INTERVIEW // The Congress Gets Ready for Album Release Party at The Bluebird Theater

Denver-based rock band, The Congress, celebrates their album release party tonight with The Oak Creek Band and Musketeer Gripweed at Bluebird Theater. Our friend Brianna Hernandez of Early Bird // Night Owl chatted with lead guitarist, Scott Lane, about The Congress’ new album, summer tour plans and living in Denver.

After only a year of touring, you played several high-profile music festivals such as Wakarusa and Jazz Aspen Snowmass. What was your first year of touring like, and which festivals are you playing next?
Our first year of touring was fast and busy. We were going out for five weeks at a time, playing six shows a week with every market being brand new. Lots of crashing on new friends’ floors and couches, sleeping outside or in the van, a narrow escape from murder by Monsanto, that sort of thing. We figured out quickly how to make it work and what to weed out in the future. This summer we are doing Targhee Fest, Snowmass Chili Pepper/Brew Fest, Campout for the Cause, and have others in the works.

You are releasing your debut album this Friday. What was your creative process like and what inspired the album?
We made our EP back in 2010 before the band was playing anything but covers at bar gigs. Every song was started with an acoustic guitar because we didn’t have a “sound” yet, and that was how all the songs were written. It ended up sounding nothing like The Congress at a live show, so for our first full length album we decided to make it centered around our live sound.

Of course, once we finish recording the tracks we like to nerd out on the equipment and get weird, so there’s both an element of live rock and roll and studio psychedelia in there. Lyrically, “Whatever You Want” is all over the place, but I think it is pretty safe to say that it is heavily inspired by the state of social culture and the music scene in general. The opening lyric is “Play whatever you want,” and while I shouldn’t speak for Jonathan as he wrote the lyrics to that song, much of the album’s vibe has to do with some element of pressure to conform to what’s popular and what sells. It is impossible for someone not to feel that pressure in some aspect of life, and we celebrate ignoring that and doing what’s true to us.

How do you fit into the Colorado music scene as a rock n’ roll band in a largely electronic-focused music community?
It is really easy to sell tickets as a dubstep DJ right now, but something else will sell more tomorrow. There’s a cycle to these things in popular music, but there is no cycle of people ultimately loving good music and great songwriting. That is one thing that has remained true throughout all of music history. We’re just going to keep honing our craft and writing music — I think people have enjoyed it so far.

Who are some of your favorite local artists and bands?
Fox Street Allstars’ last album was killer. The Oak Creek Band is writing really amazing songs. I see Jonah Wisneski’s new band The Whales doing great things in the future. The Lumineers are crushing it. I love Science Partner and anything Tyler Despres does.

How has Denver influenced your sound?
Our drummer Mark Levy is from Denver, so I supposed you could say that’s a pretty direct influence. Otherwise, Jonathan and I are pretty true to our Virginia roots — it is who we are. The musical style of Richmond is something I could never break away from, it has to be one of the most talented cities in the country.

What are some of your favorite places to visit in Denver?
I think the whole band would be comfortable calling Lola Coastal Mexican our second home. Also, Patzcuaro’s is the jam, and I love Pho 95 down on Federal. I’ve spent many a late night in the Meadowlark basement kicking it to some killer tunes. That’s a great bar. Back when Tyler Despres and Maria Kohler were running a songwriter open mic there I heard some of the best music I’ve ever heard in this city.

You blend Southern rock, R&B and psychedelia and have been compared to Wilco, Weezer and even Randy Newman. Who do you think you sound like? Which artists inspired your sound?
It is hard to have perspective on your own music and who to compare it to, so I can’t really say what we sound like. We’re all influenced by such a wide range of music – all the classic rock and soul/R&B stuff in the 60s and 70s, current rock bands like Dr. Dog, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Drive-by Truckers and The Black Keys who are writing killer songs these days, 90s hip-hop. Lots of different music.

Jazz is a huge influence although none of us would call ourselves jazz musicians. Classic bands like Rolling Stones, Feat, The Band, Bob Dylan, Shuggie Otis, Otis Redding, Motown/Stax/Chess/Atlantic/Muscle Shoals in general, Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd. I could go on for days, you get the point. We love great records and great live shows in general.

What are your plans with the new record? Will you be touring in support? 
We’ll be heading to the Southeast, Midwest, Northwest, and California this summer, I’m sure. We’re just trying to get it in people’s ears however we can.


Join Unified Funk Option and Early Bird // Night Owl at Bluebird Theater tonight for The Congress’ album release party. Purchase tickets in advance here and receive free tracks from the new album, Whatever You Want.


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