Ten years ago, high school friends Kyle Morris and Cole Male thought they’d liven up a party by playing a tune.
In what became their first public performance, the duo drunkenly felt their way through a Blink-182 song as their friends gathered around. This was the birth of Forth Worth band The Unlikely Candidates.
“It was really just as a joke, but something when we did that just kind of clicked for me,” frontman Morris says. “I was like, 'Hey, do you want to try that again?' And like the second we started the whole music thing, we just kind of kept going.”
What started out as a party trick has turned into a lucrative career. In 2017, The Unlikely Candidates released two critically lauded EPs. To kick off 2018, the band is basking in the success of an oddly enjoyable team-up with reggae fusion band Dirty Heads. The Unlikely Candidates collaborated with the Heads on “Celebrate,” a single off their latest album, Swim Team, and the two bands just finished a monthlong tour.
TUC is gearing up for a hometown show Feb. 22 at Main at South Side. And the band is looking forward to the release of its first full-length album, which bassist Jared Hornbeek says is tentatively slated for the end of the year.
“It’s cool that we get to do it at home in front of all our friends,” Morris says. “It seems fitting that we kind of kick off this new era of our musical career back home."
Male, TUC’s guitarist and co-founder, said the band had some initial reservations about the tour with Dirty Heads. The Unlikely Candidates weren’t sure their upbeat indie-pop tunes would hold the interest of the Heads’ fans. But once the tour started, Male says, concerns quickly abated.
“It actually ended up being really cool. The Dirty Head fans were super into it,” he says. “We’d get offstage and have a great reaction.”
The highlight of the tour was TUC’s song “Celebrate.” It was written for their most recent release, Danger To Myself, and caught the ear of Dirty Heads founder Jared “Dirty J” Watson. The song is an emotional look at the trials and triumphs of a life on the road. It's fitting, considering TUC’s newfound popularity.
“The whole tour was sold out,” Morris says. “We’re thoroughly enjoying ourselves, and then I got out there every night to do ‘Celebrate’ with [Dirty Heads]. It’s a pretty emotional song, and there was, like, 2,000 people every night singing every word back. I look in the crowd, and I can see people crying and stuff. It was powerful.”
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Neither Morris nor Male had written a song before starting the band, but they both took to the craft quickly. Morris says they went from novices to spending four to five hours writing every day. He says the band became an escape for the two friends while growing up in Keller.
“We weren’t super into the whole Friday night lights, like football thing,” Morris says. “So we kind of made our own little world through this little band. Nobody in our hometown was really doing music, so it felt uniquely our own.”
Danger To Myself features some tracks that will make it to the band’s first LP. One of those tracks, TUC’s latest single, “Oh My Dear Lord,” is a mission statement for the band, Morris says. The chorus chants of running wild, unable to stop. But TUC has taken its time while moving forward. Band members are always writing more songs, attempting to put together the strongest body of work.
“We’ve been trying to get the LP for a long time in our career,” Morris says. “Something about putting an album out is just very substantial and exciting, and I think we’re all looking forward to that for sure.”