Thu Aug 19 2021
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The Unlikely Candidates,
Based out of Fort Worth, Texas, The Unlikely Candidates are an indie rock band initially formed as an acoustic duo by childhood friends Kyle Morris and Cole Male in 2008. Eventually expanding the lineup to include guitarist Brenton Carney, bassist Jared Hornbeek, and drummer Kevin Goddard, the band was also able to expand its sound in bigger, more sweeping directions. In 2013, the band signed on with major-label Atlantic and released their debut EP, Follow My Feet. In early 2016, the Unlikely Candidates returned with a hooky new single in “You Love Could Start a War,” which made a strong showing on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
Sometimes it takes very old friends to do something brand new. Introducing Rightfield, the fan-addicting, genre-bending Arkansas duo that’s making a sound you’ve never heard before, but will yearn to hear again and again.
Ever wonder what would happen if you crossed The 1975 with Whitesnake, then threw some hip-hop lyricism and classic pop into the mix? Of course you haven’t, because what would that even sound like?
Well, it would sound like Rightfield, the band formed by Jack Blocker and Reed Hoelscher four years ago in their freshman dorm at the University of Arkansas, and whose catalog of intimate bangers has now garnered nearly 2 million streams on Spotify, and climbing.
Yes, intimate bangers. There feels like no other way to describe songs that could rev up an arena, and also keep everyone happy at a backyard cookout -- songs that are somehow both sweeping and intimate, bold and personal.
“For me, Rightfield is that band that, no matter your preference in music, you’ll be able to find something in their music that you love,” says Abir Hossain, VP of Quadio Records, which signed the band last year and recently released its debut EP, “Rightfield, One.”
“That quality is rare, and it’s what drew me to them immediately.”
Hossain recalls the moment of discovery: “I was listening to ‘Way Too Long’ with Quadio’s co-founder Joe Welch, and we were both just blown away as the song built, because it was taking us on a journey with every emotion in it,” he says, adding, “I’ve learned over the years that the easiest artists to A&R are the ones who are natural songwriters and ridiculously talented musicians who know how to complement one another in just the right ways. That’s Jack and Reed.”
Perhaps that special dynamic should come as no surprise, given that the duo met in kindergarten. They remained close friends until eighth grade, when Reed left for another school in Texas to pursue athletics. His father was a professional baseball player at the time, a career he hoped to follow himself. But that dream, unexpectedly, came to an abrupt halt.
“My sophomore year, I got really, really sick. It was an autoimmune type thing that’s still a big part of my life now,” he explains. “But looking back, that period changed everything for the better, because it taught me that I wanted to be a musician.” Not that music was new to Reed. “I grew up with my mother’s side of the family, and when we get together, everybody pulls out an instrument, a guitar, a harmonica -- it’s very much just sit around for hours and play 12-bar blues.”
Those jam sessions came back to comfort and preoccupy Reed as he adjusted to his new life without sports. “When I got sick, I think I learned that music is a better community builder than sports,” he says, “and I’ve been chasing music ever since.”
While the boys had fallen out of touch during high school, Jack was also unexpectedly being drawn into a life of music. His family was “not musical at all,” by his description, yet one day he found himself “messing around” with a guitar that he’d gotten for Christmas as a kid. “It had never come out of the case, all those years,” he said.
One thing led to another. Jack was helping a friend practice for the student-led worship band at his Christian high school, and someone encouraged him to try out himself. “When my parents heard, they were like, ‘What are you doing? You’re going to really embarrass yourself,’” he recalls with a laugh.
By senior year, he was leading the band, running its multi-set weekly performances in front of the entire school, and writing his own songs. “I guess, without knowing it at the time,” he says, “it was probably a pretty intense way to get into music.”
That intensity came just in time for his reunion with Reed freshman year at University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, when the old friends discovered that they lived in the same dorm.
“The way it started, I mean, honestly, it was going into each other’s dorm rooms and seeing each other’s music equipment and being like, ‘You do this? You do this? Okay cool, let’s do something together,’” says Jack. “We didn’t have any other options, in a way. We weren’t well-connected in Arkansas to just play music with other people. So I remember there was one point in our friendship, in our dorm room, when I would just sit down and play the same progression over and over, and sing these hip hop covers over this progression, and Reed would solo over it.”
While both of the artists loved hip hop, their other musical tastes hardly overlapped. Reed is a massive fan of late-80s hair metal bands like Poison, Whitesnake, and Skid Row, for their entertainment factor and gusto. “Just sitting at a piano and singing for people definitely has its moments,” he says, “but when I hear somebody ripping a solo or playing a sick drum fill, I freak out.” Meanwhile, Jack names The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons as his first loves, with Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, and Tyler the Creator not far behind.
But the duo felt from the outset their different tastes in music were not a deterrent, but an exciting opportunity to create something new.
Their process is a reflection of that desire. Typically, they build the idea for a song together, getting 50% of the way there. “Then, when we have enough, we go apart,” Reed explains. “Jack works on the lyrics and I work on the instrumentation, then we come back together to make the parts fit, and make it one song.”
It’s an approach that seems to be working. ‘Finally Home,’ the band’s poignant-yet-uplifting anthem about the journey to understanding your identity, has more than a million streams alone, with virtually no promotion except small gigs. They attribute their early success to “really, really supportive friends,” but acknowledge their popularity stretches beyond that, with some songs receiving tens of thousands of streams a day, thanks in part to landing on Spotify’s Morning Coffee and Soda playlists, and Apple’s “New in Rock” compilation. “The fact that people are listening to us all over the world and in dozens of countries, that’s kind of crazy to think about, but it’s really cool,” Reed says.
It’s also, he says, fuel to keep the band going with more energy and intention than ever. The duo hopes to start touring as early as this summer. “When people hear us, we want them to be like, ‘Oh, that sounds like Rightfield,’ instead of ‘Rightfield sounds like this group or that artist,’” he says, “and we want to do that by making music that will be remembered for a long time.”
The Unlikely Candidates, Rightfield
Thu Aug 19 2021 7:00 PM
$15.00 All Ages