When most popular music is peppered with every kind of auto-tuning device one could imagine, it’s like a wave of fresh air in the stifling summer heat when a band comes along and properly uses a wide range of instruments. Besides country music, not many genres feature instruments like banjos, fiddles, and ukuleles around the music scene. Old Banners, an emerging indie folk-rock band from Dallas, is changing the way their listeners hear music once and for all.
Old Banners released their self-titled CD in 2011. During the recording process, they had the chance to work with mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, who has worked with big names in the industry such as Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen. The album is an eleven-track journey into honest music making, offering music fans everywhere a chance to embark on something new.
On first listen to the band, the instruments stand out above anything else. Before you know it, you’re swaying to the sweet tunes that remind you of rocking in a chair on your back porch, maybe watching some fireflies swirling around. When prompted, they’ll describe themselves as an indie folk-rock band, but even that doesn’t completely describe their sound.
“I wanted the music to be bigger than what we are used to hearing,” says Andrew Beilman, vocalist, guitarist, and banjo player of Old Banners. “I got started in music pretty young, my mom made my siblings and I learn the piano before we could branch off to any other instruments. So after that, I wanted to pick up the bass. Later I entered my first band when my brother’s friend needed someone to play bass for his band, Committed. I tried out, made it, and then the rest is history.”
In songs like Banners and Ceilings, the listener is treated to a dabble of banjo straight out of the gates. The vocals kick in and are just as upbeat and whimsical as the banjo, melting together beautifully.
“These instruments weren’t exactly in our everyday lives, although the folk sound did come from the music my parents played when I was a child,” says Beilman. “Speaking recently though, starting a few years ago I would hear really good music with these pieces in them, and then I would go and pick them up and try to incorporate them into our own sound.”
Their first video is for the track A Fisherman’s Tale, the one Beilman says the band is most proud of. “The song just has so much depth to it,” he says. Beginning in a sinister form, the song is different from other tracks on the album. Like what you would expect from a traditional folk song, A Fisherman’s Tale takes you on a story-telling journey in musical form. The video, shot on a dock in front of a lighthouse, shows the band members holding nothing back as they unleash the song right then and there, with nothing but waves swirling around them.
In addition to songs like A Fisherman’s Tale and Banners and Ceilings, the band shows other sides on their self-titled disc. 2nd Gnome Eats for Free is a more upbeat, carefree song with a mind of its own as it takes you on a ride down the river. Mountain Psalm is the longest on the disc and has gorgeous interweaving of instruments throughout as the vocals almost make you feel like you’re listening to a soft rain on your window.
“I want our music to be something that people of all ages can listen to and be able to relate their own past and present experiences with. I’d like our music to really be able to help people.”
Old Banners is currently working on an EP follow-up to their 2011 album that they say is a different sound due to the changes in lineup. They are also embarking on a five-state tour between Texas and Oregon with dates scheduled beginning in May. The year should also bring some festival appearances for the band.
While speaking with Beilman, I couldn’t resist asking some secrets from his music player:
What is the top played song/album on your iTunes?
Right now, the song I have been listening to the most is Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye.
What is the strangest thing on your iTunes or the one your band mates would be most surprised to see on your iTunes?
Enigma – Return to Innocence.
What song would you most like to cover? What would you do differently with the track?
Probably Wagon Wheel, it’s a great song and I think it would be a cool experience.
You can catch Old Banners on their official website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Their video for A Fisherman’s Tale is below.