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B Sides & Badlands: The Parachute Brigade Shines Like Gold

There is an overwhelming majesty of the West Virginia countryside. It’s indescribable really. But when you listen to Americana band The Parachute Brigade, you get a truer sense of what heaven on earth really means. Armed with their debut project, aptly titled The Gold EP, the band of musicians — comprised of Justin Puett, Eric Robbins, Jodie Cox-Puett, Brittany McGuire and Robbie Lanham — bath in music’s holy water.

The five songs, including one track recorded live, exude the essence of the American spirit, weathered from years of toil but remaining resilient through it all. You’ll get that, though, when you’re born of the West Virginia soil. The band hails from Beckley, and in their common threads of living and loving, they plot “a coming of age story,” the band says of the EP, “dealing with the tension of embracing change. That mirrors us as a band, dealing with going from playing other people’s songs to writing songs of our own and taking this band from a hobby to a career.”

The group has toured all over, but the Appalachian hills always pull them back in. “Beckley is home. It’s familiar and worn in. The talent in Beckley is unreal. There is a wonderful community of musicians and artists here always looking to help each other,” they share. “There seems to be a renaissance that’s been building for years now, and we hope to help play a part in it. WV is a part of us and will always be, no matter where we go.”

Below, The Parachute Brigade chats with HashtagWV about how they came together, early musical roots, songwriting and what’s up their sleeve for 2019. The band is set to play Hill & Holler on February 8 at 9 pm.

They say you have your entire life to release your first record. Do you feel The Gold EP is an apt introduction to you as a collective?

We turned our collaborative efforts towards writing the EP. Although it has deeply personal lyrics and themes, they all mean different things to each of us. That is exactly what we want other people to do when they hear the record.

The EP really taps into the heartbeat of what is happening in Americana music right now — from First Aid Kit to Jamie Lin Wilson. What drew you to this style of music as a kid?

Thank you. That’s a great compliment! We listened to an assortment of genres growing up. Americana has this beautiful way of mixing simplicity and complexity. Our goal is to just tell the truth and be honest. Americana is a good vehicle for that, but who knows, we may just make a heavy metal record next.

“Old Pond” is a live track. What was so magical about this particular performance to include a recording of it?

We recorded “Old Pond “live as a way to serve the song. We wanted it to be raw and honest and transport the listener into a live show. There’s something about the quiet, introspective nature of the song contrasted with the chatter of the crowd and the sound of bottles clinking that adds a realness and depth to the lyrics of heartbreak and lost love.

You originally started as a cover band in 2012. Was there a moment that hit you when you realized you wanted to write and perform your own songs?

We’ve always been a creative band. We developed our sound by taking other artist songs and adding our own voice to them. There was a song called “Blue Dress” we wrote in the winter of 2015 that we recorded. The creation of that song got the ball rolling, and we haven’t stopped since.

Do you still have a handful of songs you like to cover?

Yes! We plan on recording some videos of our favorite covers very soon.

Initially, was it difficult to find your songwriting voice?

We’ve been lucky enough that our influences have always meshed well. By having so much time to learn how each other communicates, musically, before even picking up a pen to write, it created a foundation to build on. But like any band, we didn’t and don’t always agree. Thankfully, there’s usually good stuff waiting on the other side of each other’s compromises. We try to remember that.

Speaking of your early roots, what brought you together to play?

At first, there were four of us. It all lined up very organically. Justin and Eric started a two man cover band to make extra money as a side project to former rock outfits. They played a show in a restaurant where Brittany McGuire happened to be at that night. Eric and Brittany were friends from high school choir and grew up singing together.

Brittany ended up singing with the duo that very night and Jodie Cox-Puett, then girlfriend to Justin, sang, as well. Both women had beautiful voices that contrasted each other. When the four of us sang together, it was fun. It was through the simple joy of singing songs and spending time together.

What was life like growing up?

We all have different stories of childhood. Different kinds of families and influences. One thing that runs through all of us is we found solace through music. Whether it was pop, R&B, metal, or alternative, music brought exponential joy to each of our childhoods. Just spend ten minutes on the road with us and you’ll see, the nostalgia is real!

Robbie Lanham recently joined the band as a new drummer. What led to his addition?

We are so happy to have Robbie. He’s been great for the band and has put so much heart and love into the music already. Really, that’s what led to his addition. It was another one of those magical things that fell into place.

You’re playing out some new songs in your shows lately. What’s coming next?

We’ve been working on new material we are all excited for. We’ve had a lot of writing sessions and weekend dates lately. We are working on defining our sound in broader, more colorful ways and learning more and more about the business end of being in a band everyday. The five of us have always wanted to be in a band like this and are so thankful that we get to do what we love. We can’t wait to see what comes farther down the line.

What happens when all the good music dries up? Wanna be featured on B-Sides & Badlands? Submissions are always open. Have an inquiry about a story posted? Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Let our EIC know what’s on your mind:

– Jason Scott. HashtagWV #109. January 2019.

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