Little Rock band Amasa Hines is well known to residents in central Arkansas.
The band, featuring Velvet Kente vocalist Joshua Asante, and Chris Denny bandmates Josh Spillyards, Judson Spillyards, and Ryan Hitt, has been packing houses and blowing the minds of Little Rock residents since they formed in 2010.
Amasa Hines performance
Date: Saturday, May 31
Time: 9 p.m
Where: The Lightbulb Club, 19 N. Block Ave.
With: The Good Fear
Self described as “Psychedelic Afro-Futurism,” with influences ranging from soul, Afro-beat, psychedelic, blues, dub, and indie rock, Amasa Hines’ sound is a blend of all of those things, created with an underlying pop sensibility that ties the diverse stylistic elements and versatile musicianship together to create something that is truly unique.
It’s danceable psychedelia. It grooves. It’s smart. It’s indie rock that boogies, with more than a hint of soul.
And despite being less than four years old and just a matter of months removed from the release of their first full length recording, the band has already risen to the ranks of the most buzzworthy in the state.
In 2012, they made the list of Paste Magazine‘s 12 Arkansas Bands You Should Listen To Now. They were instantly impressive in their Daytrotter session, representing Arkansas well and inspiring the following from Daytrotter‘s Sean Moeller.
Scratch marks on the surface is not what they’re after, but more so intensive excavation. They’re about taking a knife, sterilizing it, making a cut and poking around a little and determining what all is attached to them, what all is dependent on them and who they couldn’t feel more helpless being without. Love is a reason for most displays in Amasa Hines songs. Love is a special consequence that is not taken lightly. You can hear the unavoidable weight of the concept and reality of family here. You hear what it is to be devastated by the true magnitude of what it means to have either brought life into this world or to watch as it dwindle down to nothing, or to be taken away altogether.
The seven-piece group was voted as the best band in the state of Arkansas in 2012 by readers of the Arkansas Times, and to this point, however, the band has never played publicly in Fayetteville.
That’ll change Saturday night (May 31) when they headline a show at The Lightbulb Club with support by locals The Good Fear.
The band is kicking off a series of out-of-town dates in support of their stellar 2014 release, All the World There Is.
We got in touch with guitarist Judson Spillyards, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for us.
Tell us a bit about how you guys got started playing together?
There used to be a restaurant called Ferneau in Little Rock that me, my brother Josh Spillyards, Ryan Hitt who plays bass, and Norman Williamson who plays sax, would play every Friday or Saturday night. This was about four years ago.
I had become good friends with Joshua of Velvet Kente, another Little Rock band, and at some point asked if he wanted to sit in and sing some songs. Until he joined, it was mostly instrumental funk, jazz, and soul stuff. It was a great platform to start a band really. We were already used to doing a lot of improvising and Joshua fell right in. It just evolved very quickly because we were having to perform every week, but still keep things fresh and new.
The new record is phenomenal. Tell us about that.
Thank you very much! We started recording it about three years ago. It’s been finished for about a year, but it just took a while to get all the artwork/packaging/mixing/mastering together. We don’t have a label or anyone but ourselves to make sure everything gets done.
It has been quite a process I’ll admit. We recorded half of it at our good friend Mitchell Vanhoose’s home studio in Jacksonville and the other half at his home in Park Hill in North Little Rock after he moved. Mitch recorded, engineered, and mixed the record. One of the reasons it took as long as it did is because Mitch was working for a live sound company and was always on the road. We would have to set aside a block of time when he was home to record. Given the amount of time it took to record I am very pleased with how cohesive it is. When I listen back it doesn’t feel as though one track to the next was recorded month’s apart. The quality of the recordings have so much to do with how amazing Mitch is at what he does. As well as the band of course.
It seems like you guys are all over the place as far as influences, but the result is something that – while difficult to classify – is awesomely unique. Does you guys’ sound come easy, or is it sometimes hard to reconcile all those influences into something cohesive?
Yeah, there’s quite a bit of influences swirling around. For the most part we’re all very close and share many of our influences, even as diverse as they are. So, if there is a moment someone is having trouble getting an idea across, it’s usually quickly sorted out. Even though we’ve been together for a few years now, it’s still a growing thing. It’s not like we have strict guidelines as to what gets thrown into the musical pot, but like any other band we have to sometimes back off and let some things grow and mature with time. I feel like eventually it ends up sounding like us. We try not to worry too much about sounding this way or that way. We trust in our instincts.
You guys haven’t been up to Fayetteville with this band yet, correct? What’s you guys’ impression of this part of the state?
We actually have played in Fayetteville once, but it was for some friends of ours wedding and not open to the public. So yeah, this is our first actual show. We’ve been wanting to make it this way for a while actually, we have just been so busy getting the record done that we are just now able to really focus on getting out of Little Rock. The music scene in Fayetteville seems so vibrant from an outsiders perspective. We are really looking forward to playing here more.
It seems like things are going well in Little Rock right now, though. How do you perceive the music scene there at the moment? How have folks received you guys there?
Yeah we are so appreciative of our following in Little Rock. We’ve been a part of the Little Rock scene for a few years now and everyone is so supportive. Our fans keep coming back to see us and bring new fans each time. Our friends in other local bands continue to support us as well. We are just very grateful.
What are some other Arkansas bands that you think are doing cool things right now?
Well our dear friend Adam Faucett is doing great things. He’s an immensely talented singer, he also writes fantastic songs. Aside from that, I’m stoked to hear what the Good Fear have been up to! I have also been listening to Brooks Tipton’s record Glass Wands. It’s really beautiful instrumental music. Very tasty.
What’s the best way for folks to get their hands on All the World There is?
The best way to get the record is at the show on Saturday. We just got the vinylin and there are limited quantities. We sold close to half of them at the release show. Also, you can buy the album on cdbaby.com, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and a few other music sites that I seem to be blanking on right now.
What’s next for you guys? Got any touring plans? More writing/recording?
We have some out of town shows coming up, but nothing in the way of a tour though. We are playing at Maxine’s in Hot Springs on the 6th of June. We are also heading up to Iowa on June 19th to play a showcase for the UK based label Communion.
The label was started by the Mumford and Sons singer. The show is in an old refurbished barn in Maquoketa and we are very excited to be a part of that show. After the show we’ll head to Rock Island Illinois to record our second Daytrotter session. We are also currently writing new tunes for the next record which will not take as long as the first.