The collective journey for the three members of Judah and the Lion started in three different sides of the country, but truly began when they came together through mutual friends while attending Belmont University in Nashville back in 2011. For a month now, the road has been the bandmate's office, their playground and their home — a dozen states welcoming them, quickly saying their goodbyes. They'll add another stop in Charlotte to that list soon.
Judah and The Lion has been touring in the wake of the release of their newest album, Kids These Days, which follows their two successful EPs. They'll play at Charlotte's Visulite Theatre on Oct. 23, and although they've played in town before, this upcoming show might be a little bit more of a fiesta than their last.
This is the band's first full headlining tour, and it's putting its mark on it by letting music be music. They say they don't want to overthink it. They want the energy to come through, and, more than anything else, they want to give the audience a good time.
Judah Akers, the guitarist and lead singer who grew up in Tennessee, says the band has made some fundamental adjustments but left the core of its sound unscathed and is still a band of faith. Opting to replace their bass guitar with a synthesized keyboard has helped the trio to open the sound up and keep the energy at a premium, but also allows the banjo, mandolin and vocals to remain hard hitting, keeping in touch with the gospel and folk feel that they've always had.
Kids These Days was recorded in March of this year, and the band brought in legendary producer Dave Cobb, known for his production work with artists like Shooter Jennings and Jamey Johnson. "He had a vision for that sound," says Akers. "He helped us step out of the box."
Since then, the band has hit the road with vigor. Brian Macdonald, a Chicago-raised mandolin player and backup vocalist, says the band has gotten used to touring together and has some mutual friends on the road with them this time around which helps. But looking at their tour dates, it's hard to understand how their travel time isn't exhausting. In a matter of six days, they go from Tennessee to Los Angeles and then come back east to play in Charlotte. The following week they go from Virginia to Texas to Florida, and then back to Texas again.
Macdonald says that it's never really easy on the road, but that "you've got to go hard to play hard," a true sentiment of integrity in this day and age. "Everything changes on the road," he says. "Van touring is inconsistent but you have to make a rhythm out of it."
Shaping a rhythm out of inconsistencies sounds like a daunting task to me, personally, but Nate Zuercher, a banjo player from Colorado, seconds Macdonald saying that he finds that rhythm on tour comes in between hotels and time in the van. The guys use that time to stay relaxed, stop at coffee shops to recharge, and figure out all of the rest while they have the chance.
The important thing is the band members aren't letting their rigorous tour schedule slow them down on the stage. Stepping out of that box and getting into the rhythm of the road infuses a burst of energy that the band's older material lacked The guys recommend you "put your party pants on," if you're attending this show.