Interview: Nashville Based, The Ivins, Share The Story Behind Music
What’s the story behind your latest single release? “Certain” has an interesting origin story. I’m sure you probably don’t get a lot of artists telling you that they were inspired by old Lebanese folk songs, but that’s exactly the case here! A few years back in 2016, while our first album - 2017’s The Code Duello - was sitting in music industry purgatory, we auditioned for a cultural outreach program with the US State Department, and our task for the audition was to take an old international folk song and update it to our style. We picked the Lebanese one out of the choices we were given and we thought we made a damn good, rockin’ tune out of it! We never made it past the live audition round, but we knew we had a really cool skeleton of a song on our hands. It sat on the shelf for a while until Summer 2017 when, after determining that the song needed some fleshing out, but having no direction, I walked into my house and heard our guitar player, Hatton - who happens to be my roommate - playing a very Eastern-sounding riff that happened to be the exact tempo of this song. The lightbulb immediately went off and I told him that this had to be a part of this song that me and Jack - my brother and our drummer - had lying around. Once our bass player, Regan, added a slinky bassline to act as the song’s foundation, Hatton added a blistering guitar solo to end it and I knew we really had something.
Lyrically, the song deals with modern times and how in our digital world, we are inundated with infinite possibilities; from innocuous decisions like where to get brunch on Sunday, to jobs, to serious relationships. With so many options at our fingertips, many people never commit to anything and always just assume that there is something better out there. To me, this way of being is dangerous, as it may result in losing out on something that could have been great, but was pushed away due to fear of commitment. I was never one for this lifestyle, as I crave certainty constantly (...according to my therapist). So I wrote the song from the perspective of someone paralyzed by the myriad of paths presented in life, begging the universe for certainty to provide them with some safety.
How did The Ivins come to be? It’s been a very long road, but it all started with me and my brother seriously playing together for the first time. Way back in 2008 in our hometown of Richmond, VA, when I was entering college but still holding on to my high school band, I put out a solo record. Circumstances abounded that had me booked for my first solo show and I needed to put a band together, so I grabbed my three best musician friends - one of them happening to be my big brother - and I didn’t think much of it, thinking it would be a one-off. However, as we found, turns out we had great chemistry together, so we decided to continue. We didn’t have a name going into that show so, since we were playing songs off my solo record, just as a placeholder, our guitar player said “let’s just be The Jim Ivins Band” and we said “whatever, fine.” Because we gave it absolutely no thought - not to mention coming up with a band name is impossible - no one mentioned it again until we started to gain some traction on Myspace (really dating this story), open for some pretty big bands and work with some cool producers. That’s when it became “uh, why is it the Jim Ivins Band when there are two Ivins brothers?” This was more than a fair point and truth be told, I hated having my name be the name of the band.
So after we put out our last record - 2012’s Everything We Wanted - we moved our homebase to New York City to try and make this career happen, and the name change was first seriously floated. JIB was a very acoustic-driven pop rock group in the vein of Matt Nathanson and Goo Goo Dolls, but once we got to NYC, we started to incorporate much more rocking songs into our set - the songs that birthed The Code Duello - and the name change became much more needed. Briefly we became Tomorrows - a name no one seemed to like - and eventually we were repped by a manager who said “you need your last name in the band name!”...exactly what we just got away from. Nevertheless, we decided that “The Ivins” could be anything - a name, an animal, a battalion, you name it, so it carried some mystery. Eventually, after a brief stint back in Virginia, we moved to Nashville to see what was happening. Much to our surprise, we found that some really great rock n’ roll bands exist here and that there is a fantastic rock scene bubbling under the surface! We have had a lot of lineup changed over the years but Hatton grew up with Jack and I so there was a familiarity there, and Regan is our resident local, having gone to Belmont and maintained a presence in a ton of bands all over the city. We have been here two and a half years and have greatly enjoyed meeting people and getting to know the music community, both as The Ivins and in group shows that bring the community together to celebrate specific eras of music; shows like Rare Hare and Grunge Night. We can’t wait to see what the future holds!
What can our readers expect in the upcoming months? We hope to be playing in Nashville as much as possible, as well as hitting the road and doing regional dates any time we can, just spreading the good word. For the past year we have been recording a new album here in Nashville at Keystone Studios with the great Michael Zueshow (Colt Ford, Cherub) and we can’t wait for everyone to hear it! We recorded “Certain” at the legendary Tracking Room (Bon Jovi, U2) with our friend Matt Leigh and we hope it acts as a suitable placeholder to get people excited to hear what we have cooking on the album. We hope to have a first single from that collection out this Summer!
What made you want to pursue a musical career? The guys all have different answers to this question but I will attempt to summarize. Firstly, Jack and I’s cousin is a guy named Bill Leverty, guitarist for Firehouse, a band that has sold eight million albums worldwide, won American Music Awards, was all over the radio, MTV, etc. Growing up seeing Bill gain his success was all we needed to see, and from that moment on, all we wanted to be were career musicians. Hatton was the same way. We all grew up together in a K-12 school in Richmond and for as long as I can remember, Hatton was the guitar player. The guy would lock himself in his room and learn “Eruption” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” note-perfect as a middle schooler. But his true passion was always classical guitar, and he would go on to get both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Classical Guitar Performance. So he was always as passionate about Bach as he was Dimebag Darrell! After he got his Master’s, he called me and Jack out of the blue and proposed we all move to Nashville together and join forces, so we dropped everything and decided to roll the dice once more on this crazy dream. That’s where we met Regan, who is your classic Nashville musician; jumping from gig to gig, always busy, always creative, paying his bills playing music. Music is all any of us know and it’s all we want.
You’re performing at The Basement on April 9th. What can people expect from this show?
We switch up our setlist for every show (seriously, I document it on setlist.fm), and as the new album gets closer to completion, we have started incorporating new songs into the set and that is always extremely exciting. For April 9th, you’re gonna hear the new single, “Certain,” a few from The Code Duello, and a few from the new album. We are playing as a part of New Faces Nite, which is always a great time, showcasing a wide variety of artists and we love playing The Basement any time we can. Off of that, you’re just gonna see four guys playing really loud and really loose; no backing tracks or clicks in this band! We come from the 90’s, when Alternative music used to mean big guitars with big hooks, laced with a lyrical earnestness that wasn’t found in other forms of rock music. Now, Alternative has taken on this odd connotation where it is basically trite pop music that sounds like Top 40, except it’s made by “bands.” I am certainly more Billy Corgan than Brendon Urie, and want our music to be able to restore that feeling that Alternative used to evoke, so when people ask me our style, I now say “Loud Alternative.” If that sounds appealing to you, we’ll see you April 9th at The Basement!
Connect with The Ivins by visiting www.theivins.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.