Brand Spankin’ New: An Interview With Nashville Indie Pop Rockers The Rally Club & Look At Their Debut Album ‘I Know What’s Real’

Anti-chaos lucid groove pop. 

This is how Nashville band The Rally Club wraps up their uniquely beautiful, multi-dimensional essence within four words. With velvety-smooth bass lines and melodies cradled in soulful simplicity, this description seems to hit the nail on the head.

The band’s first full-length album, I Know What’s Real, which is out as of this publication, is a quintessential listen for anyone looking to find a record that isn’t claiming to be anything it isn’t– the heart of the music is loud and clear. 

With tastes of indie, funk, western, and even 60s pop laced throughout the songs of I Know What’s Real, the listening experience sets you back into a nostalgic bliss, as well as evoking wide-eyed wonderment. You’re either bopping your head along to the bass line in “Below Sea Level” or getting chills while a chorus passionately chants “so long, so long orange blossom,” at the end of “So Long, Orange Blossom.” Either way, you feel like you’re living the life of someone snapped in a vintage Polaroid picture. 

In addition to being the band’s first album, I Know What’s Real is also the first album members Hannah Dempsey Lusk and Benjamin Lusk have released since branching out from their previous band, Forlorn Strangers. Now, transitioning into the “anti-chaos lucid groove pop” of The Rally Club, they have officially ignited a fresh new beginning. 

We had the chance to fire some questions Hannah’s way to learn more about the new album, the band’s transition from their previous project, and much more.

So you describe your music as an “anti-chaos lucid groove pop” band. Can you delve deeper into what that means?

Ooo yes. We came up with that on a writer’s retreat last fall working on our next album. We were on the tail end of a lot of transition, and it was important to us to be able to name what we were about at the beginning of this season. We threw around a lot of different words and phrases, and ultimately settled on this one because it conveyed that we believe in something. Hopefully the music feels good, but we also want it to point towards something whole and beautiful. Hopefully it pricks that deep part of you that says, “Oh yeah– I remember.”

You’ve also said to be influenced by 60’s pop. Are there any specific artists from that decade that you find you “click” with the most?

Hm, I think we connect with that era more in broad brushstrokes. The music is very melody driven with lots of harmonies, fun bass lines, a decent amount of reverb, and an overall “fun” vibe that draws from 60’s pop. Of course we love The Beatles and The Beach Boys, but you can’t really say that, can you? 😉 (can you put a vintage wink face in an interview?)

What inspired you to leave Forlorn Strangers behind and create this new era with The Rally Club?

Thankfully, it was a really natural transition. Forlorn Strangers was some of the best times of our lives, but we were five different people who made the band our complete priority, and that just couldn’t last forever. Everyone seemed to be drawn more to their niche within the music world, and I think our time in Forlorn Strangers was a huge stepping stone to each of us finding that. When it became clear that it was time to move on, Ben and I were able to hone in even more on what we wanted to do creatively.

You both seem to be very passionate about working with nonprofit organizations and communities. Living amidst a pandemic, have you still been able to find ways to participate in humanitarian work?

That’s a great question! And the short answer is no, haha. We’ve had a ton of personal change happen this year even aside from the pandemic, so we’re currently getting our ducks in a row. I’m really looking forward to the new year though and figuring out safe ways to to be a part of the community. As it seems that the virus will be with us for awhile, I think getting creative about safe ways to connect with and help people will be more important than ever. That being said, if anybody reading this has ideas, email me!

Moving on to your new album, how might you define it in its entirety in one sentence?

Oh boy, let’s see… I Know What’s Real is a melody driven, groove pop album that touches down on what it means to be human through songs of love, joy, memory, mystical longing, inner conviction, wrestling with meaning, and ultimately resting in Divine Love. (The fun thing about lists is that they can be really long and still fit in one sentence.)

Was there an overall artistic goal that you wanted to reach with this debut album compared to those made as your former band?

I’m a very earnest person, and I want everything to mean everything, and I am eager to get to the bottom of it all. I definitely carried that energy into recording this album. Ben does most of the arranging and musical production, and it was incredible for him to have free reign in that for this album. Previously, we’d worked as a five person group to do everything, and there is a lot of joy in those accomplishments, but going into the studio for this album, I think we both felt a new sense of freedom and possibility. We said “Let’s try this” over and over and over. It was really fun to say yes to everything.

What song was the most enjoyable to write/create?

“Radio Cafe” was the most fun song to record, for me. Do you guys remember Radio Cafe? I was so sad that it went out of business before this song came out, but it was almost fitting in a way. It was just a tiny little room on Gallatin Rd. in Inglewood that was only open for a couple years I think, and it was absolutely my favorite place to go. There was a small stage and a handful of tables and chairs, and anything went. I mean I saw the wildest kinds of shows there. If you were testing something out or making it up as you went, you could do it at the Radio Cafe and call it a show. It was a real respite from a lot of the sheen of Nashville. It was impossible to have any pretense there, and I always left feeling happy. I had a friend and kind of mentor pull me aside in the parking lot one night, and he started speaking into my life and the band about things he could have only intuitively known, and it changed my trajectory in a lot of ways.

I wanted to write a song about the whole thing, but we were just about done in the studio. I snuck it in as a half written idea anyway. I scribbled down some lyrics while we had the rhythm section at the studio, and I made up the melody a cappella on the microphone in the control room while we tracked the bass and drums that we actually use on the track. We built the song on top of that, and I honestly had the time of my life. It was so fun to not take any of it too seriously; the playful feeling of that song was a real highlight for me.

What song was the most challenging?

I think “Cream and Honey” was probably the most challenging. The pocket is so open; the guys did a great job with that. But the vocals are really immediate, and they had to feel spot on over such a great rhythm section. Getting the voices to blend and sit right was a real challenge, but when we nailed it, it was so satisfying. It turned out to be one of my favorites.

What song are you most excited to eventually get to perform live?

Oh man, is it a cop out to say all of them? I love the fun, rowdy ones, but I also love the close, intimate ones. There is no feeling in the world like playing live music, and I can’t wait until we get to play this whole album.

When you’re able, do you have tentative plans to go on tour?

Absolutely. We toured so hard in Forlorn Strangers that by the end I was really burnt out. Now of course I can’t remember how I could possibly feel that way. You know like Steinbeck says, “In the dry years, people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years.” We are definitely hungry to get on the road again– we play live with a six person band, and we would love to be able to tour this album. Even aside from the music, I feel so at home meeting new people, visiting towns where I’ve never been. There are a lot of difficulties in independent touring, but I really miss it.

What do you hope fans take away from this new album?

Hm, that’s hard to say. Honestly it feels like a huge creative accomplishment to even reach the possibility of people getting something out of it. This album is the most satisfied I’ve been with an artistic endeavor, and so far I’ve just been happy with that. I think we were able to express so much deep feeling in this album: joy, silliness, tenderness, longing, nostalgia, soul searching, rest. Between the lyrics and the music, I guess I hope people feel that too when they listen. It was cathartic to create, and I hope it’s cathartic to listen.

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