255 N. Front St.
Wed., 3/9, doors at 8 p.m.
Also playing: The Riverwinds, Wylie
After nine years of instability, South Carolina’s Sequoyah Prep School (SPS) hit a brick wall. Despite their large fanbase, the naiveté of the band members created too much dissonance between them, which surfaced while they recorded in Nashville. The boys dumped dollars into an album that didn’t fit any sort of style they hoped for—so they decided to trash the entire deal. Ultimately, they came very close to calling it quits and dismantling their hodgepodge sound altogether.
During the eight months that followed, each member took a sojourn in his own direction. While bassist Johnnie Matthews created his own solo album, lead singer Daulfin Osborne wasn’t accepting his life of self-diagnosed depression. Angry and confused with how his dreams had become an unrecognizable mess, he looked to his father for advice. “He said, ‘You guys just aren’t caring anymore,” Osborne tells encore. “‘You need to work your asses off and hit the road.’”
It turns out the frontman’s dad was right. His straightforward guidance began a total transformation within SPS. “We picked ourselves out of the dust we’d been in,” Osborne says. “We’re finally the group we need to be.”
Now, known merely as Sequoyah, these men have graduated into a new era. Today, the lineup includes Osborne, who not only sings but plays guitar, piano and mandolin, as well as Matthews, the bassist, who hosts a set of pipes in his own right, as well as West Jones (guitar, banjo, piano, vocals), Jordan Hicks (guitar, banjo) and Harrison Boyd (percussion). Though the last time they actually followed through with releasing an album was in 2008 with “Ghost Town,” this year they present “Spells” to their patient fans.
“This album has more depth lyrically,” Osborne explains. “It’s a lot more personal and real, and there’s a slight genre change. It is much more bluesy and soulful.”
In other words, while iTunes may describe Seqouyah Prep School as “affable, Americana-influenced pop,” in actuality, they have developed into something stronger. It’s like if Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” had a love child to whom they only fed cornbread and sweet tea. Boyd’s drumming pushes the songs along, while the men playing key and string instruments pitch just the right amount of down-home comfort to their brand of rock ‘n’ roll. And then there is the unmistakable sound of Osborne’s voice. It possesses the emotion of a bluesmaster hardened by life but still carries a youthful tone. Paired with his original lyrics, Sequoyah matures and excites with “Spells.”
“Do What I Do” is one of a few songs that Osborne claims fits the theme of Sequoyah’s fourth and most recent album. It, along with “Green Grass Grows,” “Mother Mary” and “Hands in the Dirt,” encompasses the growth this band experienced. The lyrics of “Mother Mary” came from two songs that were on the ditched Nashville record. From those, the song evolved.
“It’s about the fight between good and bad, and figuring it out,” Osborne explains. “It’s nice and soft, but has a good, heavy message.”
Songs harboring the most personal meaning for Osborne and his bandmates will not necessarily be the singles from “Spells,” but each song has a blueprint. “The bones of a song come from one or two people as a lyrical idea or melody, then we start recording” Osborne says. “‘Spells’ has really been a group effort. We bring an idea to the table and everybody puts their spin on it.”
The very last song on the album is not one from Osborne, though. “Suits” is a piece that Matthews created, and his scratchy, deeper vocals are the ones listeners will hear as they finish the album. “It fit the mood that everybody had,” Osborne claims. “It embodies the feeling from that low place we were in.”
Sequoyah will showcase their revamped tunes at Soapbox Laundro-Lounge on Wednesday, March 9th. In the meantime, folks can visit www.purevolume.com/sequoyahprepschool for a sneak peek at what they’ll be playing.
“It is a total change, both musically and mentally,” Osborne finishes. “This is a new life for us, a new life we found together.”