By Erin Coulehan, Contributor, DC Music Live
It’s not a bad time to be on tour. Between warm-ish weather, St. Paddy’s Day shenanigans and South by Southwest, Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun have discovered a different kind of March madness.
A talented fusion of folk, rock and punk, the British foursome are learning the difference between American crowds versus native England, and have enjoyed experimenting with their sound. Some shows feel more folky, while others can’t help but be massively punk-infused.
“The reaction has been amazing,” says singer/songwriter Jim Lockey while swiveling in a chair in the band’s dressing room at 9:30 Club. “Everyone seems very active at the shows, like early on, whereas in the UK it’s very calm until the end of the night.”
After signing with London-based label Xtra Mile Recordings (also home to Against Me! and Frank Turner), the band has found a niche at the independent label, and has had a non-stop touring schedule alongside Turner and Dropkick Murphy’s. The band says one of the biggest steps forward has been the sense of community and unbridled support received from the label and its artists.
Each member of the band knew from a young age that music was his calling. For Lockey, it was after listening to the first Oasis album and thinking “I could do that.” Add to it that his brother received a guitar one Christmas that he later knicked and learned to play, and you have a powerful combination of motivation and potential.
Guitarist and vocalist Chris Capewell says that music had always been a companion to him, whether it was helping him through
bad spots of life or helping him develop a sense of self. But it wasn’t until the band got together and gained feedback from live shows that he decided he wanted to play forever.
“Everything I had got from music from the past, our band was doing for people. And it was sort of like ‘geeze, I’m now doing what my heroes have done for me,’ – there’s no way I could do anything else,” says Capewell while his bandmates nod in agreement. There’s a collective shudder at the mention of putting on a suit and falling into the routine of a “real” job every day. Like their tour mates who’ve since become friends and mentors, these guys belong on the road.
But that’s not to say the road to Rock ‘n’ Roll has been easy. Like any good story, the journey has involved course-altering decisions and a certain degree of risk that have made the rewards all the more intriguing and the stakes that much higher.
On January 25, the band announced on its blog that after being offered “the biggest opportunity of our lives” would be rescheduling a series of ten shows scheduled on its UK tour. The opportunity came in the form of an invitation from Dropkick Murphy’s to join the Irish-powerhouse band for 15 shows across the US.
The decision wasn’t easy. Caught somewhere between loyalty to fans back home who had already purchased tickets and an opportunity of a lifetime, the band made a calculated decision that was equal parts instinct and savvy: they would join Dropkick Murphy’s, and hope that UK fans would understand.
The band soon learned the degree with which fans believed in them, and were met with overwhelming support.
“When we announced it to fans back home they were totally behind us,” Capewell said, “we’ve picked up people that support us, I think most were stoked.”
With such a grueling tour schedule (the band played shows with Dropkick Murphy’s before flying to Austin for SXSW and then returned to the UK), Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun have evolved with their music.
Capewell says the songs acquire a new depth while on the road, and that the songs are played with more passion over time because they begin to mean more.
“The speed of the songs changes a tiny bit because of the adrenaline you get from playing live,” adds drummer Simon Cripps, “there’s little things that we subconsciously do once we’re out there and on tour.”
For all the time spent on the road, each band member inevitably goes through a readjustment period after returning home. Weeks spent travelling nonstop with best friends suddenly become inert nights spent alone, like the jolt felt slamming the brakes of a speeding car.
Whether playing in the UK or exploring new land in the US, the band is happiest while on stage, and it definitely shows.
Jim Lockey and his mates made their DC-debut at two sold-out shows at 9:30 Club and introduced Washington to their unique style. Lockey’s crisp narrative lyrics coupled with visceral instrumentation on songs from Death, the band’s second album, inspired the wild crowd to take pause and listen and really absorb the play-til-you-die attitude the band exudes.
Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun are back in England for a few weeks, but it won’t be long until they’re back to the beloved grind and glamour of the road.