Stephen Osborne and Andrew Sayne of Madre play the song “Do Si Don’t” from the “Sharing Needles with Friends” podcast.
Rock bands, just like people, often experience some growing pains before they can comfortably inhabit their own space. Knoxville’s Madre are a case in point.
The four-piece outfit came together in early 2008, when guitarist Andrew Sayne and singer Stephen Osborne met as employees of Chesapeake’s restaurant downtown. They had friends in common from previous musical endeavors, and Sayne suggested a summit.
“I pretty much just walked up and said, you know Heath, so we should play some music,” says Sayne, over draught beer at Preservation Pub. He’s a big, baby-faced fellow who could easily pass for something less than his 27 years.
“That first night, we wrote a song together, ‘Lasagna,’ and something just clicked,” Sayne continues. “After we finished playing that song, we looked at each other and said ‘we should probably start a band together immediately. I guess we started like most bands in Knoxville do—drunk in Fort Sanders at 2 a.m.”
And so it was that Sayne, Osborne, the aforementioned Heath (bassist Heath Nichols), and drummer Alex Melin founded Madre. And that initial synergy—the boys’ shared love of The White Album, Radiohead, and drinking too much beer—was enough to carry them through several years, lots of shows, a couple of Eps and a full-length album.
But all of that notwithstanding, Madre wasn’t reaching its real potential as a writing, recording or touring entity. And it took an unexpected year-long hiatus for Madre members to figure that out.
It happened in 2011, when Osborne’s wife Christine found new work and school opportunities in Los Angeles, Cal. Osborne relocated to be with her, and the band was forced to break. “Every single Tuesday night had been Madre night, and then for a solid year, that was gone,” Sayne says.
During that time off, Sayne took a sideline gig with Grandpa’s Stash, which had just lost a guitarist. “I told them I’d love to help them, but I probably couldn’t stay,” Sayne says. “Then I ended up being in the band two years and recording an album with them. Those guys are so good, and their songs are so great, they forced me to up my chops and become a better guitar player.”
In the meantime, says Sayne, he and the rest of Madre “had time to reflect on the Lp we’d just made (Parameters), and to take the band less for granted. I wasn’t necessarily super hyped about the break, but I think we needed it.
“I think we all did a little bit of growing up in that time. Things went from ‘Let’s see how drunk we can get onstage,’ to ‘Let’s see how well we can play this show.’ We all got better on our instruments; we matured; we got clearer on our process.”
Their reunion wasn’t necessarily an easy one, though. At first, says Osborne, “We weren’t ready to jump back in. It was kind of weird.”
But when all the original band members finally turned to the same page—bassist Nichols took longer to return to the fold—the band began making what members feel is their best music yet. “We started writing songs together more often, instead of as individuals,” says Sayne. “And we learned how to ride that line of writing songs organically, without overthinking, and yet having the songs turn out the way we wanted them to.”
“We started controlling the songs, instead of the songs controlling us,” Osborne says.
Madre hope to release their second full-length in August, an eight-song effort with a working title of Losing Teeth and Other Strange Dreams.
Osborne describes the new music as “happier, more upbeat,” and with fewer of the moody acoustic interludes that characterized some of the band’s earlier work.
From here, Sayne says the goal is to push the band beyond the comfortable limits of its previous local success. “I’d like to see us land some slots on some smaller festivals,” he says. “And we really want to push this next record.
“There was an ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ element to our hiatus. I don’t take this band for granted now. I felt like we really clicked that first time we ever played together, and I still feel like that today.”
Madre will play Scruffy City Hall Saturday, June 28 along with Far Far Away and Johnny Astro and the Big Bang. Show starts at 10 p.m.