Down in Nashville, Tennessee, there’s something stirring. It’s a sound, a scene, a certain je ne sais quoi that infuses bands that burst forth from the city; in short, it’s rock and roll. And at the centre of that southern shitstorm are the good folks of Serpents & Snakes Records, and all who sail in her.
Set up by the Kings Of Leon ostensibly to release an album by their friends The Features, it organically blossomed into a homespun indie label to nurture and support other acts that caught their collective eyes and ears. And just a couple of years later, here they find themselves in the midst of Austin’s South By South West festival with their entire roster (and some close friends) flown in from their hometown to showcase what makes them so goddamn special.
The event was presented by AllSaints, in association with Clash, whose rock and roll credentials and dedication to fashion made them the perfect foil to the day’s musical accompaniments. They even brought along custom T-shirts that were given away free on the day - the stock naturally didn’t last that long! (However, Clash still has some to give away to lucky winners - see here: http://www.clashmusic.com/win/win-an-exclusive-allsaints-x-serpents-snakes-t-shirt)
Promised Land’s pastoral vibes and The Kingston Springs’ melodic punky country rambles opened the show, and though neither band are actually signed to the label, they are adored by those who work there, and were cordially invited to join in the fun, as was gruff bluesman Jamie N Commons, who was invited by Clash to represent the UK.
The first signing to play was the only non-Nashville act on the label. Austin-based Snowden didn’t have far to come for today’s show, and was a standout musically too as his more electronic leanings set him apart from his more rowdy stable mates. Snowden was watched intently by his friend and now boss, Jared Followill, the Kings Of Leon bassist and label owner, whose appearance at the party sparked rumours of a surprise headline act.
The short, sharp, brash sound of Turbo Fruits was an antidote to anyone who thought that the day wasn’t going to see guitars turned up to 11. As their sit climaxed, frontman and ex-Be Your Own Pet dude Jonas Stein hung from the rafters, while in the audience faces melted and hearts broke.
Hotly-tipped young rascals The Weeks were up next, and built on the energy laid down before them. They’re full of youth and vigour, the personification of southern stoners whose lives are formed around guitars and beer. We’re convinced we’ve fallen head-over-heels with them, and while the crowd noticeably swelled for their performance, we’re pretty sure four hundred other people did the same.
Serpents & Snakes raison d’etre The Features close the show, with a typically impassioned and powerful set that included a handful of new songs, premiered especially for this discerning Texan gathering.
The sunburned crowd refused to shift after The Features, so convinced were they that the Kings Of Leon were next. But they weren’t. This wasn’t about them, nor were they willing to steal the limelight from the artists and friends they love. Jared was happy enough being there to support these groups and help raise awareness of them, quite simply because he believes in them.
This was the sound of young Nashville. It’s soulful, it’s loud, it’s sexy, it’s going to take over the world.
Keep an eye out for galleries and films from this event and from AllSaints’ special Serpents & Snakes project over at http://www.allsaints.com/music.
Words by Simon Harper
Photography by Jack Lewandowski