“What I used to be will pass away, and then you’ll see that all I want now is happiness for you and me,” Elliot Smith croons in his song “Happiness.” A favorite lyric by Jason Sanford, founding member of Rosco Bandana, the words ring true in the artist’s life. Sanford broke free from the restraints of a Southern religious upbringing to forge his own path. He and the rest of his seven-piece troupe that make up Roscoe Bandana will come to Wilmington to play the Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival this week.
Growing up in the heart of the Deep South, Sanford never imagined his life would include upstarting a septep, entrenched in the rockable Americana sounds of greats like Elliot Smith, Bright Eyes, Iron and Wine, and Neutral Milk Hotel. A Gulfport, Mississippi, upbringing, especially one in a devoutly religious household, didn’t yield much exposure to various forms of musicality. It wasn’t until Sanford mosied into a tobacco shop at a local mall—when a young clerk introduced him to an indie-folk culture that transcended his wildest dreams—that the groundwork for Rosco Bandana was laid.
Immediately after his encounter at the tobacco shop, Sanford began putting his innate skills to use. Through all hours of the night, he would practice licks reminiscent of Elliot Smith, a la “Everything Reminds Me of Her,” using the ’76 Guild guitar gifted by his father. Sanford’s dad routinely sang and taught him his first chords. The self-taught guitar-picker and crooner wrote his first song by age 18. “I was inspired by my first love Emily Sholes, who continues to be my muse to this day,” Sanford says.
Rosco Bandana officially formed four years ago when Sanford’s childhood friend, Barry Pribyl Jr., moved back to Mississippi from Michigan. Pribyl’s sonic aesthetic, which was coated in metal, was heavier than Sanford’s, who at the time was cultivating Americana riffs derived from the heartbreak of his breakup with Sholes. The two old friends compromised, blending Pribyl’s unadulterated rock with Sanford’s honky-tonk inclinations.
“I have always been a fan of bands who cross genres with their music,” Sanford says.” I think putting my own twist on today’s country music will help inspire future country writers.”
It wasn’t long before Sholes wandered back into Sanford’s life and was enlisted as part of the band, which grew to include Jackson Weldon, Patrick Mooney, Jennifer Flint, and Sean Murphy. The members were hand-picked from an open-mic night Sanford had started at a wine bar.
Soon after forming and receiving some local attention, Rosco Bandana entered in a battle of the bands competition sponsored by Hard Rock Records. They swept the competition and were flown to LA to cut a record with Greg Collins.
“The whole process took a little over a month,” Sanford details. “It was a lot of fun! We are no longer on Hard Rock Records, but we will always be a part of the Hard Rock family. The experience was great! I have made some of my closest friends on that journey. They believed in us and gave us the tools we needed to succeed.”
Rosco Bandana’s first album, appropriately titled “Time To Begin,” has gripped listeners with its Southern flair. The heavy-hitting title track, which was the first collaboration of Sanford, Pribyl and Flint, opens with fiery vocals of Sholes, and a toe-tapping beat. Electric guitar taeks over the background, along with thumping percussion. A dichotomy is created between the distinctly rock ‘n’ roll blues of the music and the soaring twangy voices of Sholes, Flint and Sanford. As the song’s title suggests, an upbeat sense of optimism prevails throughout the ensnaring, catchy tune.
“I tend to write songs of hope and change for the future,” Sanford comments. “It’s kind of like a way to pray for me.”
Their song “Woe Is Me” captures the outlaw persona of Americana music. The track drips with Southern charm, but maintains a hard-rock edge. The song is layered in story and metaphorically ponders the life of an outlaw, and compares it the shackles of being in love.
“I have always been a fan of story tellers like Dylan and Tom Petty,” Sanford details. “I think the genre of Americana allows me to write in many different styles and still tell my story.”
Rosco Bandana shows their softer side with the tracks “By and By” and “Heartbreak Shape.” Losing the electric energy in favor of a gently, carefully strummed guitar, the songs pierce the heart with tales of love. They add depth to a high-octane catalog of tracks, and shows off the band’s versatility.
“I love sad songs,” Sanford admits.” I guess when I hear a song that cuts you to the bone and makes your hair stand on end, it really leaves an impression.”
Rosco Bandana isn’t the only trick Sanford has up his sleeve. Always searching for other forms of expression, the band leader—who also sculpts and paints—has started a new musical outlet with reunited girlfriend Sholes, called Em&Me. They’re hard at work on an upcoming project, “Mystic Folk.”
For now Sanford and the rest of his bandmates are touring the country with thoping to squeeze some studio time in before the year’s end in preparation for a new album to be released in 2015. They’re also searching for a new label. The slated recording will shed some of the band’s country flavor and instead revel in more rock ‘n’ roll. As they continue to make a legacy for themselves Sanford holds on to one goal that started it all: To make a living doing what he loves, and, of course, to move out of his parent’s house.
“I hope that Rosco Bandana becomes a household name and our music will help inspire future artists,” he tells. “I would like to say I’m a badass country boy but I’m really just a Southern boy from Mississippi with a story to tell. I really just want to bring inspiration to the world.”
Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival Featuring music from Rosco Bandana
Saturday, October 18, 3 p.m.
1 Battleship Rd.
Annual Beer Festival and Wilmington Beer Week sates thirst
Jason Adams of Lighthoiuse Beer and Wine started his annual beer festival 13 years ago at Hugh MacRae Park. With around 20 beers on tap and local bands taking the stage, he set in motion an annual tradition and fundraiser, which not only had people excited about craft beer but supporting community interaction and live music.
Through multiple venue changes—and especially dollars raised for The Carousel Center, which works with abused and neglected children—this year’s event will overlook the Cape Fear River. Folks will trek to Battleship Park from noon to 5 p.m. to enjoy well over 100 breweries on tap. Plus, Adams has added wine to the lineup and around 50 wineries will showcase their sips.
Before Saturday’s festival takes off, folks will be able to enjoy the overrun of Wilmington Beer Week events, which started October 11. “Wilmington’s craft beer community has grown exponentially over the past few years,” Adams told encore. “Many cities around the country have their own week to celebrate craft bee—Wilmington Beer Week is all about building a relationship with craft beers and local businesses. We feel that is our responsibility to help promote and celebrate the local spots around town that carry craft beers.”
From brewery showcases to beer dinners to tap takeovers and even beer releases, the full schedule can be downloaded through the encoreGO app or log onto www.wilmingtonncbeerweek.com (also see last week’s coverage on encorepub.com).
On Friday night, Lighthouse will host a Voracious Beer Festival on the Battleship NC’s deck. This intimate event focuses on small-release and trade beers only.
“The appeal is that it’s designed for people who want to try something special,” Anna Worobey, Lighthouse manager who oversees Wilmington Beer Week events, says. “We’re trying to keep most of these beers under wraps, but a sneak peak of what you can expect are S’mores Old Chub from Oskar Blues; Stone is pouring a Reason to Be Dammed aged in red wine barrels; and Ballast Point will be pouring their Sour Wench. . . . It provides people with the opportunity to discuss what they’re tasting with the people who make it.”
Tickets are limited and only 35 breweries are invited. Cost is $75 and includes hors d’ouevres.
On Saturday, VIP ticket-holders ($50) will be admitted onto park grounds early at noon, to get a head-start on the sipping and without the lines. Gates officially open at 1 p.m. for everyone. with a $40 general admission. Designated drivers passes can be purchased for $13. All ticket-holders receive a commemorative glass to use to refill the samples and to take home. Food vendors will be onsite as well, so folks can soak up the suds (and vino) with grub.
Attendees can track their fave beers with BrewGene. Plus, a guide of all the wines will be available at the festival for easy navigation. A free shuttle service is available for folks who live in the greater Wilmington area who need a ride home safely. —Shea Carver
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