, coupled with the pipes of their lead vocalist.
When asked what drives the band's efforts and musical ideas, the members had a lot insight.
"We're family. And so we can be brutally honest with each other," said Qualkenbush. "Sometimes you have to speak up about what you like and what you don't, and that makes our songwriting process a lot more honest and open. That was a little hard to do at first but I think it's one thing that sets us apart and is part of how our sound is created."
Goodbye June formed not only out of a fire for music and close family relationships. The three cousins came closer together as a result of tragedy.
Back in 2005, Tyler's older brother, Private First Class Shane Baker had come home on leave from a military mission abroad. Shortly after his arrival, Shane died in a car accident. This unexpected loss subsequently brought the three men and extended family together. Over the course of a few weeks following Shane's death in June of that year, the trio strummed some guitars and wrote a few songs in the mix.
"Shane was kind of a pillar of our family, with a big personality. So from that perspective his death was just a huge shock to the whole family," said Baker of his younger brother. "Shortly after Landon and Brandon kind of moved in with us for support after Shane's death, and we started writing songs while hanging out just to sort of pass the time."
Since 2009, the Indiana boys of Goodbye June relocated in Nashville, where Tyler said they "starved a bit and stayed in some crappy apartments," but focused on playing gigs and making a go of it.
"We all grew up in the country," Milbourn said, "but we love aspects of the city, too. So for that Nashville is a perfect mix."
Goodbye is currently touring the American south in support of their new album.