By S. Pulse
Playing Willie Nelson’s anti-musicfest Luck Reunion Revival Stage, Louisville-based Bendigo Fletcher delivered one of our favorite sets of the day. Playing their fresh and eclectic sound to an enthusiastic crowd, the band literally summoned the sun out from behind the clouds.
Signed last year to major label Elektra, the band is poised for rapid growth in the coming year. We’ve been listening to their latest album “Fits of Laughter” on loop, bingeing it like grandma does the Hallmark Channel. Ken Coomer (former drummer of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco) produced the album. Coomer left Bendigo Fletcher’s unique sound intact while adding some additional layers and sophistication. Our favorite tracks include the banjo-laden “Sugar in the Creek,” the harmonic “Astro Pup,” and the guitar-driven “Birding.” The band performed each of these songs during their Luck set along with fan favorite, the frenetic “Evergreen,” a song that highlights Anderson’s amazing upper register, rock-n-roll howl.
After their set, we caught up with Bendigo Fletcher’s dynamic lead singer Ryan Anderson. Standing in a pasture at Willie Nelson’s ranch with a post-performance glow and tousled hair, Ryan wore an upcycled Sasquatch embroidered shirt from Austin’s own Triple Z Threadz. We chatted with Ryan about his hometown, remarkable voice, and nature-infused lyrics written by this former biology major turned musician. We hope you’ll give a listen to Ryan and the band which also includes Andrew Shupert, Evan Wagner, Conner Powell, and Chris Weis.
AUSTIN 101: There seems to be a lot happening in Kentucky. Earlier today we saw fellow Kentuckian Abby Hamilton perform.
ANDERSON: Yeah, we’re good buddies. She’s one of my favorite writers.
AUSTIN 101: Also, we know y’all are from Louisville, as is My Morning Jacket (MMJ), along with many other great bands. Do you think a Louisville sound will ever emerge?
ANDERSON: It’s free to be whatever it wants. It’s unpredictable. There are all kinds of bands coming out of there. Really good bands. So, I don’t think one style of music really takes the work. I really don’t. I think you have some famous bands, like MMJ, one of my personal favorites, and another band called Wombo, that’s nothing like the Americana thing you see at a place like this. So yeah, there’s all kinds of music coming out of there that I’m excited about. We’re just glad to be a part of it.
AUSTIN 101: We love it when there’s a band that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, as obviously that means you’re being creative. Do you ever think of your music as being in any particular genre? It seems like your songs bounce around quite a bit.
ANDERSON: We’ve called ourselves bubblegum elf rock before.
AUSTIN 101: Oh, that should be a marketing hook.
ANDERSON: Yeah, we love the melodies of pop music, but I think our choices of instruments, singing together in harmonies, and being from Kentucky determine that (genre placement) to a degree.
AUSTIN 101: Let’s talk lyrics. Some of your songs read like a stream of consciousness that you wrote in a journal. Do you do lyrics first or do you lay down the melody? How does your songwriting process unfold?
ANDERSON: It’s flip and flop. Sometimes the words come first. If the words come first, it’s always with the melody and that kind of directs the song. Sometimes it’s inspired by something I’m listening to and then I try to find the words to fit the feeling.
AUSTIN 101: How about “Evergreen”? Which one came first on that (the lyrics or the words)?
ANDERSON: Oh, that came during a walk. It kind of has this Where the Wild Things Are type of stomp to it. I actually was walking that day. I took a hit of a joint and took a long walk. It’s not always that way either. I just try to leave things open and my head clear to imagine.
AUSTIN 101: How do you think you acquired that beautiful rock-n-roll holler? I mean, I love it when you ascend to the upper register and produce that wail. Did you always have that?
ANDERSON: I grew up listening to a lot of soul music like Patti LaBelle, The Temptations, and Marques Houston. So, it started there, and I remember singing their songs in the shower. Also, bands like My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses feature guys that can sing really high and make it feel natural, like it’s not so much a show as it is part of the nature of their music.
AUSTIN 101: Many of your songs touch on the environment and nature. It’s a theme featured in a lot of your lyrics. Nature seems to be important to you. How does that work when your touring? You’re in a van, bouncing from hotel to hotel, and always on the go. Do y’all still make time for nature on the road?
ANDERSON: Definitely. Good question. You’ve got to not force it, or you’ll end up being frustrated because there’s not that much time. Really, just anywhere we go, the music comes to me and it’s all more fun when I’m in a head space where I see nature. Like even in the car too, I’ll take notice of birds and clouds. I just try and keep an appreciation of nature. Barton Springs is one of my favorite places.
AUSTIN 101: We understand you’ll be touring this summer with Shakey Graves, who knows Austin very well. We hope Austin will see more of you and good luck with everything.