Echoes frontman Henry Gibson reckons he’s been playing around Knoxville for a dozen years now—maybe a baker’s dozen—and it’s paying dividends. The former Wolf at the Door/Cold Hands singer and bassist is creating some of the most mature and polished material of his career.
And he’s joined by a couple of long-time collaborators in drummer Gene Priest and guitarist Brian Woodruff, both of whom played with Gibson in other outfits. That old adage about familiarity and contempt notwithstanding, their continuing alliance has bred a comfortable, productive partnership.
“We’re all really good friends; we’re all on the same page,” Gibson says. “We all have similar tastes. And I think we like playing music together because we’re coming from a similar place. It’s been a comfortable, natural progression for us.”
Echoes was born from the ashes of Wolf at the Door, a five-piece that broke up in 2012, when one of the members saw the birth of his first child. But WATD members Gibson, Woodruff, and Priest—who had played with Gibson in the aforementioned Cold Hands, as well—decided they wanted to continue playing together, albeit under a different name.
Like many Gibson’s of previous projects, Echoes draws heavily on the cool side of the ‘80s, the aloof, reverb-laden sounds of post-punk and New Wave. “Wolf at the Door was more dance-y,” he explains. “We were all very influenced by Coldplay and U2. So if Wolf was more on the Coldplay side, this is more on the early U2 side, maybe with some Echo and the Bunnymen.”
While those influences are certainly in evidence on Echoes’ first releases—the August 2013 EP We Give You Escape, and the seven-inch single “Young Heretics”—don’t write them off as simply one more ‘80s knock-off outfit. Theirs is a dark, potent revisionism, and their punchy, capable songwriting compares well with that of other retro-inclined post-millennial peers such as Interpol, or even The National.
The band has already garnered some national attention, with a little help from some of Priest’s prior music-industry associations. Echoes received a write-up in Alternative Press last year, and more recently, MTV tapped “Young Heretics” to air during a segment of the reality show “Real World Explosion.”
Now the band is set for another round of recording, shepherded by yet another one of Gibson’s old friends, Royal Bangs frontman Ryan Schaefer. Gibson logged some time as a member of the Bangs a few years back, and Schaefer will mix at least one upcoming song for Echoes—maybe more, if the arrangement proves a fruitful one.
The recordings will feature a new band member, too, in former Plainclothes Tracy guitarist Brian Kelly, who will take over bass duties from Gibson. The singer expects Kelly, known around local indie rock circles for his considerable six-string chops, to add intriguing new elements—some compositional curveballs, if you will—to the band’s tuneful, but relatively straightforward approach.
“Our focus right now is getting Brian up to speed on the material we have,” Gibson says. “He’s already 95 percent there. Then we want to start on getting out that next batch of songs.
“We have some things to figure out, management-wise. And we want to be able to play out more. But overall I feel good about where we are. I feel good about the songs we’re writing now, and with playing them out. I don’t have any worries about the musical part of this band.”
Echoes will play Preservation Pub on Wednesday, March 12 in the Smokeasy, at 10 p.m.