THE BELIEVERS are a band that effortlessly straddles indie rock and alt-Country, converting listeners nationwide in the process. Now on the brink of releasing their third album, Lucky You, The Believers continue to garner praise from all corners of the music world, described as “what Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Three might have sounded like if they’d jammed with the White Stripes” [David Burke, Rock ‘n Reel Magazine] for their tunes that carry the suggestion of X, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris and Heart at the same time.
At the helm of The Believers are guitarists/vocalists Craig Aspen and Cyd Frazzini, who crossed paths in a chance meeting at the Seattle hipster watering hole the Sunset Tavern – one that Cyd insists was borne out of “divine intervention.” After witnessing a rare acoustic open-mic appearance by Frazzini – a singer more used to belting it out in loud Seattle rock bands – a mutual friend introduced the two. “I was looking for a female backup singer,” says Craig, jokingly adding, “I’m still looking for a way to break it to her.”
Instead, he got a new partner. Hitting it off immediately, the two began meeting every day at another bar where Aspen worked in the daytime, converting it into an unlikely practice space. “Nobody came to the bar before 3 PM, and my shift started at noon,” explains Craig. “So we’d sit at the bar and harmonize for three hours a day, just going over material.”
“Right off the bat, we knew it was something special,” says Cyd. They certainly didn’t waste any time capitalizing on the newfound discovery – within three weeks of that first meeting, Aspen and Frazzini were in the studio with a handful of each other’s songs to record their debut album Row, combining their mutual love of country-rock masters such as Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams with other diverse influences such as Concrete Blonde, the White Stripes and U2.
From there, the Believers gained a backing band, as well as some surprise fans, including Ray Kennedy, the legendary songwriter and producer, known for his work with Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, who had been a major influence on the duo from the beginning. “We were completely amazed when we got a phone call from Ray,” says Cyd, “because we were comparing all our mixes on the first album to his on Steve Earle’s albums.” Kennedy has gone on to master the band’s last two albums.
With Row and its follow-up, Crashyertown –which, Cyd and Craig confess started off as an acoustic album before the songs took on a life of their own – the Believers were swiftly gaining a word-of-mouth reputation as one of the most exciting independent bands in the business. Paste Magazine declared, “Their voices wrap around each other in a beautifully lonesome courtship, belting out over canvasses of anthemic Americana rock and twangy country-folk.” Americana UK called Cyd & Craig “a match made in heaven,” and BBC2’s Bob Harris declared them “brilliant.” The Believers followed up on their UK buzz with a sterling live performance of “Crashyertown” on BBC2’s Blackstaff Sessions program.
It is then with much buzz and anticipation that The Believers are emerging with their newest effort, Lucky You. In a evolution of their work on Crashyertown, the duo set out to make an “edgier” album, but once again bent the rules to accommodate their many eclectic tastes, resulting in yet another collection imbued with a sound that’s part country, part rock, part folk, and truly their own. This time, they were joined by some of their closest Seattle musical allies, including drummer and co-producer Stevie Adamek, and bassist Bill Reynolds, who at the time, was two weeks away from joining hit indie rock band Band of Horses. “We were saying, ‘Wow, this is great – we finally have Bill in the band,’” laughs Craig, “and two weeks later he ran off and became a huge rock star.” In yet another move that brings it all back home, the cover and insert photographs for Lucky You were shot at Seattle’s Sunset Tavern, where Craig and Cyd first met.
Lucky You shows off the band’s now expert versatility at genre-hopping and blending – floating country harmonies over four-on-the-floor rock beats and displaying a particular predilection for the folk tradition of the story song. Indeed, when pressed, both Craig and Cyd say it’s impossible for them to pick out the most “important” song from the album’s 10 tracks. “Every song has a deep meaning behind it for us,” says Craig. Leading with the title track, the album immediately sets a harder, energized rock sound for The Believers, with the two effortlessly harmonizing over an incessant rock stomp reminiscent of X. “The song is about looking back on lost loves with no ill feelings, just a feeling of how lucky you were,” says Craig. On the track, Cyd belts, “Inside your sanctuary/It must be nice to be so very innocent/How lucky you are.”
Elsewhere, “Ring Ring Ring” is a fictionalized Hurricane Katrina story with a real-life parallel for the Believers. “In August 2005, we parked our trailer in our friend’s driveway in New Orleans before we went on tour. We had planned to return to live there after the tour ended,” says Cyd. “The ‘rings’ are the actual rings around the houses left by the watermarks we witnessed when we returned to the city after Hurricane Katrina.” The track is an electrified country barnburner informed by Elvis Costello’s brand of Americana, boasting a catchy chorus comparing the destruction of the city to one of a broken romance: “She had a ring, ring, ring on her finger/It put a sting, sting, sting in my head.”
“Read it and Weep” is a tribute of sorts, to a friend of Frazzini and Aspen’s. “She has a talent for finding bad situations; housing problems, relationship problems, car problems, you name it,” says Craig. Cyd chimes in, “I think it’s really a tribute to a lot of broken people out there.” “Read it and Weep” boasts another example of the Believers’ reliance on happy accidents in their recordings. “At some point, the drums drop out. I think Stevie thought the song was over so he stopped playing,” says Craig, “Initially we thought we’d have to re-do the track, but Stevie started playing again, and it fit perfectly with the distorted vocals that come in at that moment.”
The Believers are preparing to take Lucky You to lucky audiences around the country, making believers out of everyone who discovers their catchy, instantly engaging blend of country and alternative rock. From the Sunset Tavern to the present day, the Believers’ journey continues to be a fruitful and promising one.
Influenced by the likes of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, the Believers’ fine song-writing and assured harmonies also bring to mind Fleetwood Mac at their most convincing. - [New Classics.co.uk]
“An excellent bunch of songs” - [Hi-Fi Plus Magazine, UK]
"The Believers are brilliant.”– [Bob Harris, BBC 2]
"The restless spirits behind the Believers – display a sharp eye for life on the other side of the tracks, elevating their music out of the ordinary.”
- [No Depression]