By Gurman Sahota, May 19 2017 —
Hailing from South Carolina and bringing precious southern charm — and a slight southern drawl — NEEDTOBREATHE is playing in Calgary on May 20 at MacHall. The rock quartet is comprised of four childhood friends — Bear and Bo Rinehart, Josh Lovelace and Seth Bolt — who started making music together in college. The Gauntlet sat down with Bolt, the band’s bassist and vocalist, to talk about gigs, tours and what’s in a name.
The Gauntlet: How did the band form?
Seth Bolt: We grew up together. We played sports together and went to summer camp together before we ever picked up guitars. We started playing music probably in high school. We had different bands and then we all came together probably right around college and never looked back. It makes for good chemistry and good collaborations.
G: How has the band changed over time?
Bolt: I think like everybody, the music just inspired us to individually change dramatically. Music is just a conversation the world is having, especially these days where everyone is more connected and everyone is listening to the same music at the same time. We’ve always been open to inspiration. We always put songwriting first. We’ve never thought that the songs that we write necessarily have to fit into one style or genre. We like to see how much musical space we can explore with these songs — sometimes we’ll play several different ways to see what’s best for us.
Our sound has changed a lot over time. We made our first record in England and we’re from South Carolina so we inherently just grew up around a lot of folk instruments — banjos, mandolins, stuff like that. But they told us to be more “international.” I think we later realized that meant “be less redneck.” Our first record didn’t have any of that and then we developed the courage to be ourselves and from there we put a lot of those folk sounds in there. After doing that for several records, we’ve been intrigued recently by the usage of synthesizers and some instruments we just never utilized for making our records. So the sound has gone through a lot of changes over the years.
G: Coming from South Carolina, how has that influenced the way you make music and the way you play when you go to different places?
Bolt: It affected us in a lot of ways. Probably just coming from a really, really small town, we were kind of scared to leave the south because we had this really thick southern accent that other people would make fun of. Our first tour was in the Midwest and just from meeting people [we found that] people enjoy diversity and different flavours. So I think that first tour that we did outside of South Carolina kind of gave us the courage to know that we could do this. Coast to coast, people would embrace some of the southern flavours we had to offer that they weren’t used to.
G: Why did you choose to bring the tour to Calgary?
Bolt: A lot of reasons. We’ve always enjoyed Canada and it’s not often that we get the opportunity to come this way, so we’ve actually been trying to book a Canadian tour for a while now. I the past couple years, we’ve only popped over to Vancouver from Washington, so we miss it.
I’ll never forget the first time we toured in Canada in 2007. Back then we were in a trailer — we’re in a tour bus now. But back then it was a winter tour and the heat broke in our van and the condensation from our breath inside the van froze on the windows inside. So there was frost on the inside of our van and we were all wearing a bunch of jackets to stay warm — it was like we were riding around in sleeping bags. But still, we wake up really early just to look out the window to see how beautiful it is. Our fans in Canada have been absolutely amazing to us. We just really feel the loyalty that blows us away.
G: Have you found any differences with touring in Canada versus elsewhere?
Bolt: Honestly, this tour reminds us of our favourite tour that we did in the United States a couple years ago. Because we’re playing in sold-out theatres and clubs and those are just so fun because you put so many people in such a small space — such an awesome collectiveness. You can look people in the eye, whereas now in the States we play in arenas and big amphitheatres and while it’s great to play for that many people, it’s not quite as personal or intimate. We’ve always said that we actually enjoy touring like this better. It’s kind of a chance to reminisce a little and to also enjoy the moment here, now.
G: Do you find that you have to change the way you perform because of the university audience?
Bolt: No, not at all. We’ve always loved having autonomy with live shows. Any band playing, there’s only so much you can control with how your song does on the radio or who wants to pick up your band and who doesn’t, who wants to write about your band and who doesn’t. The one thing we have control over is our show and we take great pride in putting on the best show that we can. We try to delivery the most entertainment, we’ve got an amazing crew with us. We’re hoping when people come to see it, that it’s the best show they’ve ever seen.
G: Do you have any plans after the tour?
Bolt: We’ve been out now a little over a month so just a little bit of down time at home would be great. We’re kind of a band that never stops, right now we have a single release here in Canada that features Serena Rider — we love her, and now we get the chance to recollect musically. That was a nice treat for us. We’ll be supporting that and then getting ready for a US tour in the fall.
G: How did the name NEEDTOBREATHE come about?
Bolt: It came from a story about Socrates that we heard in college. The story is that one of Socrates’s students was asking him, “how do I know when I’m truly seeking my purpose in life?” And instead of answering verbally, Socrates took him to a little pond that they were near and dunked the student’s head in the water and when he let the student up, the student was gasping for air. He said, “when you want that purpose as much as you need to breathe, that’s when you’re truly seeking after it.”
And, at the time, Hoobastank was already taken.
G: Do you have anything you wish the audience takes away from the performance?
Bolt: So far we have not been let down with the amount of energy and passion that we felt from the crowd and it’s really cool to look out and see everyone and to be in a different country entirely and to see everyone know every word to every song. It’s really fortunate to have such great fans. I think we’re hoping that every night the crowd is ready to get wild and just let go and just surrender to the moment. They’ll be so many people there and all of them come from different backgrounds, different belief systems, different political biases — everything. But for the time that we’re together, we’re all completely bound by the power of music and that’s a really special thing and that’s a moment that’s available to everyone especially if they lose their mind and let their spirit enjoy the music.
Edited for clarity and brevity.