Typically, a new band has only its own expectations to meet. Listeners don’t bring their assumptions about the music until the group’s played a few shows or debuted an album. But the expectations arrive a lot earlier when the band is a “supergroup.”
To be fair, no one (except us) has yet identified Londale as a supergroup, but it certainly has the makings of one, at least in local circles. The band is beginning an active few weeks by sharing the exclusive video release for its debut single, “Let’s Take a Ride,” here with Houston Press. Next up, a White Oak Music Hall album release this Friday for Londale's debut effort, AM/FM. Front man Willy Collins says he can’t predict what listeners hope to hear, but he is confident in what the band of veteran players will deliver.
“With such diverse talent and influences we all bring to the table, I’m not sure what our followers will expect other than good songs that might just not fit so neatly in any box,” he says.
According to Collins, Londale has its roots in his former, eponymous band, which formed in 2012 and broke up in 2015. The Willy Collins Band hit the ground running and released two full albums, Building Bridges and Departures, and an EP, Last Call, in its short run. That act had a sound that blended Americana with gypsy jazz. Its projects featured diverse musicians like David Berkeley, Kam Franklin and Paul Wall.
“It was a hot, beautiful mess,” Collins recalls.
But it wasn’t a supergroup. The beginnings of what would ultimately morph into Londale began near its predecessor’s end when Collins added a new guitarist.
“Josh Hammond, the drummer for Second Lovers, and I met at the Departures release show and we got to talking about me looking for a new guitarist, and as it turns out, not only is Josh a great drummer, he is a phenomenal guitarist,” Collins says. “Josh joined the band for what ended up being our last tour and appeared on Last Call. Josh brought a new sound to the band, heavier and more rock, and you could just feel the metamorphosis begin during rehearsal jams and our live shows.”
The two formed a group, Black Top Junkies, and played a few shows before heading to the studio to record an EP. Once there, Collins says, “we knew right away something special was happening, that the music we were creating was taking us into uncharted waters, and decided to record a full-length album.”
The music facilitated a name change. As Houstonians, we imagined the name as a nod to the diverse characters and wild history of downtown’s Londale Hotel, but Collins says the name comes from a different and more fitting place.
“The name ‘Londale,’ although oddly enough we have a downtown hotel of the same name, came from the scratchy, lo-fi sound of the transistor radios popular in the 1950s, with a ’90s rock edge," he explains. "If you think about it, when transistor radios first appeared — yes, I’m giving my age away — music was everywhere you were and it wasn’t so pigeonholed. You could hear Led Zeppelin and Sinatra on the same station. The songs on AM/FM are a mix of genres like early radio, and my first transistor, a Londale, came to my mind.
“Josh and I renamed the band Londale as an homage to the old-school transistor radio. The songs on AM/FM even have a transistor-type quality, as if they’re playing on a Londale radio, nostalgia for simpler times. We actually found one on eBay and it is featured in our debut music video, “Let’s Take a Ride,” and on the album artwork and graphics.”
The ten-track album was recorded late last summer in Salim Nourallah’s Pleasantry Lane Studio and includes Alex Dezen of The Damnwells, who both produced and performed on the record; Ben Jarrad of Ruckus on bass; Scott Benton of Ruckus on keys; and Matt Hammon on drums. When it was done, Collins and Hammond went to work finding bandmates to play the shows live. Londale, as it will take the stage this weekend, now includes drummer Jake Allen of Flower Graves (formerly Mikey and the Drags) and Old Hag. Alex Lambert, of Here to Stay and Advent Scars, is the band’s bassist. Thomas Truver, of Second Lovers, joined on as an additional guitarist, and Austinite Chris Konte, who plays with Elijah Ford, Sharks In the Deep End and The Naked Maja, joins the band on keys.
Collins says there is a lot of featured guitar on the record, which he describes as “Tom Petty meets R.E.M. and they have a drink with The Eagles.” The video is a good chance to hear the music ahead of its release this weekend. It's a wistful work of art directed by Will Jenkins of Useless Puppy Productions and features the husband-and-wife team of Lauren Charmain Haworth and Bobby Haworth, with cameo appearances by members of Londale.
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“It was shot in part in Galveston and mostly in Houston, with the band playing at Epicure Café,” Collins says. “The video really matches the song well and yes, it may come off as sad, but in the end all is well. We all struggle to get where we think we should be, only to find out that sometimes the costs are heavy.”
If those themes sound intriguing, then you’ll want to run down a copy of the album, which will be available in the usual online music stores Friday. Two songs are available for free download on the band’s website. Beyond Friday’s show, which includes Adam Bricks and Vodi, Londale will do an in-store set at Cactus Music, 3 p.m. Sunday, May 28, then performs June 16 at Nightingale Room with Galveston’s El Lago. Londale is also planning a late summer tour.
“For us, the AM/FM album isn’t so much about the past — it’s more forward-looking than that,” Collins says of the record and what’s yet to come for the band. “And, just like that first day in the studio, going forward we will let the songs dictate their sound and see where that leads us. For sure, the distinctive Londale guitar-centric sound will be featured, but we’re excited to try new things and let the magic of being in the studio dictate what is and what can be.”
Londale releases its debut album, AM/FM, at 8 p.m. Friday, May 26, at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 North Main. With Adam Bricks and Vodi. Tickets are $10 and available here.