The Underhill Family Orchestra is a group of five multi-talented musicians that make their home in Alabama. Though they may not be family by blood, they are in every other sense of the word. With bonds formed from late nights writing, recording, and touring, this groups has truly shown how the talents of individuals can come together to form something special. Their harmonious, southern sound filled with multiple instruments bring to mind a rootsier version of The Mowglis or a more refined Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Their latest album, Tell Me That You Love Me, is available for streaming and download on all major platforms. Check out their website and find and follow them on Facebook to keep up with The Underhill Family Orchestra.
How did you all come to find each other and form the Underhill Family Orchestra?
Steven: Well the three of us met in college and that's kind of how the band formed. It formed around a bunch of friends that met in college, and three of us are still in the band. That would be me, Joelle, and Ben. Through a series of mishaps, happenstances, and what-have-yous, we now have Roy and Joe in the rhythm section. Roy is the one who looks like he hasn't showered, Joe looks like he showered way too recently.
How would you describe your sound for someone who hasn't heard it before?
Ben: We normally say somewhere between Fleetwood Mac and Fleet Foxes, or 'Southern Progressive Pop'.
Isn't it hard to describe music without referencing another band or musician?
Joelle: Yeah, people want to think of something they recognize and if you say Fleet Foxes or Fleetwood Mac they're like, "ok, group of people, a lot of singing, a lot of harmonies." Of course it's not like we're trying to say, "we're trying to be this band."
Ben: "You guys sound just like Tonic."
Steven: We did get for a while that we sound like Mumford and Sons when we first started, and it wasn't so much that we sounded like them, but that we were just a band that was playing music around the same time as Mumford and Sons that has an acoustic guitar. It was kind of funny, I like to think I have a powerful voice, people think Mr. Mumford has a powerful voice, but other than that I don' t think our music sounds very similar. We do have a girl in the band. I've never played a kickdrum while playing.
Joelle: There were vests. I think people were like "some of you guys wear vests sometimes, so does that other band."
There's an undeniable southern sound behind the horns and harmonies in y'alls music. How did growing up in Alabama, and the South in general, influence y'all as musicians?
Joelle: I think you're just surrounded by it. We all come from different backgrounds, but the creole nature, the southern nature, and gospel, being in the bible belt all plays into it. Some of our influence is church music. Some of it is cajun music and just going back to classic country and hymns and things like that.
Ben: Yeah I think it's obviously an influence that can't not affect the way we play and the music we create.
Steven: For all intensive purposes and for all our best efforts, we're kind of a..secular gospel band? We don't specifically sing about any spiritual relationships we have, but we are affected by that music and I think we all grew up in that music to some degree, especially being from the area. But you know what they say, anything below the Mason-Dixon and they say they're in the bible belt. America's wearing a white belt when it comes to the bible, and I think because of that and having a background listening to everything from Kirk Franklin to Audio Adrenaline and Reliant K to metal bands in the Christian music scene and all that. And then folding that in with things that we actually thought were fun and popular and not just things our parents made us listen to, because we wanted to listen to those songs. Like, Ben walked into practice singing a Puff Daddy son you know? I think the lens in which you view music is not necessarily affected by the content of the music but by the feel and technique of the music. So when we approach our music we all have our individual views and techniques and then all that comes together and just so happens to make the music that we make. I think progressive pop is where it's at for us because we are pushing an envelope that sounds like a lot of things in the progressive pop movement from the '60's that is modernized in a way that is enjoyable to play so we hope it's enjoyable for the listener.
Silverhill Church Girl is an incredibly catchy song off Tell Me That You Love Me, what was the inspiration behind that song?
Steven: Ha! There was a line I wanted to put in a song. I turned to Roy and said, "I can probably make this song happen" and that's when I sat down and wrote Silverhill Church Girl. That's when we sat down before the record came out, a year and a half before it came out, and wrote something like 27 songs, some of which were reapproached songs, so we would have a nice stable to choose from for the record. When it came down to it, I still wanted to have a particular feel from the music that I was offering and putting on the table. So I came up with Silverhill Church Girl, which has a noticeably more down home opening. It's a little more pickin' and grinnin' and washboard and harmonies and has a front porch kind of feel. The song itself is just a treatus on how we sometimes mold ourselves into people we're not for people we think we're in love with, you know? I think we've all dealt with that problem in the human psyche.
Chickasaw Fields is a song with a great groove to it that makes you want to move. What went into recording this song?
Ben: I think that song kind of jumpstarted the record making. It was one of the first ones we started to tackle in the studio. It has several parts to it. It has the transistor radio opening, it has the Johnny and June abdomen, then it has this giant wall of sound ending to it. So Roy had to have entirely different drums set up for the intro, then...well it's really sort of a lot about Roy, he and our producer Noah worked really hard on it. So hey Roy, talk about it.
Roy:...Uh yeah. We had the drum part going into the studio, which was a pretty complex drum part at first, then totally deconstructed it. Which, it being the first song in the studio, was kind like, not frustrating but I hope every song doesn't go this way kind of vibe. It's kind of stressful writing a part in the studio, but once we finished it, it was like "oh yeah, we're working with Noah, this guy is awesome". The drum part that came out of it was, I don't know, refreshing? It was a refreshing way to begin the recording process. It was like, alright cool if we can do that the rest of the song will be a piece of cake.
Joelle: When we were recording vocals, one of the verses for the background vocals was super fun. Working with Noah is awesome because you get in there and you get to create things on the fly. Even if it doesn't work its like "oh, we spent two hours on that, let's go back to the other thing." But there's a little part that mimics Joes bass part as a vocal line that was super fun to go in there and layer harmony after harmony. Playing it by itself was super magical to hear, it was like "holy shit, that sounds really fun".
Roy: That was kind of the first song that when we were doing the vocals it set a precedent for the rest of the songs. All the rest of the songs have this kind of fun Easter egg or this part that took a lot of patience and work, but Chickasaw Fields has that nice little almost Simpsons-y kind of vocal parts in there and because of that we started approaching some of the vocals with a little more care and giving it a little more time than we thought we would.
What can fans expect in the future?
Ben: We're going back to the West coast in April. Probably Going out there another time and hitting the East coast another time. Working on the next record which, if it's not recorded by the next year, will be well on its way. Then next year...Europe hopefully.
Joelle: We're definitely focused on the next album. It's always a longer process than you think it is. So we definitely want to spend some time on that and have something to follow Tell Me That You Love Me and show our growth and change. Then, take that on the road with us and...spread the love bro haha!