The “sophomore slump” is a phenomenon (or a myth, depending on who you ask) that means different things to different musicians. For some artists, the pressure to outdo a debut effort is real and weighs heavily on the creation of a second LP. For others, the momentum offered by a first release carries well into the creation of a sophomore album.
When it came time to write their latest album In Unison, out Feb. 1, Nashville rockers Blank Range fell closer to the latter. Their 2017 debut album, Marooned with the Treasure, landed the band critical acclaim from major outlets, was named the Nashville Scene‘s best rock album of that year, and sent the quartet touring across the country. Despite those laurels, the band, whose genre is blissfully unclassifiable but falls somewhere between gritty Southern rock and melodic, Laurel Canyon-esque folk pop, didn’t feel an iota of pressure while writing In Unison. They’d already written it.
“We recorded [In Unison] about two months after Marooned with the Treasure came out, so we had some distance from that when it was released,” the band’s Grant Gustafson, calling after a day spent working at Peabody Shoe Repair, says. “We were all excited about our new batches of songs, so when [Marooned] came out we were out on the road with a handful of people and had all these songs we were kind of itching to get down. I think it was more about the excitement of the songs in particular more so than building on anything. That first record was still in its infancy at that point so we didn’t have any idea how it would be received, really.”
As Gustafson laments, it can take an awfully long time to release an album. Rather than hang around waiting on Marooned to release, Blank Range kept writing songs and kept finding new ways to expand upon their already singular sound.
“We had kind of a similar process with our first record where you finish it and you’re all excited about it and then you shop it around a little bit, try to figure out how we’re going to release it,” he explains. “Then it finally comes out. The first one was 9 or 10 months after we finished recording it, and this one was almost a year after we finished recording. It feels a little bit disconnected, like a distant memory. But once everyone else gets excited about it again it brings that back to you.”
As Gustafson explains it, the band recorded the majority live in the studio, a decision made in effort to capture the raw, electric energy that draws so many fans to their live shows. Opening track “Career” — with its elastic bass and textured percussion — showcases just that; with its existential lyrics, it also serves as evidence of the band’s songwriting prowess. (Gustafson notes that each member contributes songs to the band’s catalog.) Elsewhere, the melodic rock of single “Change Your Look” sounds tailor-made for a packed room of sweaty, head-bobbing fans.
“We were on tour a good bit this last year and played probably half of the record live,” Gustafson says. “We like to keep things moving, playing fresh stuff, even if it’s things the audience can’t really find recorded yet. We try to keep it fresh.”
On Friday, Blank Range will play an album release show at The Basement. It’s sure to be a celebration, both of In Unison and of the band’s long-awaited headlining return to their hometown.
“The last few years, we haven’t played a lot of headline shows in Nashville,” Gustafson says. “We’ve done a few where we’ve opened for other people, and oftentimes it was shows that were already sold out before we were even added to the bill, so we didn’t get friends coming out or anything like that. We haven’t played many shows in Nashville as a headliner so this is exciting, especially to be back at The Basement, where we kind of got started. Hopefully it’ll be nice and tight in there.”
Right now, Blank Range’s only scheduled tour date is Friday’s show, though Gustafson says they plan to “pick things up around summertime.” In the meantime, look for Blank Range to start playing more dates around town.
“We don’t really have road plans the first half of the year, which is an interesting set-up,” he says. “But I think we’re going to try to play a few shows in town, and just enjoy being back in the Nashville scene for a while.”
Blank Range performs at their hometown album release show for In Unison 8 p.m., Friday, Feb.15 at The Basement. Advance tickets are available here.