The Lone Bellow, Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin, have known each other almost all their lives, but they have only been singing together as The Lone Bellow for about four years now. They all grew up in Georgia, but originally only Williams pursued a career in music. He began writing songs in the wake of a family tragedy: After his wife was thrown from a horse, he spent every waking moment in the hospital at her bedside, bracing for the worst news and writing his darkest fears in a notebook. That journal would eventually become his first batch of songs as a solo artist. (Happily, his wife made a full recovery.)
Then Came the Morning, the second album by the Georgia-born, Brooklyn-based indie-folk trio The Lone Bellow, opens with a crest of churchly piano, a patter of drums, and a fanfare of voices harmonizing like a sunrise. It’s a powerful introduction, enormous and overwhelming, as Williams, Elmquist, and Pipkin testify mightily to life’s great struggles and joys: “Then came the morning! It was bright, like a light that you cut from your smile!”
Working with producer Aaron Dessner of the National, The Lone Bellow has created a sound that mixes folk sincerity, gospel fervor, even heavy metal thunder, but the heart of the band is harmony: three voices united in a lone bellow.
We sat down with Brian Elmquist prior to the show at 20th Century Theatre on Tuesday December 9th!
I love the quote from Stereogum, “...distancing themselves from the post-Mumford hordes…” How do you feel about that?
I don't know if we were trying to distance ourself from them or just carry the ball or sound a bit further. I'm a huge fan of Mumford and Sons, Avett Brothers or Jason Isbell for that matter. Not because of their well deserved monumental success, but because they brought beautiful storytelling back to the mainstream. It's an incredible honor to be associated with acts like this. I think with the sound of this record, we want to find our own place in all of it.
As you have all known each other almost your whole lives, do you think it makes it easier or harder to work together?
I think the job is more intentional because we aren't working with strangers. These are people I am caring for every day because they are my friends, and I've decided to do life with them. If that's the goal, it does make it easier to make music with friends because there is trust, and I can openly hear "that's a good idea" or "that idea sucks" from them. I know these people care about me.
Tell us about your writing process…
Occasionally songs come almost finished, but typically one of us comes with an idea: a chorus, a hook or a melody. Sometimes it's a hard subject, and we generally try to carry that together as we are writing. We sit down and try to capture the raw emotion and human struggle as much as we can in the moment. Then we go back later and comb through it to make sure we are saying everything that should be said in that song.
What are some guilty pleasure music tastes of the band?
Absolutely 90s R&B, especially when worlds like Mariah Carey and Boys II Men collide.
What is next for The Lone Bellow?
We cannot wait for people to hear these songs. I, in particular, can't wait to sing them with our fans next year. We've always been a live band. The songs always take a life of their own in live settings, and because we're a three part harmony group at the core it has always invited people into the experience. I think it's gonna be a beautiful moment to share.