"When we get on stage, I feel like that’s where we’re supposed to be… that’s what we’re supposed to be doing."
And today's interview is with a folk-fusion band out of Charleston who command the stage with Appalachian rock, old-time jazz and even a few theatrics. This… is The Company Stores.
The Company Stores’ latest release is Little Lights. Find their tour schedule and check out their music on social media. Hear more #WVmusic on A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Connect with A Change of Tune on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic and subscribe to our RSS / podcast feeds.
On forming The Company Stores:
Matt Marks (guitarist): I started working at Charleston’s Pies & Pints in 2012, and Casey [Litz] started a couple of months after. It was a slow day shift, and we were talking about music, she said she wrote songs and played open mics. I told her I’d been writing music for a while, and we decided to get together. She came over to my house and started singing and as soon as I heard her voice, I was like, “We need to start a band.” I grew up playing music, and I was always interested in it, my dad was a pastor. I started playing drums at five, and then at 8 or 9 years of age I got bored with that. The violin didn’t stick. I started playing guitar when I was 14.
Casey Litz (vocalist): Before that, I had been playing open mics by myself, and I’d really been looking for a guitar player. And that day at Pies & Pints, I was talking to one of my tables about how I played music, and they were like, “Oh, you know one of your other employees plays music, too.” I was playing less than a year before I met Matt, and I always wanted to sing and I was learning guitar. I grew up in Lincoln County, but I went to George Washington High School [in Charleston], so I spent a lot of evenings on a farm in the middle of nowhere. We were allowed to do one thing on the weekends since it was too much driving. And I was never that interested in music in high school; it came later on.
On the band’s new record Little Lights:
Marks: It’s hard to incorporate everything from the record into one direct message; it touches on a lot of different things. But the title track “Little Lights” is about my best friend who passed away in 2016. He committed suicide. And this song is a realization that I came to during the mourning process. Brian was his name, and even though he’s gone physically, there are certain parts of him ingrained in my personality. There are things I say, phrases I got from him, things that I do.
One of my favorite authors is Stephen King, and if you read a lot of his books, they talk about how kids growing up have this tight unit that is hard to break, and whenever they get older, they still have that connection. For me, it was like I could look at my friends and see him in all of us. So in a way, that part of him is never going to die and will be passed on to other people. The more time you spend with someone, the more you affect them. Casey knew Brian before she ever met him through me. So I took the “This Little Light of Mine” hymn and incorporated it into our light, our being, having an effect on the people we touch, and that goes on even after we’re gone. It’s how much we choose our light to shine.
Litz: Matt has written a lot songs on this album, and he’s gone through so much change, and I’m grateful he’s able to take all that’s going on and putting it into this outlet that’s music because I think it’s really healthy. Once you hear his stories and then hear our songs, I think it’s really inspiring.
On making their Mountain Stage debut in February 2017:
Litz: For me, it was a point I will remember for the rest of my life. I was also so nervous! We’ve played hundreds of shows, but this was a different kind of show. It was so cool to see everything that went into the production. Mountain Stage has been an all-time inspiration for why I wanted to start playing music. I remember going to a show with my dad and thinking, “I want to do that, I need to do that.”
Marks: It was so short [laughing]; it went by so quickly. I was trying to savor it as much as I could, trying to soak everything in.
On the future of the band:
Marks: We definitely don’t want to plateau so we’re touring a lot more, we’re hitting Nashville, Lexington, New Orleans, Tampa. We’re going to try to keep expanding our radius. There’s been some talk about relocating, but we’re going to try to figure out what’s right for us and right for the band. We always want to keep climbing. We played Orange Peel in Asheville last December, and the promoter was like, “I didn’t know West Virginia had music like that. I wish I had known.”
Litz: This is where the band is supposed to be for now. Playing in Charleston and being from here has kept us grounded and humble, but personally I think we’re ready to spread our wings and get out there. You have to keep pushing yourself.
Music featured in this #WVmusic chat:
The Company Stores- “Little Lights”
The Company Stores- “So Good”
The Company Stores- “Shenandoah Fall”
Support for 30 Days of #WVmusic is provided by Kin Ship Goods, proud supporter of DIY music and the arts. Locally shipped worldwide at kinshipgoods.com.