Second Lovers Step Up to the Plate

Second Lovers Step Up to the Plate
Photo courtesy of Second Lovers

"I want to be in the biggest band in the world," says Nic Morales. "When you are a kid and you dream of being a musician, and you see a big band on a big stage, every aspiring musician says to himself, 'I want to do that.'"

Morales is nursing a gentleman's beverage on a Sunday afternoon at Double Trouble, a relaxed yet debonair spot on Main Street. Apart from the dedicated drinkers, the place is understandably empty due to a stormy Saturday night. The front man and founder of Second Lovers is poised and composed with boyish looks minus the naive manner. Yet it is often difficult for him to disguise his enthusiasm about his band's present path.

"I think we're at a place where we want to be," Morales remarks. "Before, we had people in our group who had other obligations, but couldn't make time for the band. Now, we have people who have made our band their obligation and want to make time for it."

Sitting directly across from Morales is Thom Truver, the band's lead guitarist. Equally composed and confident, he shares his bandmate's revitalized point of view. "I love the fact that there are so many of us, and I enjoy the group that we have because everyone's say is taken into account."

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Second Lovers possess few pretentions. Their journey is a testament to the almost anachronistic means of making music in the 21st century. In a day and age when artists' relevance becomes obscured by our current up-to-the-minute news cycle, Second Lovers take their sweet time to construct their songs and sound.

They have not released a record since April 2013's New Mexico EP. However, don't mistake their absence of releases for inactivity. They have been hard at work, altogether abandoning their folk-influenced, Americana roots and adopting a classic-rock sound. There is an obvious tension between the material of the past and the future direction the band has decided to take.

"I don't want to get stuck in this rut. When people hear us, I don't want them to say, "Oh, that's Second Lovers, the Americana band," Morales says, striking a nerve at the table. "We did that album [2012's Wishers, Dreamers, and Liars] already, and as an artist, you should never write the same album twice."

He pauses while reflecting on the band's debut album.

"I don't think we have those intentions to write another Wishers, Dreamers, and Liars or another New Mexico [EP]," vows Morales. "We are venturing off from those records and feeling good about it."

At the suggestion of John Allen Stephens, Second Lovers' current producer/engineer, Truver started listening to the Delta Spirit for inspiration to their drum sound. What Truver got out of it, though, something more revelatory.

"I started listening to them and came across their Spotify session," Truver says. "Their sound is, to a point, where we were. Yet, at the same time, I feel like that is where we are right now -- we are in this area where we can go in either direction."

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Leading up to Second Lovers' seismic shift in sound has been the enormity of personnel changes. It is impossible to measure the level of patience this band has when it comes to finding the right people for the job. Sean Spiller, formally of The Manichean, not only plays bass, but brings production and engineering experience to the band. His technical insights provided the framework of production for the New Mexico EP.

Josh Hammond plays the drums exquisitely, yet his musical experience isn't limited to just drums -- according to Truver, he is the best guitarist in the band. John Maxwell demonstrates both reverence and mastery of both the mandolin and banjo. Chelsea Renee's vocals both compliment and expand the band's reach, capturing the essence of the new material while accenting it with both experience and grace.

"I am very proud of [our band] because we did a sort of inverted pyramid," Truver says. "We started with a very folk element and added to it with each new member and each new generation of the band, and now having someone like Josh, who has such a wide range of knowledge about the guitar and has a deep understanding of tone, and having someone like Sean, who has all of these crazy ideas of how to build a groove in a band, and put that together with Nic's diverse songwriting skills, it allows for our sound to expand in any direction. It is that open."

Second Lovers' sound is larger, more capacious than their predecessors. Freed from the constraints of Americana, their organic development stems from the current lineup's cohesiveness. Morales no longer has the full burden of songwriting; everyone shares the same vision, which removes the previously existing barriers facing Second Lovers. Imagine a similar shift from Wilco's A.M. to Being There.

As for the future, it holds an upcoming television appearance, Free Press Summer Fest, and a potential stint in Nashville, or as Truver puts it, Crashville.

"I want to do Crashville so bad," he says. "I have a week scheduled off just in case. We love Houston and we are so proud of Houston, but we've seen other artists like Robert Ellis go there and come back to Houston with such a strong element. We want to go and spend our time there and have every intention of coming back here just a little more resolved, a little stronger as a band."

Second Lovers perform 1 p.m. Saturday at Discovery Green's Earth Day 2015 Festival, as well as May 1 at House of Blues, May 22 on Great Day Houston and June 6 at Free Press Summer Fest. You can check out their music here.

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