The Camden, Arkansas-based rock band from France returns to Bloomington-Normal on Thursday night with an even deeper classic rock sound than they are already known for.
Group leader Drew deFrance told WGLT that the change includes a new member of the group, potentially a game changer.
“Yeah, absolutely. We have a new singer, his name is Charlie Askew,” deFrance said of the singer who appeared on season 12 of “American Idol.”
“He’s an amazing singer who gets a lot of comparisons to Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant and some of the greatest singers of all time. I’m so excited to bring this great rock and roll show to Bloomington.
deFrance said a few band members quit during the COVID era while the rest of the band was ready to have more fun with their rock and roll and guitar work. It also struck them that their new songs could use a bigger voice with more range.
“And it just worked. I knew Charlie was in town and you know, I contacted him and asked if he could come down to the studio and try out some songs and see how it went. And he entered and he succeeded. It gave everyone goosebumps, you know, so we were like, man, let’s move on with this. And we’ve been rocking ever since,” deFrance said.
The group is currently working on their new album “Long Live Rock” and gave WGLT a preview of three songs that will land there, including the title track. It sounds more like their 2019 rock album “Second Wind” than the sequel to 2020’s “No Longer a Stranger,” which incorporated Americana and even Beatle-style pop-rock. The three songs revealed by deFrance definitely sound more like Led Zeppelin and even Rush than Jason Isbell.
“Absolutely, during the pandemic, everyone just wanted to swing around and have fun,” deFrance said. “So we went back to what was fun and it’s not that the Americana stuff wasn’t fun, it was just a different direction and a different art form at that time. I felt like… going from the front… we should just have fun and have fun I got into Deep Purple again, I wanted to emulate that.
“Easy Rider” is the second of three songs he shared. And while it’s a throwback to their classic rock roots, there seems to be even more fun in the songs, figuratively letting their hair down more than before. deFrance said he went back to AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long,” the first guitar solo he learned.
“I really wanted to learn how to rock and play those rock and roll tunes like Led Zeppelin and all those bands that we named. We really got into the idea of a more complex genre of classic rock, but some sets will have a pop sensibility, which is really Deep Purple here. I got really interested in those guys and just tried to get our sound moving more… kinda evolved like they did. Not an imitator or anything, they were just one of my favorite bands,” deFrance said.
Renowned producer Tom Hambridge has signed on to produce this upcoming album. You may have known about his work with Buddy Guy for years. He also worked with Susan Tedeschi in the late 90s when she was solo, and he worked with many, many others. It must have been a studio trip?
“It’s pretty amazing man,” said deFrance. “He’s a great guy and he has great ideas for the production. He really elevated all of our songs and took them somewhere new. I met him through my buddy Charlie Huhn, who is the lead singer of Foghat and ex-Humble Pie. Charlie was also with Ted Nugent. And it was really cool that he was able to give us a bit of mentorship. And it was like, Yeah, I think I can put you in touch with Tom. And the cool thing about that is that Tom had worked with my mentor, Michael Burks, who was Alligator Records recording artist and international blue star. He was also from Camden, Arkansas, just like me and the guitarist,” deFrance said.
When asked to name one of the three new songs as an example of what Hambridge had brought to the recording studio, deFrance revealed that Hambridge had yet to touch the new mixes. What we heard was the already impressive mix of deFrance.
“So we haven’t revealed what we have with Tom yet, but you’re going to be able to hear the difference because Tom just took it to a whole new level because he’s a better mixing and mastering engineer. and he’s got so much more experience with that. He just made the drums bigger. He made the acoustic sound so much clearer. He placed everything differently than I did. I can’t wait for you to hear what he did with those compared to what I did,” deFrance said.
You can get a live preview of these new songs and other favorites from France on Thursday night at the Stable Music Hall and Lounge in downtown Bloomington.