2017 Year in Review
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…
It feels a little strange to sit here and write a blog post for the band. After spending the better part of this week updating all aspects of our website, I realized that this once monthly update has been neglected for quite some time – a little more than a year to be exact. The only post that survived our last website overhaul was Bram’s 2016 year in review. The posts from before then are floating around the internet somewhere, and though they may give some insight into the history of Lord Nelson, I prefer they stay lost for now. My vision is set firmly on the present. However, for the sake of tradition, I’ll take some time to reflect on the events of the past year and fill you in on how our landscape has shifted.
What can I say about 2017 that hasn’t already been expressed? It was the shit show we all saw coming, but of a magnitude which we never could have projected. As daily life has steadily turned into a dystopian Netflix series, we’ve had no choice but to continuously raise our acceptance threshold for the bizarre and outrageous. From Inauguration Day onward, we’ve watched our executive branch turn its back on the ideals of American democracy, threaten and delegitimize free speech, and give strength to a racist white nationalist movement not seen since the 1960’s. And we watched from the road as it all came to a head, when a violent mob of white nationalists marched through and shed blood on the streets of our quiet hometown of Charlottesville.
In spite of worldwide chaos, we dutifully trudged forward as a band, but the road was not kind to us either in 2017. The year began with us scrambling to replace our long-time bass player, who’d decided in no uncertain terms, that enough was enough and he simply could not play another show with us. With two months of tour dates already on the books, we had no other choice but to do bass by committee. We were fortunate to find J Wilkerson to fill the role. However, he was also playing with the Will Overman Band at the time, which took precedent over our gigs. So in the meantime, we pieced together shows with Andrew Hollifield, Tommy Proutt, and even Calloway playing the 4-string when no one else could do it. It was a long, cold winter, and we came out of it considerably less happy than when we entered.
With the thawing of spring, our attitudes began to thaw as well and we refocused our energy on the record we’d begun recording seven months earlier. Kai, Bram, and I took a weekend retreat to my family’s lake house in March, and came out with a handful of new songs that would go on to make up a large portion of the new record. Shortly thereafter, we went back into Monkeyclaus studio with our producer, Dave Stipe, and tracked nine or ten more songs. Andrew Hollifield played bass with us for those sessions and did a phenomenal job. My brother, Calloway, had been playing lead guitar with us since coming home from school in January, and was also working as an intern with Dave at Monkeyclaus. As we began the over-dubbing process through the summer and fall, Calloway would prove to be an invaluable asset, and de facto engineer for many of our studio sessions.
We made our new record with Rockfish Music – the brainchild of Dave Stipe and Peter Agelasto. The concept of Rockfish is basically to restructure the outdated model used by record companies and replace it with one that is more suited to the streaming era of music. Independent artists partner with the studio to make recordings that are available for streaming on the Rockfish website. By working together as partners, we’ve been able to make this record much more affordably than we ever could before. I encourage you to visit their website and learn more about what they’re doing. We can’t thank Dave and Peter enough for giving us this opportunity.
As spring came to a close, we started to get serious about doing a Colorado tour. We had toyed with the idea in the past, since our booking agency, Rocky Mountain Artists, is based in Denver. For whatever reason, we hadn’t made the trip yet, and decided it was time to go. So for 14 days in July, we loaded up the van, drove for 28 hours straight to Colorado, played 10 shows, and drove for 32 hours right back. The tour was a success. Everywhere we went, we were greeted by warm, enthusiastic crowds. We made a some new friends, visited new places, camped out at 13,000 ft. beside the highway, took part in legal recreational activities, and even made a few bucks. After the reception we got, we will undoubtedly make the pilgrimage again this year.
Colorado was a high for us, but as summer wound down, we found ourselves in another slump. An uninspiring string of shows through the Southeast left us questioning where we all stood as a unit. Anyone who’s been in a working band can surely relate to the rollercoaster of emotions you go through between playing great shows and terrible ones. Its something we’ve all dealt with throughout the years, and learned to handle. This time, things felt different. Our progress on the record had stalled and it was starting to feel like we would never finish it. We were each dealing with transitions in our personal lives and finding different ways of reconciling the inevitability of life.
It was late August when Bram made the difficult decision to part ways with Lord Nelson. Having spent five years working to create this thing with me and Kai, his life was simply pulling him in a different direction and he could no longer commit fully to the band. While it has been extremely difficult for everyone involved, it was ultimately the best course of action. This wasn’t something that happened over night, but a change that we could see coming. We still love him and wish the best for him.
We finished the year off with our good friend Johnny Stubblefield of Parachute on drums and J Wilkerson on bass. It was not the easiest transition, but we ended 2017 with a handful of fantastic shows, culminating with a sold out New Year’s Eve in Charlottesville with our buddies, Chamomile and Whiskey. We finished tracking the record in November and are in the final stages of mixing and mastering now. The new year has us excited to jump back into touring as we gear up for a late spring record release. Andrew Hollifield will be taking over bass duties full-time, as J takes on a new job as Horticulturist-in-Chief for the town of Farmville.
While 2017 was a disaster in many ways, it was also the crucible that made the band even stronger than before. Just as we have grown through adversity, so has our country. The Women’s Rights Movement is growing stronger, Alabama rejected a pedophile republican, and increasingly more people are pushing back against injustices across class and color lines. We have a new record we are proud of, a talented and motivated band, and a van ready to burn up the highway. Keep hanging on with us and together we’ll make it through the night.