Lord Nelson explores heritage and movement

Lord Nelson celebrates the release of its second album, Through the Night, with a hometown show at the Southern on May 18. Publicity photo Lord Nelson celebrates the release of its second album, Through the Night, with a hometown show at the Southern on May 18. Publicity photo

After a Lord Nelson show at a venue in the southeast, an audience member approached lead singer and guitarist Kai Crowe-Getty. “You guys aren’t for erasing history, right?” the attendee asked. “Every now and then,” Crowe-Getty says, “we have to diffuse a situation like that and stand by what we believe.”

Listen to Lord Nelson’s debut album The County and the forthcoming Through the Night, and it’s pretty clear what Crowe-Getty believes. Take “Virginia” from The County—it’s a horn-heavy and bluesy ballad with lyrics written from the viewpoint of one of Crowe-Getty’s relatives who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

“He’s asking himself, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’” says Crowe-Getty. “It’s about his shame and regret about the war he was fighting.”

Through the Night’s “Safety Meeting” and “Southern Discomfort” stem from the experience of Crowe-Getty and his four bandmates—lead guitarist Calloway Jones and brother Henry Jones on vocals, keys and trombone, drummer Johnny Stubblefield and bassist Andrew Hollifield—watching the events of August 11 and 12 remotely while the band was touring.

“We wrote ‘Southern Discomfort’ after touring around the South and seeing Confederate flags all over highways,” Crowe-Getty says. “We rewrote it and let it sit for a while until this summer.”

“Stars and bars over 29, / just south of Lynchburg before the state line, / now they’re gathering in city streets / a lost cause it doesn’t know defeat,” Crowe-Getty sings in the opening verse between a heartbeat drumline punctured by progressively rising guitar chords. Soulful vocalist sisters Davina Jackson and Davita Jackson-Voit join Crowe-Getty in his staccato delivery of the chorus. Together, the song’s elements are reminiscent of a call and response—finding unity, harmony and artistry in spite of division and abrupt endings. They come together to tell an all-too-familiar story of shock and rage.

Crowe-Getty says the new record is darker than the band anticipated. In the two years between albums, Crowe-Getty and his bandmates came to terms with “the natural migration of life,” dealing with personal loss, feeling tested and stretched too thin. Crowe-Getty’s brother, Bram, helped found Lord Nelson in 2012, wrote and performed on Through the Night and ultimately left the band to go back to school.

“It’s easy to feel isolated or in your own little world when you’re traveling in a van with four other dudes,“ Crowe-Getty says. “It’s also wonderful and can put things at arm’s length. The past year was about reconciling that if we wanted to do this as a career, we have to make sacrifices. We all love making music more than anything else.”

Recording the album was cathartic for Crowe-Getty because it gave the band an opportunity to support one another and the space to process life changes.

“We were playing and performing and exploring and doing some weird stuff,” Crowe- Getty says. Through the Night’s “When the Lights Come Down,” for example, “started as a strummy acoustic number and turns into this big, weird Men at Work mixed with psychedelic vibe.” Jones found a groovy keyboard riff, and he and Crowe-Getty mixed in 10 guitars. They wanted to create a “ghostly kind of feedback” sound for the track, which they achieved by recording guitar on a cell phone and rerecording the phone’s audio.

Crowe-Getty says the band is pumped to play a hometown release show at the Southern on May 18, and “make it a really great party.” Horns from The Judy Chops and “force of nature” Athena Jackson will share the stage.

“There has been a huge swell of fantastic releases from the Charlottesville area in the past year,” Crowe-Getty says. “Charlottesville is a great incubator, and we love seeing our friends get after it.”