Heypenny are a Nashville based four piece. Not the kind of Nashville music the city is traditionally famous for, an altogether more indie and generally speaking alot less countrified side of Nashville. A more lo-fi underground where they and many others ply their musical trade; where musicians meet and form bands and debut musical projects at house parties; then said bands perform at other house parties and the whole scene feeds itself. Lambchop their records in the house down the street and the local music ground zero is at Grimey's record store and the Basement bar underneath.
Heypenny's Ben Elkins tells us about this other side of Nashville's music scene...
So, Nashville's one of those towns that bands and solo artists move to in order to pursue music careers. For people that are in the twenties and thirties and still want to go for the dream, I've heard it's next in line behind New York and Los Angeles. So much so that it's actually surprising to meet somebody that grew up here. Most people have moved here on purpose, you know? You don't feel weird being here and working a real job while still seriously pursuing music. So, that's nice.
It's hard for outsiders to get the real Nashville. Our Nashville. Everyone thinks this town is only about country music. That does exist here, but it's a whole other world. It feels like a separate town.
Okay, Nashville is a southern town complete with your worship of giant trucks, red meat, and Fox News, but it's also very cosmopolitan. Vanderbilt University helps with that. People move here from all over the world to study and teach there. Also, Nashville has a huge health care industry. There's lots of money around. I think it's pretty fashionable and forward thinking (we voted for Obama in our district even though he didn't win in Tennessee). Think of it as a little slice of blue heaven in a big red pie.
Alright, so that's a little background...
One of the first places I learned about after moving here was Grimey's Record Store. It's a thriving little music shop started by a guy named Mike Grimes who I used to live right across the street from... which brings up an important point about Nashville. It's small.
Compared to other important music cities, it's tiny. You can get from one side to the other in 15 minutes. Easy. There's East Nashville which is kind of the hip-cool-buy-a-house-if-you're-actually-making-a-living-in-music scene. Then there's where DJ and I live which is a poorer area, but houses are a lot cheaper and they're still nice and old and cute neighborhoods. But yeah, the place I used to live was right across the street from Mike Grimes and two doors down from Mark Nevers's recording studio/house where Lambchop records all their albums. DJ and I randomly saw two guys from OK GO walking out in front of my house about a year ago. They'd been doing something with Mark.
But it's important that it feels like a small town. I think that's definitely one of the reasons musicians move here. It's got some of the feel of where they grew up probably. There's a lot of hanging out at each other's houses. I remember thinking that the "hire a bike" thing in London was so weird. I guess it's because if I need to get something from someone, I'll just drive over and get it. No big deal.
Alright, but anyway, Grimey's is lovely and like I said it's thriving, which is kind of weird for record stores these days. They work really hard to promote local music, and promote national acts coming through. Often times if a national act is coming through, they'll do an in-store performance at Grimey's earlier in the day before their gig that night. I'm not sure how long he's been at it, but Grimey (as he's known) has been pushing the Nashville indie-music scene forward for decades. He's probably to thank for what Nashville's become in a lot of ways.
Before he owned Grimey's and the Basement (which I'll get to), he ran a great bar in East Nashville called The Slow Bar where you could go drink with locals and maybe get into a fight with Ryan Adams, or at least see him perform. Yeah, he used to live here. He actually recorded Heartbreaker right across the street from The Slow Bar at Woodland Studios - Gillian Welch and David Rawlings studio.
So, where were we? Oh yeah, underneath Grimey's is a venue called The Basement. It's one of the best places to play in town. It's pretty small, but it sounds really good and everyone's super friendly there. We play there a lot. We also play at a place called The Mercy Lounge, which is a lot bigger and nicer and is where people like Dr. Dog or Deerhoof play if they come through. Those are probably my two favorite venues in town.
There are plenty of others, but I like these two because of their character and the people that work there. So, there are your bands and your artists. People like How I Became the Bomb, and The Features are what I mean when I say bands. And then there's this whole slew of solo artists that I can't even keep straight. It's a personal pet peeve of mine that people go under their own name instead of just getting a band together.
We're obviously more in the band world, but there's one or two people that go under their own name that we do shows together with too, like Kyle Andrews. He's pretty great. He's from Chicago. His record Real Blasty has been getting college radio play over here I think. Check out the song Sushi, It's rad.
And then there are bands. The Features you may or may not have heard of. They've done some things in the UK and just signed to Kings of Leon's label. They're pretty freakin' amazing. I mean, like a real deal great rock band. They're kind of Nashville's best band and have been for a lot of years it seems.
That's a start. We love the scene here. I could go on and on. There are studios to talk about too, where all these bands are making their recordings. But for now I'll leave it at that.
Below you'll find a sample of some of our favorite Nashville bands and why we love them. Some are mentioned in this piece and some who are not. We hope you enjoy them as much as well do.
Read about their choices and listen to Heypenny's Other Side of Nashville playlist below:
Heypenny's own myspace.
Caitlin Rose - Answer In One of These Bottles
We had the opportunity to play at the Basement with Caitlin a couple of months ago. We wanted her to go second, but the out of town band wanted her to open. She, being super kind and all, graciously went on first to a small, but rapt crowd. We got to sing backup vocals with her on a Phosphorescent song, "A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise". It was quite lovely. Down on Lower Broad there are tons of honky tonks with country acts playing, but none are more authentic than Caitlin. She's the real deal. www.myspace.com/caitlinrosesongs
How I Became the Bomb - Harvest
Instantly, the disco beat and arpeggiated synths get your feet tapping, but then "Best Dandy" Jon Burr comes in with a vocoder-laden hook that makes "Harvest" the perfect weekend song. The kind best listened to before you go out to a club or bar to see your friends. www.myspace.com/howibecamethebomb
JEFF the Brotherhood - Bone Jam
There is so much power in the playing of these two brothers--just drums, guitar and one vocal. Bridging gaps between the one-two thud of the Ramones, fuzzed out surf rock ala Dick Dale and some straight to the point stoner jams, JEFF absolutely kills and "Bone Jam" proves that point. www.myspace.com/jakeandjamin
Kyle Andrews - Sushi
Back in the day, Kyle would play these rock and roll shows that sounded completely different than his recordings, but he's now got this amazing drummer who owns a tattoo parlor. His name is Doy and he can play to loops so songs like "Sushi" translates really well live. The fun and spontaneity is there, but now you get all the little sonic flourishes too. Kyle also loves Grimey's. Every time we see him, he's wearing a Grimey's shirt. We wonder how many he owns. www.myspace.com/kyleandrews
The Features - Lions
These guys were on a major label at one time and they were asked to cover The Beatles "All You Need Is Love" for a credit card commercial. They said no and were subsequently dropped. We like their moxie for standing up for what is right in the world today. Most bands would've called it quits, but The Features just took to it and kept on being the best rock and roll band Nashville has to offer. Now they're touring with Kings of Leon, playing huge arena's in Mexico. They deserve every bit of success bestowed upon them. www.myspace.com/thefeatures
Madi Diaz - Let's Go
Madi was in the documentary that inspired "School of Rock" but beyond that, she's a sweetheart and has a voice that melts you. When she sings, "Let's go/To a place I know-oh-oh/We'd be so-oh-oh-/Oh let's go-oh-oh", that sound you hear is the sound of every guy falling for her. Her music is amazing and when people say she's poised to be "the next big thing", it's not too hard to fathom. www.myspace.com/madidiaz
Mikky Ekko - It's Only You
Mikky used to deliver posh, expensive modern furniture with our drummer, Aaron. He's come a long way. His first show was just him and an acoustic guitar, now he has a full band with organic and tribal percussion; slide guitar and these gorgeous, haunting melodies. He falls somewhere between Radiohead, Bjork, Jeff Buckley and Portishead. Mind-blowing, really. www.myspace.com/mikkyekko
Natalie Prass - Jenny
Besides having an amazing voice, Natalie Prass is quite talented at the guitar. And obviously songwriting too. We were doing this show at Mercy Lounge where eight Nashville bands played three 1980s songs each. We did Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love" and Natalie graced us with her cooing vocals. She even sang the Japanese parts. She's amazing! www.myspace.com/natalieprass
Telephant - Karma
Telephant is one of those bands that write pitch perfect, dramatic pop songs. The kind you could listen to right after your significant other breaks your heart. They're much in the vein of Coldplay but aren't afraid to take chances on sonic experimentation like, say Wilco. www.myspace.com/telephantband
Pico Vs. Island Trees - Call Call Call
These boys saved us when our van caught fire in Evansville, IN en route to a show in Bloomington, IN. Rather than leaving us stranded they sent a dear friend in their own van all the way up from Nashville to pick us up and bring us home. Super tight. Like their music. They write some smooth pop jams akin to Phoenix. Deep grooves, ya'll. www.myspace.com/pico
Shoot the Mountain - Invitation
Shoot the Mountain is a great rock band. They capture the true spirit of indie rock: loose and jangly guitars, poignant vocals and bouncy drums. There's definitely a pomp to "Invitation" and a hook that won't leave you for days. "We're gonna have some fun/Yeah, tonight/We're gonna get the fun things done." www.myspace.com/shootthemountain
The Biv - Adventure Bot
Dan, the drummer for The Biv used to play drums in Heypenny and actually came over there with us to do some shows last summer. His band The Biv writes some incredible experimental music. "Adventure Bot" is manic 8-bit pop. Think Zelda filtered through the Flaming Lips. www.myspace.com/biv
The Protomen - Light Up The Night
The Protomen have a huge, devoted and crazy following after their first release caught the attention of nerds worldwide. It was a rock opera based on the popular Capcom video game "Mega Man." Their new record just came out and it's part spaghetti western/part apocalyptic 80s action soundtrack. Listen to "Light Up The Night" and picture Patrick Swayze or Kurt Russell in a running through fire or something. This is the only band that can be like Leonard Cohen one minute, flip a switch and be Meatloaf the next. www.myspace.com/theprotomen
Heypenny on myspace.
Heypenny's Cop Car EP is out now on Guerilla Music.
12:34 PM | 28/10/2009
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