Interview & photos by Shannon Shumaker
Fresh off of the release of their debut full-length, The Heights, Little Rock indie/pop band Knox Hamilton are on top of their game now more than ever. That's not to say that they haven't been in the past, but when your main goal while working on a record is scoring a Grammy, then it just goes to show the amount of drive that these three musicians have. The Heights isn't something you'd expect to come out of Arkansas - comprised of thirteen incredibly catchy, honest and arena-ready anthems - and that's the point. As I talked with vocalist/guitarist Boots Copeland, brother and drummer Cobo Copeland and guitarist Drew Buffington before their energetic live performance in Denver, it was apparent that they have their sights set on something bigger than small club shows and country music.
Coming from a rather small local music scene, Knox Hamilton learned early on that if you want to make something happen, you have to do it yourself, and The Heights is a direct reflection of that. Crafted over the span of nearly two years and recorded in different places all over the country, The Heights has been a long time in the making, but also happened to drop right when listeners may need it most. The positive, catchy tunes on the record are impossible not to enjoy, making it the perfect escape from any struggles of everyday life.
The best part about it all is Knox Hamilton aren't showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. The band are currently out on the road with Colony House before a string of co-headlining dates with Fenech-Soler and even some festival appearances throughout the summer. With a strong drive, high hopes and a passion to bring more diversity and opportunity to the Little Rock music scene, Knox Hamilton is exactly what we need right now. But don't just take it from me - read what the band had to say, catch a live performance and see for yourself.
The Prelude Press: Boots and Cobo, you guys are brothers, but all of you have known each other for a very long time - how do you feel your experiences writing and playing together in the past have helped you to write the best music possible as Knox Hamilton?
Boots Copeland: I think with the brother aspect, it’s more along the lines of you’re brutally honest with each other, you have this chemistry because you’re very alike and you grew up alike. It’s just being honest, but in the same breath, being each other’s biggest fans, and also biggest critic. That’s huge, because you need that encouragement but you also need that, “Dude, that’s not very good.” Or with Cobo, it’s more like, “You’ve written a lot better,” as opposed to “That’s not very good.”
Cobo Copeland: I try not to say that.
Boots: But yeah, it’s cool to have that encouragement as well as that really honest critic.
I’ll always see friends posting online saying, “We need a drummer for our band” or “We need a guitarist,” which I’m sure works, but I’m also sure it’s better when you’ve known each other for a long time and you know what you’re looking for.
Cobo: I agree.
Growing up in Arkansas, what was the music scene like?
Cobo: We came to Arkansas in Freshman, Sophomore year, so there was some local stuff.
Boots: When we were in high school, the music scene was actually pretty hoppin’. Then a couple of the bands moved to Nashville and kind of moved away. And as far as an alternative, indie scene, Little Rock as of now… When you can name the bands on one hand, that’s not a scene. It’s a G.D. arms race. Fall Out Boy mention. [laughs]
But yeah, there’s not much of a scene, but I don’t think it hurts or harms us. It would be cool to have some good camaraderie with fellow bands and local bands, but really, we all have buddies who are in side projects. Actually, Marcus, the guy who’s touring with us now on bass, he was with a group that kind of disbanded recently. So there’s all kinds of musicians and fans of alternative music in the area, but as far as just bands go, there’s not a whole lot.
Do you think that has affected you guys at all?
Drew Buffington: If it set us back at all, it was because we were kind of like in a vacuum. It was just us for a while there - we didn’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of.
Boots: Or tour with. It’s big, being from Nashville, LA or New York, where you know tons of bands and you’re buddies. We met Colony House by happenstance and we’ve done two tours with them. You have to meet people at festivals or know mutual people. So that has affected us as far as touring, but we’ve still done fairly well.
Since first starting out, you guys have had a few releases, but The Heights is your first full-length. Did you have any goals in mind when you were working on it?
Drew: Grammy, I think.
Boots: Yeah, Grammy. I don’t think you can make an album without thinking about that. There’s no way. That’s just doing it half-assed, man.
How do you feel your older material compares to the stuff you’re releasing now? How do you feel you’ve grown?
Cobo: Leaps and bounds.
Drew: Yeah, I mean we like some of the older stuff. We put our three EPs on our own several years ago, and we like a couple of the songs on there, but I think this stuff is probably the best that we’ve done so far. Hopefully not the best we’ll ever do.
Not a plateau.
Did you come across any struggles when you were working on the album?
Drew: Time. It just took a long time. We recorded in four different spots over the course of a year and a half. So just piecing everything together, even the stuff we recorded at our rehearsal space or at my house… To try to get it onto the album, all of that coming together was a pretty big hurdle.
And then trying to make it sound uniform, I’m sure.
Drew: Yeah, to have a little continuity. Cause we recorded songs all over the country - LA, Texas, Arkansas.
Were there any moments when you were working on it when you were like, “Yeah, this is gonna be good”?
Drew: I feel that anytime we’re in the studio. You always have those moments where you’re like, “This is good.” Cause that’s the most fun part, that’s what we love to do. We get to try out ideas.
Boots: Yeah, when you hear those ideas come back... Talking about recording an album, its been a while since we were pretty much in the studio for two or three years consistently. So it’s funny to have been away from that for quite a while. but listening to some of those songs back, it’s less of like, “Man this is really good,” and more of, “Our people have to like this. There’s no way they won’t.” I think it’s cool, it’s like confidence, not cockiness when you hear those few songs and you’re like, “Man, this has to do well.”
"Whenever you need to just take a break from the shit, it’s good to have Knox Hamilton music to facilitate that mood." - Boots Copeland
Is there anything that you’d want fans to be able to take away from it?
Boots: I mean, I always want people to take from our songs a positive energy. We write specifically for people to be cheered up. I always say that there’s bands for dark times and we’re just not that band. Maybe we will be in the future and maybe we’ll write some songs that don’t want to be so positive. But there’s so much to deal with in life that Knox Hamilton is that escape. Whenever you need to just take a break from the shit, it’s good to have Knox Hamilton music to facilitate that mood.
I have a playlist right now that’s just full of my favorite music to get me pumped for the day, and probably half of the album is on there, so it’s totally working. [laughs] You put it on, hit play and it instantly cheers you up.
Drew: That’s what we love to hear. That’s the best feedback.
So I have this question that I like to ask different people to get their perspective on things - if you could change anything about the music scene, be it your local scene or the industry as a whole, what would it be and why?
Boots: I don’t think there’s enough beards in alternative music. So that’s one thing that has to change [laughs]. But yeah, that’s a different question…
Drew: Locally, I think it’s easier to think about rather than industry-wide, because the industry can be such a mess. We’ve experienced both sides of it, good and bad. But locally, to be able to facilitate songwriting in a positive environment, I think that would be really cool - to have a safe place for young musicians, young dudes or girls wanting to learn how to engineer or produce, to be able to use that as a kind of coworking place. I think that would be really cool.
Boots: I think locally, in Little Rock - the more I think about the question and to kind of piggy back on Drew’s answer a little bit - to not be hesitant. When we first started out, our type of music was hilarious. But you don’t have to write a certain kind of way because you’re from Little Rock and Arkansas. If you want to branch out and do something more on the lines of what we do, or something completely different that what everyone else does locally, it’s cool to do that. That would be a goal of ours, is to be that band - like, “Okay, Knox Hamilton can play synth, pop, heavy stuff that isn’t so country or hip-hop or whatever.” Just to be yourself.
Locally, my favorite bands I find are always the ones that catch me off guard.
Boots: Yeah, totally.
I think that’s about it, guys. I know you guys have the rest of your tour with Colony House and then dates through May coming up. Do you have any other plans coming up this summer?
Drew: We’ve got a couple of festival dates in June, but really the big thing we’re doing at the end of this tour and the end of April, pretty much all the way through May is going on a co-headlining tour. That’s kind of where all of our energy is right now.
Would you guys like to add anything else?
Drew: Our album is $5.99 on iTunes right now!
Boots: Thank you for reading!