Since the show began almost two years ago, A Change of Tune has highlighted some of the best up-and-coming artists out of these West Virginia hills with podcast-y chats ranging from Heavy-Set Paw-Paws to The Sea The Sea, Qiet to Bud Carroll and beyond.
But those interviews have been a bit infrequent, and since West Virginia Day is coming up (not to mention A Change of Tune’s second birthday), we thought we’d do something special: 30 days, 30 brand new #WVmusic interviews that range from Morgantown alt-rockers and Parkersburg singer-songwriters to West Virginia music venues and regional artist management and beyond, all of which contribute to this state’s wild and wonderful music scene.
And today, we are chatting with Matt Mullins & the Bringdowns, an alt-country band based out of Beckley, West Virginia. But this isn't the band's first #WVmusic rodeo: the five New River Gorge natives (Matt Mullins, Stuart Hill, Bill Fraley, Dylan McInturf, Jason Lockart) have gigged with well-known regional bands like The Boatmen, Atomic Jo, Old School Abbey and From the Future. Which begs the question…
How did the Matt Mullins & the Bringdowns get together as a band?
We're all friends through music, playing the scene in southern West Virginia for the last decade. We came together to help make Matt Mullins' first solo record and, in shaping the songs, we realized we had something special. Stuart Hill demanded we go out and support this record because of how different of a project it's become.
Where does the band name come from?
The term "bringdowns" was brought up once Matt heard the first playback of what we had recorded. There was a sigh of enjoyment. It felt like we all were in different crazy spots in life, but this was a way that we all got brought down together.
How has the band's sound changed over time (if at all)?
The sound of this group is really special to us because we all come from such different groups. But collectively, we have an alt-country "Drive-By Truckers-meets-Afghan Whigs" soul.
Where does the band play in and around West Virginia (venues, festivals, etc.)?
We are based in Beckley, with Sir Walter's Tavern acting as our homebase. But we play The Boulevard Tavern in Charleston, Black Sheep Burrito & Brews in Huntington and The 35th Star in Fayetteville.
We have a solid following throughout the New River Valley of Virginia, playing Roanoke, Radford and Blacksburg frequently. We are booked to play Deep Roots Mountain Revival Festival in Masontown, West Virginia, as well as Bridge Jam Festival in Fayetteville.
What’s been the highlight of Matt Mullins & the Bringdowns' musical journey?
Making the record has really been a huge highlight for all of us. Along with having our first album pressed on vinyl (which is exciting, since all of us are lifelong vinyl collectors), we thought of an extra special idea for our new release: we offered any West Virginia filmmaker the chance to take a song from our new record and make a video for it. At the vinyl release party (August 12 at Beckley's Raleigh Playhouse & Theatre), we will show all twelve videos and introduce each filmmaker and talk about the process that went behind making the videos. In our opinion, this is a pretty neat way to promote ourselves as well as some great local talent.
What’s it like making music in West Virginia?
It has a stigma, for sure, but some of the most pride is in the people that support music. We have all played these bars and venues, but we wouldn't change one thing about how we got here.
Do you feel held back by being in West Virginia? Or does it feel like a musically-supportive place?
We don't feel held back at all. Yes, it is financially tough to be here, but that would be the case in any location. I think that if you bust your hump and get into your craft, it will pay off. Some months can get slow, but it's all about what you put into it. If it were easy to be successful, everyone would do it.
What, in your opinion, needs to happen in the West Virginia music scene for it to move forward?
More people need to donate their time and energy to the arts. If we all support the great venues we already have, we could see the state's music scene flourish.
What’s the band's advice to anyone starting to make music?
Make music that you love. Write with your heart and the right things will happen.
Matt Mullins & the Bringdowns’ latest release is Family.Music.Beer. Keep an eye on the band’s social media for their new album's vinyl release, not to mention the band's summer tour dates. To hear more #WVmusic, tune in to A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic.