As someone that has been writing about music for nearly ten years, every day can be surprising. Sometimes you know what to expect: maybe you’re working on a feature or expect it to be a big news day. Sometimes you don’t know what to expect and maybe you’ll get a pitch from a publicist about a new band to check out. Other times, things are really weird and you get a new music suggestion from a friend. You’re typically the one to suggest new music, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to let the turn tables.
For me, this happened a little over a year and a half ago when a friend introduced me to The Band Camino. It was a few days after my birthday, and my friend told me Taylor Swift just added this band to her “Songs Taylor Loves” playlist, and I had no excuse to not listen to it. So, I looked up the song “Berenstein” — the song Swift added to her playlist — and that’s when I knew this band would be something special. About six months later, The Band Camino — consisting of Jeffrey Jordan, Graham Rowell, Spencer Stewart, and Garrison Burgess — dropped “Daphne Blue” and it became even more clear that they were going to be the next big thing in music.
But, let’s back up a bit to where The Band Camino came from if you’re not familiar. The band formed back in 2015, with Jordan, Rowell, and Stewart having been around since the very beginning. The connections first came when Rowell and Stewart where in a private-Christian high school together, having met when they were 14. Rowell and Jordan met a few years later when Jordan needed a bassist for his country project at the time, and then shortly after he got introduced to Stewart. “I’ve never played a show Graham didn’t play bass in,” Jordan tells me before their show in Columbus, Ohio at the Newport Music Hall. “I met Spencer through Graham. Me and Spencer quickly became tight [and] after about 6 months, we started playing music together with Graham. Then we moved to Nashville.” Burgess came into the band about a year and a half ago, after meeting the guys at their Fourth of July party. As Rowell tells it, they were looking for the drummer at the time and just heard Burgess downstairs drumming. Despite being “a little drunk,” they immediately knew he was the guy.
Back in May, The Band Camino signed with Elektra Records, and then a few months later announced their label-debut EP, tryhard. When I’m talking to the guys, it comes up where this title came from. They all agree that at one point or another, they’ve all been called try hards throughout their music careers. Rowell explains that they used to get ridiculed in their local scene for growing and “selling out” for something as routine as getting their music on Spotify. “I think it’s a compliment, like it’s good to try hard. I think it’s a thing we sort of accidentally have fallen into,” he explains. But when it came to actually nailing it down as the name, they were all in a group chat where it was crunch time and they were struggling to come up with a name. Someone pitched a name to the group, Stewart replied that it was very “try hard” in all lower case, and that’s when the name was born. “We were going back and forth with all of these names and overthinking it, as you do,” Jordan begins before Stewart politely interjects with “We were talking about how it came across very try hard. So we called it that.” The only one who didn’t have much of a say, was Burgess, who quips “No shade at all, but I was left out of that text thread,” before explaining he didn’t find out the EP’s name until they sent him a copy of the EP artwork.
If you’re wondering what some of the rejected names were that were discussed in the group chat, don’t worry: I asked. They don’t really remember any that were rejected, until Rowell tries to recollect if they were going to name it something with the word “pop” in the title, and then Stewart chimes in stating it was “Boy Band.” Jordan confirms this, explaining “Boy band! It’s the same idea. Boy band. We are boys that are in a band. It’s very literal. Maybe the next one.”
With tryhard, there are 8 songs total on the release that totals at nearly 30 minutes. Half of the songs were released ahead of time, including “What I Want,” which actually is a band (and fan) favorite from 2017’s Heaven EP. When it came down to the decision to re-record the track for the new EP, Jordan explains that they’ve opened with the song for years, and felt that it was always a fu song live. “Nothing’s really changed, it just captures the energy of the track [and] how it sounds live,” he says. He also explains that it helps showcase their overall sound with two singers and catchy alternative-rock, with Rowell agreeing that “This is our major label [release], so we really thought that was a quintessential part of who we are, latching on to our two singers.”
This dynamic of having two vocalists has always been a prominent feature of The Band Camino, though on tryhard it feels like it’s been upped more than ever. This is perhaps no more evident on “Haunted,” which serves as another showcase of everything that makes The Band Camino, well, The Band Camino. The masterfully catchy pop-rock track stuck out upon my first listen of the EP, and it’s one that comes up in our interview. I ask the four guys what their favorite song is on the EP, Rowell brings up “Haunted” due to the crowd reaction live and his admiration for “spooky shit,” while Stewart also agrees with the choice saying “Where we place it in the set is perfect. We’re all really worn out and sweaty, so it’s the perfect song.”
When The Band Camino released tryhard back in August, it wasn’t just their major label debut release, it also marked their first EP to be released since 2017. Instead, the band elected to release a handful of singles like “Know Me, “Less Than I Do, “Fool of Myself,” and more. They elected to do this for a few reasons, Jordan highlights the desire to keep up with the fast-moving music industry and Spotify driving how people consume music towards more of a playlist-driven format. Rowell explains that the other reason for this method was for creative purposes, “Sometimes with a project that is defined by like an album or anything, that needs to sound all the same — or at least have a flow. We were able to — all of it’s cohesive in the fact that it’s us, but it was cool to have like a different sound [with the singles].” Stewart agrees, stating that it helps showcase their versatility as listeners and creators, explaining that “We’ll listen to a slow ballad, then we’ll listen to a pop single, then a pop punk record. It’s all over the place. It’s important to express ourselves.”
The method of releasing singles proved to not only be incredibly successful as their dedicated and passionate fanbase only continued to grow, but also — as you’d imagine — healthy for them creatively. Throughout their experimenting with different genres and sounds, they’ve learned more than ever that the song is key. At the end of the day, The Band Camino is confident in their abilities to tap into different genres and just write good songs no matter what. At the same time, there was a sense of necessity for experimenting due to it being their first recording cycle with Burgess in the band. Burgess himself explains it as being a culmination of picking the right songs and figuring out who they were as a four piece, something that the other guys agree with. “We’ve been through two drummers beforehand, and trying to find that chemistry after you’ve been with a group of people for a long time, like the unspoken intangibles,” Stewart states, explaining that it takes time to get on the same page and establishing an identity.
But like I said, their hard work and experimenting has paid off. The Band Camino is admirably humble yet appreciative of their successes, even if sometimes it doesn’t quite feel real. Earlier this year, they went on a headlining tour of the U.S. which included a stop in Columbus where they played to a crowd of around 300 people or so. Fast forward 7 months, and they’re back in Columbus playing to a sold-out crowd of 1,600 people. Oh, and by the way, they don’t even have a full-length album out.
That success is almost entirely unprecedented, but Rowell shares with me that he’s just been noticing a lot of little things. “It sounds stupid, but I’ve noticed little things, like there’s a long ass line, “he says, “and having a crew is one of the main things for me, it’s like, wow, it’s not us four dudes playing instruments in a garage, these people want to work with us and for us.” Stewart agrees as well, pointing out that it’s one of the biggest signs of success: having people want to work with you. Jordan explains that, for him, something he’s noticed and is excited about, is the show they’re able to put on for this tour. “The show we’re putting on, I’m personally so proud of, every night when I walk off stage, even if we fuck up or whatever, we just have such a team of people that are invested in this and like helping us put this on every night. Getting to this level, and getting to play these size rooms, like, I just look at all of the pictures and videos, and we’re putting on a dope ass show. Having the lights and everything we’ve added on to it, makes me feel good about it,” he shares.
Not too long before our interview, I saw on Twitter that some of their fans came together and bought them a billboard to advertise tryhard. Yes, you did read that right: fans of The Band Camino bought them a billboard — in Times Square, nonetheless. Their success is certainly unprecedented, but so was this idea. Fans buying billboards isn’t one that has a long track record of happening, in fact, the band, their label, and manager all have never heard of something like this happening before. Stewart explains they had no idea that this was happening until they walked out of the subway and were greeted by some fans waiting there for them. The title of “best fans in the world” comes up multiple times when talking about the billboard, as Jordan shares that “They’ve been giving us, like, tons of gifts. They’re really funny, too. They’re really nice,” with Rowell concurring the you might not expect their fans to be fans, but “It’s a pretty consistent type of person. They’re really funny.”
When they mentioned getting gifts, it peaked my interest and I couldn’t stop myself from asking for some examples, maybe things they’ve gotten that are unique and exciting. They all agree the Billboard was amazing, but also they did receive The Band Camino trading cards, and of course tattoos stick out in a good way. There’s also one fan that Stewart personally highlights, who brings them a customized dream catcher with their names in beads, that really sticks out to him in a positive way
So what’s next? Well, their current fall headliner of the U.S. is winding down this month, and then they get a short two weeks off before they head over to the U.K. for the first time for a few shows. Then they come back home, will go back over to Europe for a full European tour, and then they’re hoping to fill out the Spring of 2020 with an U.S. tour as an opening band. Somewhere in all of that, they’re still hoping to have their debut full-length record out in 2020. At that point, they know the touring will keep on going as they undoubtedly continue to grow and expand their fanbase.
I’ve said it before, but what makes The Band Camino so fascinating is their success thus far. It’s been rapid, but it would unfair and irresponsible to act as if it’s out of nowhere and undeserved. Here you’ve got a band that’s worked hard for years, they’ve done EP’s and singles, and as grateful as they are right now, they’re not satisfied with just resting on their laurels. In fact, this is part of what lead them to sign with Elektra Records and jump to the major label circuit. They had other offers, but Elektra won due to treating the band like family and their proven track record of developing bands past just being a one-hit wonder or one that fades away as quickly as they came. They’re looking at bands like Paramore, Maroon 5, Twenty One Pilots, Panic! at the Disco and know that Elektra has that history.
If you’re not buying in on The Band Camino yet, you should. This is a band that can write massive choruses with pop-rocks that’ll keep you around for more. They’ve now got a major label backing them, and all signs are pointing that we are watching the next big thing unfold in front of our eyes.