In just over a year, Knoxville indie-math quartet Lions has made significant strides, a feat amplified when considering the number of lineup changes it has undergone while maintaining full-time-student status. Having recently rounded out its roster with a new drummer, the band is ready to capitalize on a number of developing opportunities to expand its recognition locally and abroad.
The task of landing an adequate rhythm section could not have been easy for Lions, given the band's staple polyrhythms and unusual time signatures, but a capable drummer was found in Nathan Larson. The act's complex, mathematical sound, reminiscent of Foals, pushes the limits of technicality without flashy over-embellishment or self-indulgence while presenting a sound that is unique and keeps its listeners guessing. Now rounded out with a sense of permanence, Lions is eager to broaden its catalog with new material, aiming to follow up its March release "MTNZ" with another EP by late summer.
"Our new drummer happened to be a great friend and he also played music with us in a different capacity," explains Josiah Smith (vocals/guitar). "It was merely an adjustment to this style of music. He fit in with us immediately, and he is literally one of the best drummers I have ever seen, period."
"We've played with him for a few months now and are looking forward to recording new music as soon as possible," adds Richard Jeffords (bass). "He listens to completely different music than us, but he appreciates what we are trying to play, and there is a learning curve for us. Also, this seems to be a permanent solution in our rhythm section."
Wanderlust appears to be a subliminal theme of Lions' first EP, with three of eight tracks having geographical themes, one of which, "Stuck in Our Small Town," describes Knoxville as a city with untapped musical potential that unfortunately goes unnoticed outside our orange pocket dimension. However, with its new affiliate Steven May of Stay True Booking, Lions hopes to implement the strategy needed to command the notice of those beyond the city limits and even overseas.
"There was no intentional theme, but it is funny now looking and realizing that as well," Smith says of the EP's subject matter. "Writing lyrics, especially, I place the meaning on the environment and the surroundings of certain situations in my life and what is happening in my life. 'Nashville, TN' and 'Arizona the Second' are basically about myself and people close to me and a revolving relationship around those places. ('Stuck in Our Small Town') is definitely about living here in Knoxville. I feel like it is a great place to be, but I don't think it is the end-all. I want to go out and experience things, but I find it hard to plan ahead being a college student, musician and having so many friends. Knoxville helps me grow because all of my friends play music too, and they all inspire me."
Despite having yet to garner much attention from the rest of the nation, the group has been well-received across the pond, so much in fact that Lions have been approached by UK distributors interested in pressing "MTNZ" onto vinyl. If all goes as planned, the UK release would include two more tracks, enough to bump it to full-length status.
"We woke up one morning with an e-mail from Enjoyment Records, a small distro label based in the UK — Norfolk, I think," Smith says. "He said he loved our music and wanted to possibly do a release with us. We haven't quite announced the vinyl release yet, but a release of significance is happening in October. We are specifically recording new songs for the release. It was cool because it was the first time anyone had justified our release or said they really were digging it. Many more people have spoken up since, and it has done great things, but it shook us at that point. We listen to a good bit of artists from the UK, and I think our poppy sensibility, if we have any, comes from those types of artists. We are beginning to receive recognition from both sides of the sea now; the only difference is what the two different fans compare us to."
The growing appreciation for Lions makes them a band to watch. With its lineup complete, it looks to play locally on a monthly basis and to release five to six new tracks in the coming months, three of which are already written. The act feels it's important to stay on the minds of its followers, and expects to do so with frequent shows and updated set lists.
Tonight Lions performs at The Longbranch Saloon with Young///Savage and others TBA. Friday's show will be the first in the venue's weekend-long Stay True Music event, with four-act bills to follow Saturday and Sunday night. The show starts at 10 p.m. and costs $5.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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