Houston's Folk Family Revival are releasing their new album, Electric Darlin on local label Splice Records June 7 and celebrating with a record release show June 8 at the Heights Theater. Though it is their third album, making it was a whole new experience for the local boys.
The band set out to finally make a record reflecting the rock and roll energy that they bring to their live shows and avoid confusion about what listeners should expect to hear. "We knew we had something special live and it was really hard to pull it into the studio.” says Mason Lankford. "We wanted to let people know what our live show feels and sounds like.” he adds.
The clarification of what to expect at one of the concerts could be beneficial as Mason admits, “One of the biggest struggles we have is getting certain audiences to come to our shows because they either think they are seeing a Christian band or Peter, Paul and Mary.”
The group is made up of brothers Mason, Barrett and Lincoln Lankford joined by long time family friend and adopted "brother" Caleb Pace. The brothers grew up in Houston but being home schooled by their mother allowed them the freedom to take their lessons on the road. “She would just throw a bunch of clothes in our trailer and take off. We would go to Ohio and hit up some museum up there, just checking shit out.”
Their road dog upbringing and submergence into a rock and roll church left a traveling bone and appreciation for music in the boys. Mason describes the church as “Almost Pentecostal, just without the skirts and the buns, but totally dancing around and speaking in tongues. No snakes but weird shit man.”
The group all played music in the church but eventually outgrew their role there and leaders, along with the band, agreed it was best to part ways. There were no hard feelings says Mason, “Our beliefs have changed. This feels like a better church than that was, it’s a lot more fulfilling as far as the feeling of it goes.”
Folk Family Revival had been playing in and around Houston for years, constantly crossing paths with another local artist, John Evans. Both were fans of each other and Evans would tease the band, “He kept saying ‘When are you going to make a good record with me?’ and I am like, that’s kind of an asshole thing to say but he’s not wrong. We could actually go and make a really good record with him!” laughs Mason.
When the boys found themselves searching for support and a possible label for their new album, they called Evans. “He actually answered the phone like, ‘Hey are you calling about that record?’” says Mason. Just like that they all went to work. It was through Evans that the band also became part of the Splice Records Family, a seemingly perfect fit.
Evans shared Electric Darlin with Splice Records founder Shaun Brennan and they all met at the River Revival Music Festival, organized by Splice Records. After two days together in the bands campsite, Zen City, it was clear they were meant to work together. "It's a Splice family and that's what we always say to about our band, is that it's a big family band, so it's nice to join up with another one." says Mason.
Electric Darlin is, as the title implies, a sweet, electric album featuring a running story line and fluid feeling; reminiscent of The Redheaded Stranger with its repeated riffs that run through the tracks. “We’ve always wanted to have a concept album, where the songs kinda play into each other.” says Mason. “We did most of our experimenting beforehand and actually took the time to write the parts and then just go in lay them down, like they used to on old rock and roll records.”
He continues, “Everything we did felt right. There was never a moment where it felt like we were just trying to get through it. It really felt like everything you hear about cool records that just kind of fall together.”
The album tells the story of Pro and Con, a man and woman living a life full of poor choices and obsessive love. Con walks all over Pro whereas he would go to the end of the world for her, and does. Every song clearly fits into the next without spelling out every detail for the listener. “I wanted to leave it open enough that people can realize that there’s a story there and then just make up their own theories because that’s what songs are, they kind of write themselves as they grow.” describes Mason.
The band conceived the idea together and even found a special place for a song not written by them. “Fresh Water”, the first full track on the album, was written by Houston songwriter Jimmy Pizzatola. The band took his acoustic song and turned it into an upbeat samba fueled jam.
Mason and Jimmy had played together years prior and became friends. The group backed Jimmy for some shows and the boys hold Pizzatola’s songs in high regard. “We learned all of his stuff and the more we played, the more we loved his music. We would sound check with his songs, even when he wasn’t there.” They knew his song could kick off their story just right.
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The members of Folk Family Revival have successfully avoided sounding like any one kind of genre of music and continue to surprise listeners with their new album. When asked how they have avoided being labeled while containing a genre in their name Caleb says, “It’s like an ironic thing. We don’t think of folk music as just a specific genre, we kind of have it in there for that question.”
The band will be celebrating their new release with the support of their producer John Evans, who was the first artist to ever play on the Heights theater stage when it opened. Mason will also be celebrating his birthday on the night of the Houston show making it an extra special evening for the band.
Folk Family Revival will be performing with John Evans Saturday June 8 at the Heights Theater, 339 W. 19th. Doors open at 7 p.m. $23-35