Gastonia, North Carolina’s Menders are a part of a lot of “firsts” for me. They were the first time I placed a call expecting to interview one member of a band, only to be put on speaker phone with all four guys as I desperately tried to figure out whose voice was whose so I could properly attribute quotes for my story. The next week, they were also the first band I ever saw at the old Radio Room on Pleasantburg Dr., shortly after moving back to Greenville after 15 years away. Lastly, that night was the first time a grown man I was only meeting for the first time ever ran across a parking lot and jumped into my arms like I was a soldier returning home from war.
Thanks for that last one, Wes Forbus.
In the spirit of firsts, I can also say that I am writing this as I listen to the rough cuts from The Menders’ new album The Devil’s Reel. The tracks Wes shared with me are so unfinished that the vocals have not yet been added but I am actually really enjoying this instrumental version of the band. It is reminding me that The Mender’s brand of rock and roll has such a signature sound that just a few notes of each song is all I need to hear to say, “that can’t be anybody but The Menders”.
Not used to hearing an all instrumental version of The Menders without the gentle voice of Jesse Watson taking turns with the feral howls of Jonny Boswell, I did have to ask Wes if my perception was skewed or if I was really listening to a heavier, more blues influenced sound than they have taken on previously. “Most definitely,” he tells me before explaining that they are transitioning from their early “garage folk” sound to something they are calling Southern Gothic because “mainly we don’t know what the <blank> else to call it.” For my ears, it is rock and roll just the way I want to hear it – raw and gritty with proper respect for those that came before. More than once, on this album and previous records, a Menders song has made me say “wait is that a surf guitar/blues riff/etc?” It is that melding of influences that I find fascinating and The Menders execute it perfectly while crafting a sound that is totally unique and all their own.
This evening The Menders will take the stage at Quest Brewing Company as part of their Thursday Night Concert Series, now in this season’s second week. The weather looks like it will be the perfect evening for outdoor music at a local brewery and The Menders always bring one heck of a good time. It all lines up for a great way to kick off the weekend just a little bit early.