Play It Loud: Nashville Alt-Rockers The Ivins Talk New Single ‘Bloom’, Collaborative ‘Quarantunes’ Album, & More

Rock n’ roll may look like it’s fizzling away at times, but The Ivins make it clear that it’s here to stay. 

In the last few decades, rock n’ roll has shifted towards a mainstream reformation, where the legendary sounds of U2, The Eagles, and Led Zeppelin have been replaced by a new reestablished “rock” that, for how great it is, doesn’t always amount to what we know and love. Not to say there’s anything wrong with the Cage the Elephants of the world, but some of us may find ourselves desperately yearning for the R.E.M.’s and Muse’s that seem to have gone missing from the charts. But you see, there’s actually a lot of bands out there producing the rock music we’ve been searching long and hard for… it’s the act of finding them where we struggle. Luckily for us here in Nashville, and now for you, we don’t have to look too far. 

Branding themselves as “Loud Alternative” (think Silverson Pickups-meets-Catfish & The Bottlemen-meets-Smashing Pumpkins), The Ivins have been doing their part to keep our precious rock scene up and running while containing a sense of relevance and originality.

The band consists of brothers Jim Ivins on guitars and vocals and Jack Ivins on drums, along with Hatton Taylor on lead guitar and Regan Akers on bass and vocals. This year, the guys earned a nomination for Best Alt Rock band at the Nashville Industry Music Awards, while gradually growing their platform as a band of modern transcendence and profound lyricism. 

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Following both the July release of “Composure” and their cover of “Graveyard” by Halsey, which came out earlier this year, the band’s newest single “Bloom” paired with “Composure” are the first two songs in a new singles campaign which will see The Ivins drop a new single every two months. Guitars drenched in a reverberated crunch give the song a distinguishable edge, setting the stage for a 90’s grunge escapade. Akers and Jack balance Jim and Taylor with an equally heated punch, bringing you on a vigorous ride where finding that one special person can finally allow you to, shall I say, bloom? In this tune, we are the flowers that desperately need watering, and sometimes the only way to get it is by the love of another so that we can grow, grow, grow into our best selves. 

We had the opportunity to talk to the guys more about who they are and what they’ve been doing.

So how did The Ivins come together, and did you kick around any other band names?

Funny you ask, because the original conceit of the band was to NOT have our last name in the band name, because most people have a hard time spelling or pronouncing it. The Ivins morphed out of my (Jim) previous project, aptly named The Jim Ivins Band, and that was more of an acoustic pop/rock kind of a band. It was never intended to be called that, for the same reason that I listed above, but we had our first show and didn’t have a name, so our guitar player said, “well since your album is just your name, why don’t we just call it The Jim Ivins Band for now?” Everyone hastily agreed and that was it.

Fast-forward a few years, no one had mentioned it again, we began to get some traction and then – especially with Jack Ivins also being in the band – it became, “wait, why are we called The Jim Ivins Band?” And I hated telling people that that was the name of my band because I thought it made me sound like a narcissist. So when I was living in New York back in 2012-2014, and what became The Ivins and our more anthemic rock sound began to take shape, our goal was to rebrand and get away from our last name. As it turns out, every good band name has been taken.

So after three months of working with our then-lawyer, we landed on Tomorrows. A band name that, according to everyone we know, is the worst band name ever. But everything else we wanted was taken! We stuck with that for eight months and then when we signed with our then-manager, the first words out of his mouth at our first dinner-meeting were, “I love your band, I hate your name, you have to change it, and it has to have your last name because it is unique.” We didn’t like that but figured he knew what he was doing so it came down to either “Ivins” – a la Daughtry – or “The Ivins,” to which I tipped the scales because I thought it sounded more natural coming out of a radio DJ’s mouth. So here we are! 

How does the songwriting process work within the band?

The songwriting process is an ever-evolving thing and that’s what keeps things exciting. For our debut album, 2017’s The Code Duello, it was only me and Jack so we wrote that album together as a two-piece. Now that we live in Nashville and have a full band, we have a very democratic process but, to steal an analogy from Thom Yorke, if we are the UN then I am America (I’ll say pre-2016 America haha). Someone has to be the loudest and drive the conversation, so that leader is me.

Most musical ideas start and end with me, but as we have lived in Nashville longer and our band chemistry has grown more and more comfortable, the process changes. A lot of times the songs come from me in one form and then by the time they get passed around to the other three guys, they evolve and take shape and morph into something even more exciting. And more recently, song ideas are beginning with Jack (drums), Regan (bass) or Hatton (lead guitar) and we go from there and then I just put my lyrics on top. That’s how our next single, “Don’t” – which comes out in late December – happened. Regan sent me a bass line and a temp drum track, I built the song from there, and then the four of us continued to chip away at it. Now nine versions later, we have a finished song. We always keep things exciting in this band.

So your new single, “Bloom,” just dropped less than two weeks ago. What’s the inspiration and influence behind this track?

“Bloom” was the result of an unusually creative period brought on by quarantine. I was deep into writing what became my Quarantunes album – a collaborative, multi-styled album that featured over 60+ Nashville musicians – and, despite having just wrapped up a new album for The Ivins that had taken up two years of our lives, songs that sounded perfect for us started pouring out as well.

Our single “Composure,” which was released in July, came first, followed by “Bloom.” With The Ivins, our primary objective is to push forward our sound and, more broadly, the sound of modern rock music right now, never looking back and always trying to make exciting and interesting permutations so you can never pigeonhole us as sounding like a certain band. This was definitely indicative of “Composure,” but “Bloom” was a rare case of wanting to create something nostalgic. Maybe it was the isolation of quarantine that brought this on, but nevertheless, I was hearkening back to the last gasp of the glory days of the music industry in the early 2000’s where rock bands were still selling millions of albums. I brought the song to the guys and everyone got on board and, similar to how we had done with “Composure,” everyone worked on the song individually at home and we got the song into fighting shape over email. Not exactly glamorous, but it seemed to work for us.

Jack and Regan got into lockstep for the rhythm section and Hatton completely re-wrote the section where the guitar solo was to be and by the end of it, everyone had put their stamp on the tune. Lyrically, being in quarantine with my longtime girlfriend, I wanted to write something to pay tribute to her, while, as Matt Nathanson once said, “not sounding like a Hallmark Card.” So the song is written as a requiem for a lost person meandering through life and how all it takes is one person and one connection to turn it around. As the song says, I consider her to be, “the water that makes all my dead leaves grow.”

Can fans expect to see it on an upcoming EP or LP, or is it a standalone single for now?

So that’s the funny thing that happened in 2020. We had been making an album with Michael Zuehsow (Colt Ford, Cherub) at Keystone Studios here in Nashville for the last two years, and we had the great Robert Venable (Kelly Clarkson, twenty one pilots) mix it, and then the week that Duncan Ferguson mastered it, quarantine began and the world shut down. So we didn’t want to just put that album out for the sake of having it out (we had some big plans for 2020 before COVID ruined everything), so we put it on the shelf for now. And then, as “Composure” and “Bloom” poured out, we inadvertently wrote another album. So “Bloom” is now the first in a new campaign for that collection of songs, where we will be releasing new singles every two months for the foreseeable future. So you better get used to seeing us on your stream!

Where was it recorded and who was involved in its production?

“Bloom” was recorded 100% in individual quarantines and brought to life by the mix of the great Marshall Bastin (3 Doors Down), who also mixed “Composure.” The internet can be really helpful sometimes!

How does this song compare to your previous singles “Composure” and your cover of Halsey’s “Graveyard?”

“Bloom” is definitely different from those two, for the reason I previously described, which is that musically, unlike anything else I/we write, it was intentionally written as somewhat of a throwback. “Composure” was something we thought felt very modern in its immediacy and atmosphere, and felt like the truest representation of what the sound of The Ivins is, while “Graveyard” was just a really fun experiment in deconstructing a song and making it into something new. Instead of starting with the studio version as the inflection point, we began with an acoustic version that Halsey had performed and went from there. It definitely made me appreciate Halsey much more, and personally, I think we did a great job of doing something unique so I hope people check it out!

You also spearheaded the collaborative album Quarantunes, which saw over 50 Nashville artists take part. Can you discuss the vision and the final product?

I am so, so proud of that album. It began very innocently.

During quarantine, I realized I had time to just create. Since I was a teenager, musical creation has always happened in spite of something else – work, school, relationships, other commitments, etc. Now, I could just have the time to write whatever I wanted. Just to write. It sounds silly that that idea would be mind-blowing, especially living in Nashville, but it really was a formative experience sort of reacquainting myself with the act of just writing. I started writing all different types of styles of music, just things that I always loved to hear but never wrote because I have always lived in a band-driven ecosystem.

So one day, I was about 12 songs deep, and one of the songs – what became “Why” – needed a blistering guitar solo. So I called my friend Nick Vallese. He slayed it. So then I thought, “well maybe it needs a real bass line.” So I called my friend Martin Motnik from Accept. He slayed it. So then I determined that since I had half a band, why not fill out the rest? I got Greg Upchurch from 3 Doors Down on the drums and the monster Tom Yankton on vocals to blow the roof off and all of a sudden, I had a real song. So then the idea became, “what if I did that for every song?” It was a massive undertaking and took way more to complete than I thought, but I knew we as musicians were all sitting at home, so why not do something cool that brings us all together that is more unique than the typical “quarantine cover.”

So while it was a humongous undertaking, the songs turned out amazingly, and everyone did their parts in quarantine and there’s 90’s-style rock, there’s R&B, there’s metal, there’s pop punk, there’s weird Radiohead-type music, it’s all over the place but I love it and hope people check it out! 

What is one of the premier milestones The Ivins has seen in their tenure?

First, I would say that seeing our song “Tell Me” score a driver montage on a race on Fox Sports felt pretty cool.

Second, I would say our biggest accomplishment is our tribute show that we started here in town called Grunge Night. As you can probably guess, it is a night dedicated to grunge/alternative music from the 90’s where we take sometimes up to 80 musicians, put them in a blender – a la other recurring tribute nights like Rare Hare, Loud Jamz and the King Thrust shows – and people just learn their parts, show up and play. Seeing the show grow the way that it did in its first year and a half over four shows, seeing how much the Nashville music community grew as a result and then seeing bigger and bigger names come on board each time was all pretty amazing. At Grunge Night 4, which happened what feels like 10 years ago but was actually just January, we had Chris Daughtry perform. And not just that, during the final song of the night, while Jack and I were playing in our Alice In Chains tribute band Into The Flood, he ran out unannounced and sang with us.

Pretty surreal. Only in Nashville!

What does a dream gig look like for The Ivins? Maybe opening for a certain act, a particular venue, etc.

We want to be the biggest band in the world. Period. So a dream gig would be headlining any of the major venues in Nashville and beyond. Whether it’s The Basement East, The Ryman, Marathon, Bridgestone or Nissan, we want it all! But opening for Foo Fighters or Smashing Pumpkins or The Struts would be a nice starting point.

What are three of your favorite Nashville establishments that you routinely support? (coffee shops, restaurants, venues, etc.)

This answer would have been a lot different pre-COVID, but I will just throw a few plugs in; first for Jack Brown’s. I worked there for three and a half years and it’s not only the best burger in Nashville, but just an all around great spot. Hatton works at The Stage so I’ll plug that as well.

And then our home away from home is the best venue in town, The Basement East, which sadly had to be rebuilt as a result of the tornado. Grimey and Phil and all those guys at The Basement are the best people in the world and there’s nothing we want to do more than go play The Basement East right this second. Also, I have a music video show called “Double Talking Jive” on DeTox TV, a new music video network on Roku, and Grimey allows me to shoot my shows at The Basement so again, major shoutout to them!

What might fans expect from The Ivins to close out the year and heading into 2021?

Music, music and more music. This year has been the worst, but it’s oddly been the most productive year of my life and of our band’s. Our first album, The Code Duello, had us sitting around for a while because it was being shopped by industry people, then our new album Conditions took two years to make, which inspired more sitting around, but from now on, we don’t sit. And we have seized the opportunity put in front of us and are cranking out more music than ever, so you’re going to be seeing a lot of us in 2021 and, God willing, if the pandemic ever gets under control, we’ll be seeing a lot of you too!

Thank you so much for giving our music a chance and doing this interview, indie guys like us can’t survive without great people like you supporting the scene! Check us out on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter and hear our music on Spotify, Apple Music and all digital retailers!

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