The pursuit of pure rock and roll is often a long and gritty one. It’s a fact that doesn’t escape Nashville rock band Goodbye June, a trio of first cousins who are no strangers to life on the road, and whose forthcoming full-length album, out this year on Interscope Records, includes material they’ve been performing and perfecting for the past five years. To celebrate their first and long-awaited visit to NYC, we met up with lead vocalist Landon Milbourn and lead guitarist Tyler Baker for some warm, whiskey-drenched conversation at Copper & Oak on the Lower East Side.
Goodbye June’s show was unfortunately snowed out on the following day, so we’re especially glad to have caught up with them before the storm swept through. Of the excellent whiskey we tasted, scavenged from the glowing shelves of the small, swanky bar, the guys strongly favored the Nikka, a smooth Japanese whiskey with a perceptible coffee grain flavor. As it turned out, it was also a fine drink for storytelling.
“Well it’s a long, long, long… I think we go back to when we were born,” laughed Landon, who wasn’t exaggerating. “We were all around each other our whole lives. We’re first cousins, all from Southern Indiana and West Tennessee, collectively.” “Me and my brother used to go out and visit Landon and Brandon’s families, and we’d stay all summer,” added Tyler. “I mean, we lived out in the country too, but it was cool to go somewhere new.”
In spite of the close ties, “the whole band thing,” as Tyler called it, didn’t come into being until 2005, when his brother was tragically killed in a car accident – the driving force that inspired them to start Goodbye June. “Going through that really changed everybody,” said Landon. “Yeah. Changed me,” agreed Tyler somberly. “I was getting ready to go to college so I could be an engineer. But it really shook my parents up; it hurt them really bad for years. I said I wasn’t going to leave, but they said ‘no, you have to go to school.’ So I changed everything, and I did a business major where I could still study music as much as I could.”
“And while he was in school, we were in the band,” added Landon, his tone hinting at tales of college rebellion. “Yeah, we would tour…we did a lot of stupid stuff,” Tyler said with a furtive laugh, allowing his cousin to fill in the blanks. “We drove a lot of stupid long trips,” said Landon. “Like driving to Cincinnati just to play two shows; 8 hours one way, play, come back – it was nuts. Cause we were broke. We were driving a GMC Bravada where the heat did not shut off… so it’s full-blown heat in the middle of the summer, and we’re driving like 7 hours,” he recounted, the two of them laughing. “It was like 2008, 2007… we were already Goodbye June at that point.”
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the first time their history had been forged in the heat. “My dad has been doing gospel and choir his whole life. All of our families are in the church,” said Landon. “I mean church for a lot of people is just going on Sunday and standing there, but we sweated through suits. We got into it. It was a big deal.”
“That whole side of us comes from that. The wildness and the rowdiness of the Pentecostal church service that a lot of people probably don’t tend to think about – it’s just like a rock show. In a different way, but it’s exactly the same thing. You’re there to have a good time, you’re there to let loose. The intro of ‘Oh No’ was almost completely inspired by what we call ‘praise chords’ and ‘shout beats’ in church, you know?” Landon said of their hit single (as featured in Madden NFL 17), mimicking the upbeat intro with a fast tchsk tchsk sound. “It gets you moving. You just start dancing and speaking in tongues; all that stuff,” he said with a smile.
“We want to move people, that’s the whole purpose behind it. I mean, I don’t even go to church anymore, but the whole aspect of moving people through music is huge,” explained Landon. “That’s how I learned to appreciate music so much, because those services – the tone of them was set by the music. It wasn’t anything else. The music made you want to cry, or the music made you want to run. So that really started permeating us at a young age; the thought that you could make people feel stuff through the music.”
If last year’s incendiary EP, Danger In The Morning, is any indicator, Goodbye June has figured out the trick – and the bar is now high for the full-length to come. “The new album is pretty… intense,” they agreed, landing on the same word. “It’s everything,” said Landon. “You’re gonna find headbangers, you’re gonna find heartstring pullers… It’s right where I think it always should have been, and for the time it took, I think it was well worth it.”
“Every song on there we’re extremely proud of. We’re excited to play it live,” said Tyler. “And we think each of these songs can have their own legs and in some way, they can live out in the ether.” “A lot of the stuff we write is real. A lot of the stuff comes from real experiences,” Landon added. “I mean, the band came from losing somebody. For the most part, for every song, there’s a backstory. Life’s not easy and it’s not always a picnic, and this is a way for us to just get it out there. You know? This is it. This is how we feel.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley