Maybe it’s the long hair, or maybe it’s the mustaches and beards. Maybe it’s their laid-back style, or maybe it’s the effortless ease of their music.
Whatever it is, people can’t seem to get enough of The Lonely Biscuits.
They’re just cool – it’s that simple.
Behind the Biscuits
The band formed in September 2011 as Gravy and the Biscuits with drummer Sam Gidley, vocalist and guitarist John Paterini and rapper/vocalist and guitarist Grady Wenrich. Bassist Nick Byrd joined the group a few months later.
“We didn’t just become friends to form the band, we weren’t just like looking for musicians. We kind of started as friends and decided to jam on the side, so we’re not in it just to sound really good, to try to sound really good,” Wenrich, a junior entertainment industry studies major, said. “We’re in it because we like doing it and we’re friends, just the four of us mesh really good.”
When Byrd joined the group, they not only got a new bassist, they got a new name: The Lonely Biscuits, based on an earlier song of theirs called “The Lonely Biscuit.”
“I think it just identifies well with our songs and what they’re about,” junior audio engineering major Gidley said. “A lot of our songs are about girls and all that stuff, so it just kind of fits I guess.”
But before they were “Lonely” and even before they were “Gravy,” it was just Gidley and Wenrich, who were random roommates, jamming together.
“We moved into the dorm and we started playing music, and it was kind of a joke at first, but by like the first day of classes, we had five songs out,” Wenrich said.
Starting out, their sound was more playful, Gidley said.
When Paterini and Byrd joined the band, Wenrich said their sound developed more. And having two singers “with two way different voices” made it a little bit more unique.
“We just want to be something different. We’re really inspired by like Nashville rock and indie rock and so we try to bring that stuff into it,” Wenrich said. “We don’t want to be a hip-hop act.”
After their song “Butter” got a lot of attention online, the guys started taking their sound even more seriously.
“We want to relate to people, but we want to be something that people have never heard before,” Wenrich said.
Since forming in September 2011, The Lonely Biscuits have been busy.
In March, they won MTVu’s first ever Chevrolet Sonic College Artist Woodie Award and opened the Woodies Festival, where acts like Alt-J, Jake Bugg and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed.
And in the two years they’ve been together, they’ve self-released four EPs as an unsigned group, including “Things Sure Have Changed,” officially released today on iTunes and available for streaming on Spotify and SoundCloud, with physical copies available for order through their website.
“I relate most to the new stuff, all our old stuff was like us finding our sound, just starting to jam and see what came out,” Wenrich said. “But I think finally on this new EP, we kind of found our sound and where we want to be.”
Talking new EP
The EP’s name has a double meaning, Wenrich said. It represents the story inside “Things Sure Have Changed,” but also represents the band as their influences, sound and processes have evolved.
“Our live show has influenced our recordings now, whereas it used to just be where we would write the songs and then worry about playing them live later,” Wenrich said. “But now, we kind of like played them live and then wrote them and then recorded them, so just the way we do everything has changed.”
None of the EP was recorded in a commercial studio. The guys recorded and produced it themselves at their house in Nashville, and Cory Wilhite engineered it.
“In the studio, there’s always that time crunch and there’s people watching and it’s just kind of hectic,” Gidley said. Whereas, being at home is “just fun, it gives you more freedom.”
With a sound that’s somehow indie pop, rock, soul, funk and mellow rap all at the same time, The Lonely Biscuits manage to create music that’s both familiar and like nothing else.
“It’s definitely a weird combo,” Gidley said. “We all come from like totally different backgrounds, and so I don’t really know how it actually meshes together, but one of us will just kind of start a jam, and then we all tweak it, you know, like how we would want it to sound. We all kind of give a little and take a little.”
Creating the sound
Their latest EP is all at once bright and buoyant, with rhythms and bass that are heavy in the best way.
Every song on “Things Sure Have Changed” has a kind of nonchalance about it. The guitars and drums seem to have a lilting, casually-walking-down-the-street, dragging-feet kind of pace.
And Wenrich’s rapping isn’t anything like the hip-hop sound that has become synonymous with the term. Its lyricism and pace are more spoken word.
“I’m not trying to be a rapper. It’s just something that comes easy to me,” Wenrich said. “I write better in rap form, so that’s what I do.”
But when it comes to songwriting, the words aren’t what usually comes first for the band.
The music comes first and they usually write separately, but then come together to collaboratively write the chorus, Wenrich said.
The new EP opens with a feeling of excitement and anticipation for new love, but transitions to a sense of dejected frustration about a relationship on the fringe.
“It’s not all happy and sugarcoated and feel good. There’s a darker side to the EP,” Wenrich said. “The whole EP as a concept was a story, and so there’s like points in the story where it’s not feel good at all, but we just try to make it emotions that kids our age feel.”
The first three songs, “Casual Vibes,” “Kinda Steady” and “Stay” are feel good tracks that resemble The Lonely Biscuits’ old sound, Wenrich said.
But the fourth song, “Tone It Down,” is where the vibe changes and the story turns sour.
“Pool Day” and “Things Sure Have Changed,” the EP’s last two tracks, are about moving on.
When it comes to the EP’s standout track, Wenrich said it’s “Pool Day,” which, for him, summarizes The Lonely’s Biscuits’ story and sound.
The song begins acoustically with Paterini singing and sounds like something from a Diablo Cody film soundtrack. When the guitars, drums and rap come in, the song transitions into something more feel good, Wenrich said. But where it starts indie folk, it ends with a sound that’s more Jimi Hendrix, with a loud, gritty guitar solo.
“We mixed all of our favorite stuff and everything we are feeling into that one song,” Wenrich said. “I don’t think it sounds super jumbled and all over the place. It kind of sounds like one solid thought.”
Telling the story
Even though there’s a clear story here, the concept of the EP wasn’t realized until after the songs were written.
“We had no plan to actually make it a concept, it just kind of happened,” Gidley said.
“Things Sure Have Changed” is altogether the nervous-excitement of possibility and the sinking despondency of love lost.
“It’s like serious, but it’s still got that playful, like quirky-playful side to it,” Gidley said.
Musically and conceptually, the EP is nostalgic, with guitar riffs and bass grooves like nods to early funk and rock and lyrics that look back.
The lyrics are a kind of hybrid of Paterini and Wenrich’s experiences, and rather than continuing the same thought in their vocals, they often establish a dialogue, where one voice seems to answer the other.
That kind of dialogue is heard in “Tone It Down,” which Wenrich said is the track he’s “spilling the most emotion on, and it’s the realest one.”
And though the feelings are real and the lyrics are especially vulnerable at times, Wenrich said there isn’t any dirt to dig up with this EP.
“It’s nothing from like the pits of our hearts,” Gidley said. “It just gives you that top layer to kind of dig into and take what you want from it.”
The EP’s story isn’t so much autobiographical and exclusive to one band member as it is a patchwork of shared experiences about different things everyone goes through, Gidley said.
“We want our fans to dig into it,” Wenrich said. “But we don’t want to give away all the details, we kind of want them to figure it out on their own and make their own story.”