LANCO – Brandon Lancaster (lead vocals), Chandler Baldwin (bass guitar), Jared Hampton (keyboards), Tripp Howell (drums), and Eric Steedly (guitar) – went down a storm in 2018 when they came over for C2C: Country to Country.
Their debut album Hallelujah Nights went to number one in the US and their single Greatest Love Story was a huge hit. They also recently picked up an ACM Award for New Vocal Group.
I caught up with four members of the band (unfortunately Jared wasn’t feeling too good) ahead of their show at O2 Academy Islington to talk about their first-ever UK headlining tour, their new single Rival and their upcoming second album.
Welcome back to the UK guys! You were last here for C2C and I completely missed you so it’s great to be seeing you tonight. How does it feel to be coming back and doing a headline tour?
Brandon: Great! We came back just for you man, we knew you missed us and so… (laughs) We’re really excited. We honestly had no idea what to expect for C2C. You hear about it all over the place in the States, everyone talks about how great it is but you just don’t know. We’d never been over here before. We knew the festival would be great, we just didn’t know what the reaction would be. I remember talking to the guys (and saying), ‘you know what man, back in the day you know in the States we played to 10 people and we’d act like it was ten thousand, so it’s like we’re starting over. Let’s just do that here. There’ll be probably five or 10 people hear but that’s OK. Let’s just play like it’s an arena’. All of our shows were just packed and tons of people coming out and singing all the words. After the first day at C2C I was talking to our management and said, ‘hey we need to get back to the UK asap, they’re really responding over there’. We tried to book this right when we came home from C2C so we’ve been looking forward to this for a long time and we’re just excited to be here.
Is this headline tour the start of you guys coming back to the UK to tour more regularly?
Brandon: Yeah! It’s really not too bad to get over here. You have to figure out some different things like how to get a bus and there’s some logistic things but really I’ve told our team, ‘they really respond over there and I really think this is a thing that we can build and let’s keep building it as much as we can. I think that’ll take consistently coming back and building that fan base’. That’s a big thing we’ve believed in the States since day one, just build it and whoever comes out give them a show they’ll remember and they tell their friends about it and they’ll come back. We want to build that here. You’ve got to keep coming back and so we definitely plan on doing that.
Tripp: Hopefully you’ll see us at least once or twice a year.
A lot of Country artists are visiting the UK in the first few months of the year then returning towards the end of the year. Summer is dead over here for Country music because I guess you’re all busy with the festivals in the US?
Brandon: Yes summer over in the States is just festival season. They also have a lot of like fairs and stuff. Somehow in the summer there’s a show everyday in the week. This is this is a great time for us to come over and then we’re coming back again in the fall and doing a festival over here. We’re trying to make that definitely a regular thing.
You recently released Rival. The song is a bit underdog anthem for anyone that has felt excluded in their life. Where did the inspiration for the song come from?
Brandon: That one started with Tripp and I. We were actually at a show and we were out touring and Tripp started with a drumbeat so had this drum beat we wanted to write to. Then kind of this melody thing that was cool and catchy and made you bob your head. We started talking about what we actually wanted the song to be about and we started ranting about some things that had gone on in our lives and talking about some experiences fans had talked to us about. We just realised we’ve had a lot of success but even when people get a job or if they work 9 to 5 or if they go to school, no matter what you’re doing there just will be times in life where you feel like people aren’t rooting for you. Maybe you’re backed up against the wall or whatever it may be. We thought it would be cool to write a song for people in that moment you know like what is the anthem that you want to hear, and writing that, and then also having a line in there that is you the name of the song saying, ‘you know what? You’re important and you matter but there’s always gonna be someone that just may not get it or may not want to see you exceed, and that’s OK. Call them a rival and use them as motivation. That’s where that all stemmed from.
Would you say that Rival is indicative of the new music you’ve been working on?
Brandon: I hope so. We’re in the studio right now. It’s that cliche that you have so much time to work on your first record; you have your whole life actually (laughs). I’ve heard this forever and I can’t believe it is as true as it is. Your whole life to make your first record and not as long for you second. In doing that though you do grow a lot from your first record and you maybe even missed some things. We thought, ‘what did we not express on that first record?’ I think it’s responding to the first record and saying, ‘OK. Since then where have we grown, what do we want to say, what do we wish we could have said? and what do we want to say now?’ We’ve been in the studio a few times and recorded honestly the majority of an album but I think that we want to go back in and just keep adding to it. It’s kind of this blank canvas and you throw paint on it. Now it’s kind of editing it. Rival is indicative of that but there’s also some other sounds.
Tripp: Yeah I think that’s the cool thing about Rival. On the first record we were super honest about what our lives were. I think right now we’re challenging ourselves to be pretty honest about what we’re going through now and I think Rival comes from that. I think there’s a whole batch of songs that come from that. We’re on a time crunch I know that but I am excited to finish the second record.
Brandon: I just turned 30 yesterday and we recorded a song I’m hoping will make the record called Too Old To Die Young. I’m feeling that now I’m 30 (laughs).
Having been through the album process with your debut and gained experience on the road, does that make writing and recording your second album easier or harder?
Brandon: Yeah it’s not easy. I’ll say that. It’s not easier. It should be but kind of like with anything in life it’s almost like the more knowledge you have about something the less naive you are, sometimes it actually makes it more stressful. With the first record there’s really nothing to lose and nothing really to gain either, you just go in there and you make music. Now I think it’s very important because you realise you’ve grown and you want to reflect that. You realise there’s things you want to say and figuring out how to do all these things… once you have an album it’s out there and you don’t know when you’ll get to do the next one. I think that it’s definitely learning how to prioritise and learning, even figuring out the time that we get to do it and making sure that we do that. I think the first record was a learning experience, for sure, but I think we’re still learning things on this second record. We’re learning how to do it with a touring schedule, we’re learning how to write on the road, we’re learning how to filter songs I think a little more than we used to.
Tripp: I think learning to be us is what we got off the first record.
Chandler: The first record we were just excited to be able to do it and we didn’t have any fans and people didn’t know who we were. We were just making the exact music we wanted to. I think for me going into the second record for a while I was like, ‘oh well now we’ve been exposed to so many people now I’m kind of worried about if all these people will like this music or not?’ and that just comes back to what Tripp was saying about, just learning how to go back and be yourself. That’s always what we should fall back because at the end of the day that’s what you’re going to be happy with.
Brandon: Yeah I agree. That’s what’s funny, you say all these things like filtering songs, showing how you’ve grown and then you get back in the studio and forget all that and just have fun. It’s like this weird combination. It’s hard but I think we’re nailing it so far. We’ll see.
(laughter from the band).
The last thing you want to do as a band is record your first album again when making your second one but equally you have to be aware of not radically changing your sound and alienating your fans. That must be a hard balance to get right?
Brandon: Yeah, that is the challenge I think. Luckily with today’s day and age, you get to release music more consistently. We just released a song and the record wasn’t even ready yet. Now it’s on all these digital platforms and people can hear it. We have more music already and we’re already talking like, ‘hey how do we get this music out there even if it’s in the next few months or whatever it is?’ You get to have those conversations. Because you get to release music more often, hopefully that helps bridge the gap a little bit, it’s not like it’s been five years since your fans have heard from you. I will say the longer you wait, the more there’s a gap and you have to figure out what you’re going to say.
Tripp: I think for us pushing the boundary is OK only because of how easily accessible music is. You want to create something that does sound fresh and new so I think it’s finding that right balance of pushing the boundary but also having good content.
The last 12 months in particular have been incredible for you guys. Have you actually had any time to take stock of what you’ve achieved or have you simply been too busy?
Chandler: I don’t know if we’ve had time to really sit and think of everything. For me I get that feeling from certain little things every now and then. I’ll be onstage and the crowd will be singing back none of our singles, its like track seven of the record. That means you guys have bought the record and listened to it enough times to know all the words of the song, that’s amazing. I think it’s just little moments like that and then bigger moments like when we got an ACM Award for New Group of the Year, that was another pinch me moment. I can’t believe that the five of us did this. I think it’s a lot of little moments.
Brandon: Yeah it is little moments. We won an ACM Award but suddnely one day you’ll be be sitting there and you’ll think, ‘that is just crazy’. We just played Stagecoach festival in California and my cousin was there. He was out in the crowd and he was filling up his backpack with water and he said, ‘it was just so crazy to be filling up your water and hearing everyone around saying we gotta go man, LANCO’s at 6.10pm’. He was like, ‘dude y’all were like the thing everyone was like in a rush for’. I’ve gone to music festivals and I used to go all the time to that stuff. I remember filling up water, looking at the map and being like, ‘we gotta get there by 6.10pm’. Realising that conversation’s happening about you, those are the moments you’re like man that’s so wild we really are on the other side of this.
Tripp: We don’t hear that often because we’re back here and you don’t see the excitement until you get on stage and it’s a riot.
Chandler: On the plane ride over here I looked over at the guy across the aisle from me and just happened to see on his phone and he was listening to our record. It was pretty cool. I should have asked if he liked it (laughs).
How is the rest of your 2019 looking? Just being busy touring and recording?
Brandon: All of the above man. Our tour schedule is pretty full. We still have a lot of dates open but we’re making sure that we leave time so that we can get back in the studio. We’ve been the studio already a little bit. We’re doing a bunch of festivals and stuff like that the rest of the year, then going back in the studio and really wrapping up this record. We’re just pushing Rival and seeing how that responds, then making music and playing shows. Debuting some new music at shows and keeping it going.
Tripp: We haven’t even started the tour yet and I’m already looking forward to the UK festival we’re doing.
Brandon: We did our first real headlining US tour. We’ve headlined before in the US and done shows but there’s something about when you do a headlining tour, you get to get production and actually get your crew figured out where it’s really a permanent thing and you get to put a show together. For the Hallelujah Knights Tour we really got to sit down for the first time put together a show and get to display the record and new music in a way that is cohesive and it builds and pulls back. I remember thinking in the US that I really can’t wait to get over and take this show that we worked so hard on to the UK, I think they’ll appreciate it and like it.
It’ll be interesting to see how audiences react to you on this tour because they went wild for you at C2C…
Brandon: It’s a very receptive crowd. You can tell they’ve listened to your music and they’re very intentional listeners. don’t know what’s in the water over here or what it is (laughs) but over here they’re just great music listeners. I think it’ll be great. No matter what I know that we’re going to go out there and do the same we always do. We believe energy is contagious and we believe passion is contagious so if you go out on stage and you’re passionate about it and you bring it, it’ll catch on with the rest of the crowd.
UK audiences have been starved of live Country music for so long, I think the audience here now is incredibly loyal. You’ll see faces you’ll recognise from C2C tonight because it’s a big supportive Country music family here…
Brandon: That’s what we want. That’s what you dream of when you start playing music. Honestly it’s not about world domination, it’s about who who can relate to us. The things that we’re going through, let’s put it into music and who out there will relate to that and you’re looking for that loyalty, and I definitely think that’s a big thing over here. That’s what’s exciting about coming because you know you’re investing in a fan base that will be loyal to you and a fan base that will react and pay attention. It’s honestly an artist’s dream that kind of fan base.
Chandler: That’s another one of those little moments we were talking about. Coming over here to a different country, different continent and there still being a line outside the venue of people trying to get in.
Brandon: You know it’s so weird. I’m remember playing in Nashville to four people and texting my friends like, ‘are any of y’all coming’ and then texting my at the time girlfriend now wife and like, ‘hey you wanna bring some of your friends to the show’ because I wanted some girls in the crowd. (laughs).
Tripp: There was a time we would text everyone in our phonebook, like 50 text messages like, ‘hey man we got a show tonight! Come out and I’ll put you on the list’.
Brandon: We would get together and be like, ‘I got seven’, ‘I’ve got four’, ‘dude I think I’ve got twelve’.
Tripp: If we could just get 30!
Brandon: That was in our hometown so to go from that to flying overseas and going to another country and we didn’t text any of these people out there, they just showed up. It’s mind blowing. I don’t know what’s going on (laughs).
Now you have the joy of refusing tickets to those people that didn’t show up for you in the early days…
Brandon: Oh yeah, believe me, I’ve found that I have a lot of cousins I didn’t know about all over the country. I definitely have some friends that I wanted to come and fill a room and they didn’t show up. Then you’re on a big tour and they’re like, ‘hey man’.
Tripp: They’re like, ‘I kinda wanna go out with y’all this weekend. Aren’t you out on that Luke Combs tour?’
LANCO’s debut album Hallelujah Nights is out now as is their new single Rival. Watch the video for Rival below: