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Concert Preview & Interview: The Unlikely Candidates

Grant Walters Grant Walters Concert Preview & Interview: The Unlikely Candidates
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Their new EP, "Danger To Myself," brings them on an extensive national tour with fellow indie rockers Brick + Mortar that will stop in Columbus at Rumba Café on Wednesday night

Texas indie rockers The Unlikely Candidates will stop at SoHud staple Rumba Café on Wednesday night, supporting their third and latest EP, Danger To Myself. Bassist Jared Hornbeek has been carefully observing their audience’s reactions to their latest outing with Jersey-bred duo Brick + Mortar.

“It’s cool because a lot of the fans there seem to [like] both our bands,” he explains. “We’re seeing the crowd singing along to Brick + Mortar songs, as well as our songs, so everything’s really connecting well, so we’re doing good. And it varies with different songs in our set, you know? Having been a band and touring for the last five years, it’s cool to see the growth. Especially having people come out to our show and singing along with songs from our first EP, all the way up to our new stuff.”

We recently did a collaboration with the Dirty Heads [‘Celebrate’]. We get a lot of Dirty Heads fans at our show, and we start playing that song — our version — and we definitely have people singing along to it right off the bat, so that’s pretty rad.”

In the ten years since founding members Kyle Morris and Cole Male formed The Unlikely Candidates as a twosome in Keller, Texas, the band — which is now comprised of lead vocalist Morris, guitarist Male, Hornbeek, guitarist Brenton Carney, and drummer Kevin Goddard — have constructed a nationally-recognized presence, which began to solidify when they signed with Atlantic Record in 2013 and launched their infectious alt-rock radio hit, “Follow My Feet.”

“Kyle and Cole kind of started the band as an acoustic duo and started working with our manager, Lauren, and kind of brought the band full circle. Kevin joined first…” confirms Hornbeek, sharing the line with Goddard during a phone interview from the band’s tour stop in Nashville.

“Yeah I was twenty-two at the time,” Goddard continues. “We tried out through word of a friend of a friend, then we built the band and started writing songs. Actually, we went through a few guitarists and bass players until we finally found Jared and Brent, and then we signed a contract with Atlantic.”

With Danger To Myself, under a new contract signed with Sony Music, the quintet’s music is sounding even more confident and adventurous, cleverly borrowing a bit of theatrical moxie from the band’s influences like Zeppelin and The Strokes, and from associates like Fall Out Boy – the latter of which is especially evident on the set’s first single “Oh My Dear Lord” with its ornate, rafter-lifting choruses.

Their deal with Sony feels like a step in the right direction after experiencing some of the bumps and bruises of the music biz relatively early in their career trajectory.

“This is our third record deal now, so…we’ve been through the ringer,” Goddard discloses.

“You know, the music industry can really be grueling to work in,” Hornbeek elaborates. “When we first signed with Atlantic, it was all stars in our eyes, but you soon realize you’re at the bottom of the totem pole and you’ve got to work your way up, you know? And it’s really just starting to be ‘go’ time at that point. They pushed our first single, ‘Follow My Feet,’ and it was doing well on the charts. It peaked at, I think, number three on Triple-A crossover, and it went up to maybe number 35 on alternative?

From there, it just kind of…as soon as the label saw the slightest drop in spins, they kind of backed away from it, and we’re like, ‘alright…maybe it’s done.’ But then we said ‘no! It’s still got more to do. You’ve got to push it harder! We can make the song number one!’ And then they pulled the radio team from it, and we were on our own.”

“And so now we’re on with Sony, and things seem to be going really well,” Goddard asserts. “It’s cool being with Sony and actually seeing their team being really hands-on with us, you know? And experience-wise, unlike any label we’ve been on, it’s been really cool. They’ve been really productive with us and they’ve kept things moving forward.”

The industry, and music audiences, move more quickly now that they ever have in the past – which is forcing artists to make rapid shifts in how they offer their wares for public consumption.

“It’s such a quick process these days, you know? We’re all releasing singles left and right and new music…yeah, it goes up and it doesn’t stay, and it comes right back down. And then along comes the next. Especially with Spotify and everything, and all the streaming services, people’s attention span has kind of dwindled down to what’s put in front of them. And it’s hard to just go back and find your favorite songs or your favorite albums, and then you get on there and go ‘what do I want to listen to? I don’t know what I want to listen to!”

As the heart of the Candidates’ rhythm section, Hornbeek and Goddard each provide a critical component in the band’s evolving pulse.

“I’m always trying to keep things fresh, you know?” Hornbeek says of his bass playing. “I always try to go and spend my money and buy a new piece of equipment and learn how to use it and try to hone my craft with that. Also with recording these days, with all the different plug-ins and things like that, I like trying new things and new sounds and figuring out how to stay relevant with things.”

Goddard is by most standards already a veteran percussionist.

“My dad was a drummer, so that’s how I actually think that’s how I got the bug. I grew up going to see his shows. I’ve been drumming for twenty or 25 years now, or something. I just turned thirty in May, so pretty early on.”

Writing songs for the band’s expanding atalog has also taken different shapes and forms over the years, and it appears another approach might come into play as the Candidates look to release their first standard-length studio album in 2019.

“The writing process has recently…it kind of started as Cole and Kyle on the first EP we did, the Follow My Feet EP, and those were their start, and they wrote all those songs together,” Hornbeek illustrates. “The second EP was mainly Brent and Kyle together. We were out in California for a while, and kind of took this west coast vibe and turned it into what we had with Bed of Liars.

And with the newest EP, Kyle’s been working with a producer up in New York, Gregg Wattenberg, and his team up there. And he’s up there and gets the tracks together, and Kyle sings and nails it down. It really seems like he makes magic in the studio happen, so…”

“All of us are always writing,” Goddard clarifies. “And we write our own music and we pitch it to Kyle constantly. Sometime at the beginning of next year, we’re going to be getting a full-length [album] out with a combination of new stuff and older re-worked material, and a combination of the two EPs we just released in the last year. This is going to be a piece of work, and we definitely want it to be a full album.”

The Unlikely Candidates will take the stage on Wednesday night with Brick + Mortar at Rumba Café, 2507 Summit St. in SoHud. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets (all ages show; customers under the age of 21 pay an additional $2 at the door) are $15 plus taxes and fees, and are available via TicketWebThe Candidates latest EP, “Danger To Myself,” plus links to their social media accounts can be found on their official website.

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