By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The ramifications of a band name can never be overstated. Just ask Hymns.
The New York by way of North Carolina band has had its share of misunderstandings because of the religious implications of its name. Adding to the confusion is the fact that two members are from, of all places, Celeste, Texas.
"We've been on a lot of bills with all Christian acts," says drummer Tony Kent.
But, while speaking from the tour bus swerving through the mountains of Virginia, Kent says he and the three other Hymns are happy to just play for any crowd.
"Even though Jesus has very little impact on our music, the Christian audiences usually like us," Kent says. "I guess they are open-minded enough to accept us. And we try to hold back on the drinking, but we usually fail."
Judging by the contents of the band's soon-to-be-released sophomore effort, Travel in Herds, there isn't much else the band doesn't do successfully. Mixing the hip/slacker influence of Pavement with a classic Americana icon like Gram Parsons, the music of Hymns is a heady blend that grows with repeated listens. Songs featuring horns and keyboards, such as "NYC Nervous Breakdown" and "Blame It on the Mountains," are organic concoctions that bring out an interesting Kinks influence.
"Just don't compare us to Counting Crows," Kent says, laughing and referencing a critic who recently did just that.
Good label support has helped Hymns make a mark and gain a fan base more quickly than other new acts. It also doesn't hurt when it's your older brother who runs your record label.
Blackland Records is owned and operated by John Kent, former member of Dallas area band Radish. The elder Kent brought Hymns to Texas to record its debut effort, Brother/Sister, at his studio. After losing the original rhythm section, the younger brother quickly stepped forward.
"It sounds thrown together, but it wasn't," explains Kent.
Hymns has found ways to spread the alt-country gospel even as the profile for that particular genre is seemingly in decline.
"We've had a lot of success, not just in Texas, but also Chicago and Los Angeles," says Kent. " I guess we're just four lonely guys, roaming the country, looking to get laid."The Five Gig Commandments
Despite the lack of anything remotely religious coming from the band members or their music, Tony Kent of Hymns was happy to impart five commandments for what makes a great gig.
- Thy crowd shall be sufficiently lubricated.
- Thy band shall be supplied with ample amounts of Bubblicious.
- Thy band members shall partake in drinking—at least, a couple beers.
- Thy sound man shall provide quality monitors.
- Thy city shall send multitudes of "hot chicks" to the venue.