by Wade Millward
Southern rock groups Ingram Hill and the Benjy Davis Project joined together for a tour of the college towns of the Southeastern Conference. Ingram Hill is made of University of Memphis friends Justin Moore, the group’s energetic and down-to-earth frontman, guitarist Phil Bogard, and bassist Zach Kirk. The sole constant members of BDP have been the band’s founders, frontman and namesake Benjy Davis and drummer Mic Capdevielle. With it being an SEC tour, though, it would be assumed that Baton Rouge-based BDP and the Tennessean Ingram Hill have engaged in some college sports banter.
“Ha, not yet!” laughs Ingram Hill frontman, Justin Moore. “We went to Memphis so, I guess, fortunately and unfortunately, Memphis is not exactly competitive so that we even need to clash about anything. At least we’ve got basketball!”
The fun-loving musicians are just as friendly as ever despite travelling different routes. Ingram Hill signed on to Disney-owned Hollywood Records in early 2000s, while BDP continued to release recordings with indie labels. During the practice session at the venue they are to play later, however, the musicians show no sign of needing to catch up. In-jokes are shared about their travels thus far, and Davis tries to get a consensus on where to grab a bite before the show while the others debate if The Dark Knight was better than Tim Burton’s Batman. Moore talks about what it is like to see his old pals again.
“Since we haven’t seen each other’s shows in so long, it’s fun to watch them and see where they are. And yeah, we pick up some little nuances, like even the way how Benjy addresses the crowd. I might think to myself, ‘hmm, I might need to store that one in my brain to use on a later day’,” says Moore. “And we’ve had the discussion about how much gear to bring, and how big our trailer is, how small their trailer is (laughs), how much better gas mileage they get. We need to downsize!”
BDP drummer Mic Capdevielle tells the story of how Ingram Hill helped his band get off the ground, ironic given that it is now BDP who is helping the Tennessee rockers readjust to the indie label lifestyle.
“Ingram Hill and us, we first started touring back in ’03. They were definitely in the scene and we were opening for them when we started out,” says Capdevielle. “They were the first band that we actually went out on the road with. That was a really cool thing, and then we sort of lost touch; they ended up signing, doing their own thing, going on their own path. We developed.”
Things then came full circle and they signed with Rock Ridge.
“When we heard we could go on the road with them, it was like, “heck yeah, dude, good to see the ol’ boys back!” says Capdeveille. “We’ve kind of matured since those days, we’ve gotten older. Well actually, I don’t know about maturing, but we’ve certainly gotten older!”
It was Capdevielle and Davis who convinced Ingram Hill to sign with the independent label Rock Ridge Music. Moore tells how the idea for the tour came about.
“We have the same management, and we’ve been friends forever. I mean a long, long time,” says Moore. “When Benjy first got started, they toured around with us. And then after that we would see each other, just crossing paths, but we didn’t tour together. At this point, they had a record come out recently and we have one coming out; it just seemed like a good match, and it gave us a chance to roll around in the south for a little bit.”
The records Moore is referring to were put out this year. BDP’s Lost Souls Like Us debuted At #15 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart in March, while Ingram Hill’s Look Your Best reached the #12 spot in September.
“Every guy had a unique draw about them, but meeting the Lynrrd Skynard guy was just retarded,” says Capdevielle. “It was very cool, very surreal. He just stepped in there real cool-like and kills, lays it down. There was this other guy, Ethan Pilsner, who plays bass. When we’d lay down tracks he’d voice these ideas. He was a big jokester, always known to crack open a beer. There was a lot of stuff to learn from him, for sure.”
Look Your Best is Ingram Hill’s first release with Rock Ridge; before that Ingram Hill was signed to the Disney-owned Hollywood Records label. While at Hollywood Records, Ingram Hill released two albums, June’s Picture Show in 2003 and Cold in California 2007. Moore weighs in on the pros and cons of switching labels and moving to the indie market.
“There’s a lot more freedom involved with indie labels, it doesn’t have to go through 25 people to get approved before it goes to prep,” says Moore. “And the people who work at an indie label, everyone has to do their job for it all to work. Sometimes at a major you’re not priority number one, y’know, so at different sections of the process people tend to slack off and it’s hard to hold somebody accountable.
At an indie label, they’re so much smaller, and the focus has to be so much more in tune, and it helps them make a more successful product, because everyone is working on the same side trying to make a successful record.”
However, Moore does feel the effects of the economic constraint that comes with leaving a major label.
“We certainly miss the huge budget, and lots of money,” laughs Moore. “Big budgets are definitely fun! Gosh, we spent ungodly amounts of money on photo shoots.”
Benjy Davis Project
Ingram Hill (photo one pic by Kristin Barlowe)
“Festivals are always good, just because, for some odd reason, I just feel extremely comfortable playing larger stages with larger crowds,” he says. “There’s a gigantic, diverse market that’s in front of you that you can reach to, verses you might spend one month touring and reach not even half the amount of people. There’s always good music to watch always, and I’m always able to learn from a lot of drummers.”
Capdevielle goes on to talk about the economic side of touring and the positive effects of constant travelling and taking chances on different venues.
“There’s good networking, y’know, you get to meet a lot of people when you sell your product, and you get to meet people from all over the place,” he says. “Like, we played Jazz Fest, which people attend from all over. So you’ll meet a couple that saw you at Jazz Fest, then three or four years later, you might go play a venue, and then the couple who saw you at Jazz Fest will say, ‘hey we saw you at Jazz Fest in ’04! And we loved you, so we came!’”
Ingram Hill will be going on an unusual tour come Jan. of 2011 when they board the eleventh annual Rock Boat. The Moore explains his anticipation for the festival-cruise.
“It’s going to be our fourth Rock Boat, which we are really excited about,” says Moore. “It’s been a few years since we’ve been on it, I can’t even believe how happy I am to be on it again.”
While on Rock Boat XI, Ingram Hill will be playing along with groups such as host band Sister Hazel, Nada Surf, and Needtobreathe. Moore goes on to explain how the Rock Boat works.
“The whole idea is neat. It is non-stop concerts from 1 in the afternoon until when everybody goes to sleep. It’s just like any other musical festival,” says Moore. “You’ve got stages on either side of the boat, you’ve got to pick what shows you want to see, and as the artist, we play one show a day and then we’re on a cruise! You play your show and then you can be irresponsible for the rest of the day!”
Moore, like the music-loving cruisers he will be entertaining, has his own wish list of artists he can’t wait to see.
“I’m pretty excited to see Green River Ordinance. Those guys have a buzz going on about them, and I hear them on XM Radio all the time, but I’ve never seen them live,” says Moore. “A lot of the people on there are already our friends: we’ve toured together and I’ve already seen their shows. That’s not to say I’m not excited about seeing them, but there’s a lot I’ve never seen before.”
BDP have also made an appearance on the Rock Boat. They were on the cruise-festival last year, where they met Lost Souls Like Us contributor Slim Gambill of Lady Antebellum fame.
“We were on rock boat, but we’re not doing it this year. It’s fun, it’s a good time, we had a good time doing it,” says Capdevielle. “It’s kind of, “whatever”; if we get to do it again, then that’s cool. I feel like there’s a curse though, like if you’re on there all the time, you just become ‘blah’, bland. Any fan who likes it goes back, so the same group just keeps going back to see you again and again and again. Sometimes it’s just fresh to do other things. I mean, well, truthfully, we weren’t even invited back. But, hey, I don’t give a shit. Yo, make sure you write that!”
Both groups have tried to reach more fans through online promotion. BDP made a free “sampler” of their music available for free on Amazon back in July. Titled Paper Trails, the mix featured their greatest hits as well as one new song, Raining in Me, and a track from their latest album.
Ingram Hill has taken a different and more humorous approach to attracting online listeners. On their website, they have released their covers of chart-topping pop songs, including Chris Brown’s With You and Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl.
“I think it’s kind of fun. I mean, it’s silly,” says Moore. “To take a song like that, I think it’s necessary to totally deconstruct it, because there’s no sense in me trying to sing like Chris Brown. And believe me, the comments on those videos; I’ve been bashed for ‘ruining’ Chris Brown’s songs.”
While Ingram Hill’s fans may be pleased by their online covers, the group has earned its critics. Moore pays them no mind.
“Some people get very anti-cover; I think it’s a fun way for people to hear about you, if it’s on YouTube or whatever, and then maybe they can check out your other stuff. And if you’re playing a show, and then you break out a cover, people tend to get excited. If it’s a song everybody knows, then they’ll say, ‘oh, isn’t this cool!’”
Ingram Hill guitarist Phil Bogard then tells of Moore’s brush with greatest as a result of his web antics.
“After the Chris Brown song, Justin got contacted from this lady,” says Bogard. “She says, ‘Hey, I really like this. I have this guy who helps us on YouTube, he helps my son. If you’d like any help, he charges some, but he’s done some good things for my son. So Justin says, ‘Aw, this is just some crazy lady,’ and ignores her. And then it was Justin Bieber’s mom, without question.”
While Ingram Hill gets readjusted to the indie world they have been away from, it is certain that they have their Louisiana pals to count on. And though the toil of touring is best known as the cause of notorious band break-ups, it’s nice to see that musicians can be reunited on the road.