[Photo by: Jimmy Fontaine]

“Anxious, honestly,” singer/guitarist Spencer Stewart of alt-rock trio the Band CAMINO candidly shares over Zoom when I ask how the band are feeling about their self-titled debut. “We’ve been sitting on it for a while. I don’t know what to think about it anymore. I’m nervous to see how people…” Stewart trails off and looks at drummer Garrison Burgess and singer/guitarist Jeffrey Jordan, who are sitting on either side of him in a Nashville rehearsal space. He cracks a smile. “I mean, obviously, I still think it’s good.”

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After six years together, initially cutting their teeth playing gigs in Memphis venues, the Band CAMINO (who first took on the moniker Camino because, as Jordan shares, “it would look good on a T-shirt”) recently released their first full-length. The energy from the other side of the screen feels humble, a little nervous, but mostly excited to share the truest version of themselves and their sound with the world. “It’s been a long road to getting to where we are now,” Jordan explains. “This album is the pinnacle of our existence.”

The band spent a little more than a month in the Texan desert, recording songs at Sonic Ranch while leaning into the undivided attention of producer Jordan Schmidt. With a backlog of bittersweet, revelation-laced lyrics that came to the surface during lockdown, the trio started down a road of making the best music they could, without the distraction of the outside world.

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What they arrived at were 14 tracks that confidently shift from sentimental ballads (“Sorry Mom”) to rock revelries (“1 Last Cigarette”) and energetic pop romps (“I Think I Like You”) without missing a beat. That embrace of the full spectrum of their sonics seems to be a path they’ve been subconsciously heading down all along.

“It was a happy accident that Camino means way or path in Spanish,” Jordan shares. “We chose the band path, the band way. Full circle, it ended up having more meaning than we ever intended it to.”

How was your approach to creating your debut different from previous releases like your EP tryhard?

JEFFREY JORDAN: [With] tryhard, there are no ballads; there are no slow moments. It was our first thing after signing a deal and our first major thing we did with our producer Jordan [Schmidt], and we wanted to come out with no snoozers, all just uptempo, in-your-face, heady songs for the album. We definitely have a lot more room to breathe [this time], and there’s balance. There’s vibey shit. There’s weird shit. It’s more of a whole glimpse of the music we like and what we wanted to make.

GARRISON BURGESS: I feel like this go around, we had way more songs to pick from. We spent the last year before we even got to the record knowing we’re probably going to do this, [so] let’s all write. So six months before we went down to El Paso to record, every single one of us, whether it was together or co-writing, was writing almost five days a week and just crunching them out. It gave us a lot of things to choose from and think through. I feel like that was another benefit to the last year and making this album versus previous recordings.

What was going on emotionally that seeped into this record?

SPENCER STEWART: It would have been a completely different record have last year not happened, but it gave us time to explore. We were writing so much. It gave us time to explore ideas deeper and deeper. We just got to go down the rabbit hole on a lot of these ideas. [With] that song “Look Up,” it’s more about taking your eyes off your phone and looking at the world that’s right in front of you and living in the moment. We had the ability to get more into messages we haven’t previously spoken about in our songs.

These songs are all very self-reflective. When you’re writing, is it a cathartic process? Does it feel like therapy?

JORDAN: Definitely. It depends on the song, too. “Roses” is one of my favorite songs, one of my favorite writing sessions I ever had. I remember being so happy after that because I felt like it was a pep talk to myself. It was reminding me to be more appreciative. That was one of the songs that was written before quarantine actually, before any of this mess ever started. We were sitting on that song, and as we came into what 2020 was, we were like, “Wow, this means even more now.”

STEWART: I think “1 Last Cigarette” was the same way for me personally. The general ethos when I walked in the room, everybody was in a really strange… It’s hard to say, but they were all slumped like, “I don’t know if I even want to be here today.” This was a Thursday, and we were picking songs on Saturday for the record. We were like, “I don’t give a fuck. Let’s write a song. We’ve already written all the songs that are going to be on the record anyway.” That attitude spilled into [“1 Last Cigarette”] in general. There’s a laziness to it. I think that reflects how we were feeling at the time. 

JORDAN: That whole situation was hilarious. We were sitting down with our manager and our producer, going through all the songs we had in this Dropbox folder like, “OK, what is everyone thinking? What 14 songs are we going to take down in Texas and record?” And Spencer is like, “Oh, by the way, I have this song I finished yesterday.” It was “1 Last Cigarette,” which ended up being the second single off the record. I didn’t hear that until [that day], and I already had in my mind, “These are the 14 I think we got to record. I’ll die for these.” There are so many songs that didn’t make the record. We could have made four different albums. I hope we made the right one. I think we did.

What message do you hope fans and listeners receive when they hear your album?

JORDAN: I just hope people feel understood. There’s a song called “EVERYBODYDIES,” which is kind of dim, but everybody dies. Our lives are short. It’s a similar message to “Roses” in a way. And there are also a lot of sad songs and super-vulnerable [songs] like “Sorry Mom.” For me, my favorite songs are when I am like, “Wow, they articulated something I feel that I didn’t know [could] be put into words or put into a feeling that way.” For me, what motivates me to make music is to hopefully pass that feeling along to others.

This interview appeared in issue 398, available here.