Chances are, even if you’re not familiar with Bronze Radio Return, you’ve heard one of the band’s songs. The ubiquitous “Shake, Shake, Shake” from the 2011 album of the same name has reached ears around the world, thanks to placement in TV shows and commercials, including a global campaign for the Nissan Leaf.
“There was a day and age when that was viewed as selling out, but in the current climate of the music industry, it’s a vehicle that works well,” says band front man Chris Henderson.
Despite using mainstream outlets, the sextet’s celebratory roots-based sound comes from a pure place. The group’s name was derived from a bronze-colored radio that Henderson listened to in his father’s art studio in Maine. It’s where he heard many forms of traditional American music, including blues, jazz, and country. When the band formed, they realized similar influences informed the sound they were crafting.
“Essentially it’s the return of all of our bronze radios,” Henderson explains. “It’s those early influences and how they shape the way we still look at music.”
Henderson formed the group back in 2007 after attending the Hartt School of Music, a well-respected conservatory in Connecticut. The band includes Rob Griffith on drums, Craig Struble on banjo and harmonica, bassist Bob Tanen, keyboardist Matt Warner, and Patrick Fetkowitz on lead guitar. They deliver colorful folk rock with an alternative edge, highlighted by joyful harmonies and anthemic hooks similar to Mumford and Sons. Banjo rolls keep pop melodies grounded, while the best energy often comes from the band members stomping and clapping in unison.
“The chemistry comes from spending long hours together—both in the van and on stage,” Henderson adds. “In addition to playing music together, we listen to music together and all have open minds. We work together as democracy and stay open to each other’s ideas.”
The group has earned plenty of fans on the road through relentless touring. In addition to high-energy club shows, the group has opened for the likes of John Mayer, Grace Potter, and Michael Franti and Spearhead. But unlike many young acts of the day, the members of Bronze Radio Return also enjoy crafting new work in the studio. The band’s third full-length album, the recently released Up, On & Over, was made during a five-week retreat to the foothills of the Blue Ridge. The group likes solitude when recording, and they found it at White Star Sound, a studio located on a historic farm in Louisa, Va., just outside of Charlottesville. Tucked down several miles of dirt road, the studio offered little to do but work on the record, play ping pong, and drink whiskey. In the remote setting the band stayed focused and knocked out 15 new songs, including the uplifting front porch-flavored lead single “Further On.”
The new song has already found a home on TV, used during the PGA Tour’s national ad campaign that featured Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. But the plan is to get this new material out to people night after night on the road. The band will embark on a national tour this fall that starts with two dates at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion on September 21 and 22.
“We just want more ears on the music,” Henderson says.
You can stream a track from Bronze Radio Return as part of our July Trail Mix Free Music Playlist.
Syndicate’s New Groove
This month North Carolina roots rock favorites Acoustic Syndicate will release their first new album in nearly a decade. Rooftop Garden marks a steady comeback for the band that dominated the regional club and theater circuit in the early 2000s but called it quits in 2005 so brothers Bryon and Fitz McMurry and their cousin Steve McMurry could focus on different work, including managing the family’s farm in Cleveland County, N.C. Gradually, in the past few years, the band has started playing an increasing number of shows, and with the recent addition of dobro ace Billy Cardine, the group has found new momentum. The album’s lead single, “Heroes,” has a familiar Syndicate sound—driving rock rhythm, intricate banjo rolls and soaring harmonies that highlight the chemistry of familial bonds. With the new release, the band has plans to tour extensively this fall, including a top billing at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, N.C., on October 18.