Though they hail from the Peach state town that is the namesake of a genre classic, Georgia jam-band the Orange Constant’s own brand of Statesboro blues owes at least as much to fusion, prog and ’70s-era singer-songwriters as it does to Gregg and Duane Allman.
Founded in Statesboro, Ga. and then imported to Athens, the Orange Constant began life as outlet for fellow Georgia Southern music students Andrew Brantley and Nickalous Benson. “We were both guitar players, and we started writing and covering songs, playing acoustic gigs at a couple of places,” says Brantley, who is also the Constant’s lead singer.
“Then we added bass and drums, started doing full band gigs. Our appeal was that we played a wide variety of and styles — the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Umphrey’s McGhee. We got to play a lot of shows because our repertoire was so diverse.”
That diversity also helped mold the Constant’s evolution as an original recording act. Their recorded output — two albums and one EP — showcases smooth, polished progressive rock that tilts in the direction of jazz fusion, yet remains tempered by strong pop sensibilities. Brantley describes it as “vintage, ’70s-era rock mixed with a new age jam-band feel.
“One thing that separates us from other jam bands is that we’re a little more structured. We like to keep to a fairly tight, structured format. Then from that beginning point, we try to stretch out a little when we play live, and try to make the songs more than they are on record.”
Brantley’s voice is a standout, too — mellifluous, tonally pure, existing in a no-fly zone between alto and tenor, it’s a voice that seems better suited to pop-rock crooning than to inhabiting the same genre as roughneck growlers like Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes. And yet it’s perfectly matched with the Orange Constant’s smooth yet sophisticated compositional approach.
“I actually grew up listening to folk music,” Brantley says. “Listening to ‘The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary’ in the car with my dad — that’s what first gave me the idea that I could sing, and maybe sound as pretty as they did. Then over the years, I started embracing it more. I took a choir class in college, and I started doing vocal exercises. I worked at it, and I became comfortable with who I am as a singer.”
A relatively new addition to the fold, bassist and backing vocalist Tyler Walker is a great singer in his own right, Brantley says, and along with new keyboardist Chris Freiberg, adds another dimension to the band’s well-crafted harmonic tapestries.
“Having Tyler in the band makes for some great harmonies,” Brantley says. “On our next full-length album, you’ll really hear us push the envelope what we can do with our vocals.
“Chris plays a Moog synthesizer, and the trademark sound of that Moog has been very present in our sound; it adds a lot of color. The additions have made us more electric, and more electrifying. Our stage presence has gotten more powerful. We take a lot more risks now when we’re up there playing live.”
Next up for the Orange Constant, though is an all-instrumental EP, which Brantley says will serve as a sort of homage to the band’s collective appreciation for jazz-rock. “We all love instrumental music, and we have some really good compositions we want to show off,” Brantley says. “It will be a fusion record, with a little dance-electronic stuff thrown in. We all love jazz fusion, and that’s how I perceive our instrumental stuff.”
The Orange Constant will play Preservation Pub Friday, Aug. 25 with special guest Hank and Cupcakes beginning at 10 p.m.