The Medders’ self-titled album is also their first, despite the fact that most of the band members have known each other sinceâ€¦well, birth. This southern rock group from Georgia comprised of the three Medders brothers and one suspected narcoleptic, has a soulful sound that’s been 20 years in the making.
Cheyenne Medders is the proverbial patriarch of this band of brothers. The eldest, doe-eyed and soft-spoken, he is also the lead singer. His younger brothers Carson and Will back him up on the guitar and percussion, respectively. The odd man out is Joshua Stauter, the classically-trained pianist who sometimes rocks out so hard that he passes out on his keyboard.
When they took the time to chat with Blast about their new album, which was released in September, they described it with words like "haunting," "dancing," "rockin’" and "quirky." Swinging melodies wrap around Cheyenne Medders’ soulful, scratchy southern voice, and make all of these descriptions true. But the passion in his voice on the record was there while he talked to us — this is a man who cares deeply about creating musicâ€¦even if it’s about insects.
Blast: How would you describe your music to someone who hadn’t heard it?
Cheyenne Medders: I try to name old bands that people would know of and say we’re definitely influenced by The Band and The Beatles and Wilco, and newer people like The Arcade Fire.
It’s kind of impossible. I just wish they would hand me a guitar and I would just play you one of my songs. My taste in music is so broad. I am equally enthralled by the Beach Boys’ "Pet Sounds" and the song "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire. And their sounds don’t really have anything to do with each other, but they all inform the music that I make.
Blast: So tell me a little bit about your new album, "The Medders."
Cheyenne Medders: We all recorded it ourselves and produced it ourselves. These songs, they kind of go into some new territory. The first song is a really solid, Americana ballad about getting in trouble, being a gunslinger. And then they’ve caught you and you’re gonna get hung. It’s got this really cool piano lick that kind of keeps it drivin’. People have said it sounds like Neil Young and Tom Petty, a little bit. The whole album goes in some really cool directions, I think.
Then the next song is totally, kind of out in left field. It’s called "Win Win." I wrote that song sitting on a porch at my house, and I was just lookin’ at all the insects. I had a guitar in my hand — I’m a firm believer that the best songs come when you’re not trying to write a song, when you’re not trying to force one out. Some kind of inspiration just comes along, and if you’re lucky, or if it’s meant to be, you have a guitar in your hand or you’re sittin’ at a piano. Or you’re just walkin’, you have some sort of rhythm and you make it into a song. So I was just contemplating the insects on my porch and thinking about how they have to experience time differently than we do because their whole life span is just a matter of days. So it’s kind of a quirky, silly song, but it ends up with a pretty rockin’ outro.
The next song after that is "Bee Free Honey." It’s probably the weirdest most unexplainable title of the album. Really, it just comes from three words from the song put together in a weird way. On that song we brought in some guest musicians, Claire Indie on cello and Jordan Hamlin on French horn and trumpet. So it kind of has this orchestrationâ€¦feel to it that I like a lot.
After that there’s kind of a dance beat thing. Then kind of a slow dirge kind of song. I really can honestly say that I’m proud of the songs on the album. I love them all.
Blast: I know you all can play more than one instrument and you do a lot of switching around. How do you work that out?
Cheyenne Medders: We have done a little bit of switching around. We haven’t had a permanent bass player in awhile. Ideally we have one of our friendsâ€¦play bass for us. That allows me and Carson both to play guitar, which is what we love to do. When I’m singin’ I like to play guitar.
Josh, or Joshua , as he likes to be called, handles all the keyboard stuff. He’s just one of those guys that’s just incredibly musically inclined. He can just kinda hear somethin’ and he’ll come up with his own part, which is something I love. I don’t like to teach people parts, because if they come up with it themselves, then they’ll play it with more passion.
Will is on the drums. He also plays the lap steel guitar. He’s kind of developed a little knack for the slide instruments. In "Terminus," there’s a kind of haunting electric guitar sound that just goes in and out.
Blast: You’ve all been making music for years. You went solo for a while, but now you’re all together. And how did Josh come into the equation?
Cheyenne Medders: Geographically we were separated for awhile. We all went to college, but by the time my brothers got there, I was on my way out. And I wanted to hurry up and move to Nashville, because my cousin’s studio was just callin’ my name. I wanted a place where I could just record uninhibitedly. When they were done with school, they moved here. So I call it just being a "real band."
Carson Medders: I met Josh one day when he was a freshman and I was a sophomore. All the freshmen were supposed to be at orientation. I was hangin’ out in Will’s dorm roomâ€¦and I started playing guitar in there. I thought the building was emptyâ€¦
Cheyenne Medders: And he was shaking the walls! He was playing Jimmy Page.
Carson Medders: I was playin’ pretty loud because Josh heard me from the third floor. He was asleep and I woke him up. He came down and knocked on the door and came in and kinda startled me. And was like "Hey, mind if I hang out or whatever?" And I was like "Sure."
And he picked up a guitar and started playing along with me, but he wasn’t that great. I didn’t know how I felt about him. But then kind of as he was leavin’, he mentioned that he was classically trained on the piano. And so at that point we were just trying to put something together. I thought "If he’s really good at piano and he liked our stuff, that would be a big asset." So I invited him to a practice and it ended up working out. But I will admit at first he was his personality was pretty different than oursâ€¦
Cheyenne Medders: Well, you mentioned that he was asleep when he heard you on guitar. We thought he was narcoleptic. Because we would be just playing a song, a pretty loud song, and he’d just be hammerin’ on the organ. Then we’d just hear this dissonant organ chord just totally sustained, just *werrrr* and we looked over and Josh’s head would just be on the keys.
Carson Medders: He used to work overnight a lot. So then during the day he just couldn’t really keep it together. So we didn’t really know what was wrong with him. But turns out he’s a great guy, soâ€¦
Blast: So Cheyenne, on your Facebook profile it says that your three favorite songs all have "country boy" somewhere in the title.
Cheyenne Medders: I am kind of a country boy. I was definitely born and raised out in the country. That’s not too surprising. There’s an old guy named Jimmy Driftwood. He was a great folk singerâ€¦there’s nobody like him. He’s just a master storyteller with a voice from Heaven. He’s got a song called "The Country Boy," one of my favorite songs.
I was also thinking about "Thank God I’m A Country Boy" by John Denver, which is one of the most joyous pieces of music I’ve ever heard in my life.
Then there’s an Alison Krauss songâ€¦called "You’re Just A Country Boy." And it’s beautiful. And way different than the other country boy songs.
Blast: What effect do you think that has on your music? Would you call it country?
Cheyenne Medders: It’s really not.
Blast: Not in the traditional sense?
Cheyenne Medders: Or in a modern sense! Country gave birth to rock and roll. Country jazz and blues from up until the forties and fifties came together. That’s what rock and roll came out of.
And I am a sucker for a lot of old country, like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. And what music fan isn’t?
When we were kids we were really immersed in the country industry cause our dad was a staff writer here in Nashville for Diamond Rio and Pam Tillis. Our cousin made a huge career out of writing modern country songs. The country of the late 80s and the early 90s has a strong nostalgia with me. It’s the kind of thing where you just know all the words to every hit of that time because that’s what was on the radio wherever you went. Whether you walked into Cracker Barrel or a gas station, or your dad was dropping you off at school, all these songs like "Two Of A Kind Working On A Full House" was on the radio, and it kind of becomes part of who you are. So no matter how far away you get from it musically, a little vein of that’s still gonna run through it. Whether it’s just the cleverness of the lyrics or the catchy melodies or whatever.
Blast: What plans do The Medders’ have for the future?
Cheyenne Medders: We’re working with a few non-profit organizations (Living Water International and Mission Lazarus). Their main focus is to drill wells for communities that don’t have clean water. The water crisis — you might even say it’s the worst crisis out there. So many people die from not having clean water.
So me and some friends had this idea to pitch to college campuses, and we’re calling it "We’ll Play for Water." We’re gonna tour collegesâ€¦try to construe it to where every dollar that comes in from the public or from a college that hires us to play will go straight to build wells.
Blast: Every dollar?
Cheyenne Medders: That’s the idea. I didn’t think it was possible at firstâ€¦If you can find some donors, just people with a lot of money that want to do some good with it, you could conceivably come up with all of your administration costs. Then all of the money that comes from the public could go to the cause. I think it’s gonna be good.
The Medders’ self-titled album is now available on iTunes. Check out their Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/themedders