Band Scene: Rejuvenated Madre tidies up loose ends

Saul Young/
The newly domesticated Madre — featuring Heath Nicholls, from left, Alex Melin, Andrew Sayne and Stephen Osborne — is at home in Knoxville.

Saul Young/ The newly domesticated Madre — featuring Heath Nicholls, from left, Alex Melin, Andrew Sayne and Stephen Osborne — is at home in Knoxville.

For much of its six-year career, indie rock/folk act Madre has been surrounded by uncertainty, playing multiple farewell shows and leaving fans to question the band’s status at times. The band, as it turns out, is still going strong and asserts it has never been more resolute.

The doubt regarding Madre’s continuity in recent years stemmed from vocalist/guitarist Stephen Osborne, whose long-distance relationship with his then-fiancee left him torn between residence in Los Angeles or Knoxville. Now married and firmly planted in Knoxville, the Madre show can and will go on. Evidence of the band’s commitment is apparent through guitarist Andrew Sayne’s recent parting with Grandpa’s Stash, with whom he won the long-running Preservation Pub Band Eat Band contest in his final appearance. Also, having welcomed back its original bassist Heath Nicholls after three years away, Madre is unified once more and eagerly developing new material.

“We weren’t sure what was going on at the time,” says drummer Alex Melin of Madre’s occasional farewells. “Stephen’s fiancée was in California, and he moved out there to be with her. They weren’t sure if they were going to stick around or not, so we put the band on hiatus for almost a year (until) they decided that this was the place they wanted to be.”

“(It) was a weird time for me,” explains Osborne. “My wife, Christine, was living in L.A., and we were figuring out how to make the band work. That time period was about trying to push through the limitations I felt we were all dealing with. I was trying to keep the band going, but was very much missing Christine. Finally, only two months after the release, I felt I had to reconnect with her, and that’s where we left off. Things are much better now, and our songwriting has moved into more upbeat patterns. We’re still Madre, but we want to have a more positive expression with our songs.”

Returning from L.A. brimming with inspiration and new material, Osborne and crew have since been working feverishly on songs more demonstrative of their current state. Pointing out that much of its older music, specifically its last full-length album, “Paramenters,” formed in the miasma of angst regarding the band’s future, Madre’s newest offerings are positively upbeat, representative of the group’s solidarity and joy for being a musical family once again.

“I am happier right now with what we’re doing and how we’re doing it than I’ve ever been,” tells Sayne. “And we’re going on six years as a band. We had one lineup change, but we traded out a replacement for the original. We’re all technically original members now, and I think we’re writing the best music we’ve ever written.

“When we were writing ‘Parameters,’ we were listening to a bunch of Radiohead and having a great time. We wanted to do something like that, and that’s how I feel about that release. It was our big, epic-sounding album. We spent a lot of time on that sound. ... That’s what we wanted. But when you try to make something so big, you lose the forest for the trees. Instead of just trying to write a really good song, you try to write a really big song, and it’s different.”

“We’re trying to develop a sense of continuity,” Melin adds. “We’re not necessarily starting over, but I think we are all excited about what we’re playing now and are learning how to play music together again with this specific unit.”

Madre is presently working toward its full-length follow-up to “Parameters.” Initially eager to unveil recent material, the act had anticipated an EP release, but with the wellspring of emerging songs, the group will self-record a complete album. Just don’t expect it anytime soon. With crossed fingers, the band estimates the recording might be ready for release in 2014.

Meanwhile, fans can expect more consistent live outings, both at home and away.

“I think our current status is just happy to be playing shows again,” Osborne concludes. “We’re back in full force and have no plans for a farewell show any time in the near future. We all love the Knoxville scene and have always just wanted to be a part of it.”

Sunday night, following the Boomsday festivities, Madre will take the stage at Preservation Pub along with Johnny Astro and the Big Bang. The show is slated for 10 p.m. and costs $5.

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