Last year, Rosco Bandana reached a very important milestone in their young career: They got to play on a stage with lights.
Yes, it was a big moment for the seven-piece band from Gulfport, Mississippi, especially since said stage was in London, and they were playing the annual Hard Rock Calling festival (also on the bill: the Killers, Bon Jovi, Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart). What's more, they had earned the slot after winning the Hard Rock Rising battle of the bands, a victory that would also earn them the distinction of being the first act signed to Hard Rock's new label. So, yeah, there was a lot going through their heads that day ... but let's start with those lights. They were a big deal.
"It was a great stage; it had lights and everything!" vocalist Jennifer Flint laughed. "When you have lights on stage, it gives you such a good feeling and energy. That helps a lot. We're from Mississippi, and we don't have that kind of stuff down there. We play in little bars and dives, not even stages. Like, back then, we were used to playing in the back of a restaurant."
"We never have a professional sound crew or even working monitors sometimes," percussionist Barry Pribyl Jr. added. "Usually, it's [bassist] Josh [Smith] playing and mixing at the same time; it's pretty intense. So, man, a sound crew, and lights ... they were luxuries."
And after spending years sweating it out on tiny Mississippi stages — "We'd usually play three- or four-hour shows," Flint sighed. "That's just what you had to do" — you can certainly understand why Rosco were blown away by that London gig ... not to mention the, uh, reception they received from the locals, who tend to have a thing for scruffy Southerners (just ask the Kings of Leon).
"[Singer] Jason [Sanford] and I got into a little mischief there ... nothing I can get into here," Pribyl winked. "We really got the hospitality of all the Londoners, and we ate tea and biscuits every morning."
And it would appear that the good times may keep on rolling Stateside, too. Their one-year deal with Hard Rock Records — which begins with the September 25 release of their debut, Time to Begin — has led to their first-ever national tour (it kicks off September 20 in Atlanta and runs until November) and raised their profile exponentially. And, at the very least, it'll make the gigs of their past a distant memory.
"One of the venues [we used to play], the Julep Room, it has six-or seven-foot ceilings, and it fits, packed out, like, 20 to 30 people," Pribyl explained. "And one night we packed the place out and we were all so excited, like, 'Man, this place is packed!' And then we went in there the next day and looked at it empty and realized how small of a venue it was, it was a little embarrassing ... we made, like, nothing at all and there was nobody there at all. So it's quite a change to be playing on big stages and have a light system and an actual sound guy who can do the sound right."
But how far can Rosco go? Well, thanks to their new deal ... and the success of bands like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers, the time appears right for their mix of widescreen vocal harmonies and broiling bluegrass. And depending on which member you ask, they're either preparing for a life on the road, or a world-uniting smash. Either way, it's better than playing restaurants in Mississippi.
"My goal is to solidify something and make this go as long as it possibly can," mandolin and lap steel man Jackson Weldon said. "I've wanted to do this my whole life, and so making it a lifelong thing is what I want. I don't really care how big it gets, I just want to keep it going."
"Nah man," Sanford smiled. "I want to heal the world."