Nashville-based alternative rock band Bluphoria is back with a bang! Frontman Reign LaFreniere sat down with Atwood Magazine to chat all things twists of fate, road tripping, and rock n’ roll history.
Stream: ‘Bluphoria’ – Bluphoria
I’m still finding that power, of that history and that heritage, in the music itself. I’ve finally gotten past the point where I’m hating the fact that I make rock n’ roll.
Effervescent, gritty and groovy, the alt-rock collective Bluphoria is making massive waves with their debut self-titled album. The four-person band create tracks that transcends genre, taking inspiration from everyone from Elvis Presley to Deftones, delivering dynamic soundscapes that leave listeners moved – inspired, and wanting more.
Based in Nashville and fueled by spirituality and kinship, Bluphoria formed in 2019 and consists of frontman and lead guitarist Reign LaFreniere, bassist Rex Wolf, rhythm guitarist Dakota Landrum and drummer Dani Janae.
After the fates aligned for the band in their native Eugene, Oregon they have only continued to skyrocket to success with their alternative rock hits “Set Me Up” and “Ain’t Got Me.” Bluphoria tell classic tales of heartbreak and miscommunication in a fresh blend of sonic influences.
Waitin’ here, for your call
Like I got some shit to say after all
Don’t cast these stones and hide your hands
And act like we were ever friends
Why don’t you just
Set me up
Come on tell me what I did
To mess it up
Why don′t you just
Set me up
Come on tell me what I did
To mess it up
There is an ineffable electric energy about Bluphoria that is absolutely intoxicating to watch, frontman Reign LaFreniere sat down with Atwood Magazine to chat about the joys of live performance, bandmate bonding and synesthesia.
Bluphoria is out now via EDGEOUT Records / UMG!
A CONVERSATION WITH BLUPHORIA
What is the Bluphoria origin story?
Reign LaFreniere: We were all up in Oregon and we kind of met coincidentally. I ran into Dakota at a house show, we weren’t in the most diverse place, so he and I were pretty easy to spot. He walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, another black guy!’ *laughs* And then we got to talking about guitar and he joined the band not too long after that. Rex actually came to one of our shows when it was just me, Dakota and another friend of ours, and was blown away by it. Two days later, he joined the band. And then Dani interviewed me for a podcast a year after that and joined the band as well. So we met each other randomly and through the fates ended up in this band.
That really is some divinity from the universe. What are the odds!
Reign LaFreniere: Yes, 100%. We’re all very spiritual people in that sense, too. And it only got bolstered by our trip to Sedona on our way to Nashville the first time.
What was that trip?
Reign LaFreniere: All four of us drove across the United States to Nashville, through a blizzard. We stopped in Sedona and I mean, if you haven’t been to Sedona, Arizona, it’s a great place. It turned Rex, who I wouldn’t say is spiritual at all, into a crystal guy. Dani and I got spiritual readings that matched up perfectly. So that should speak to the extent of our spiritual experience there.
It’s written in the stars. All four of you bring something really special to the sound and dynamic of Bluphoria. What is one aspect each member brings to create that unique psychedelic/ surf rock sound?
Reign LaFreniere: Rex always holds it down with these amazing baselines. He plays the bass, like a 40 year old man who’s been playing his entire life, you know what I mean? Sometimes I’ll hear him play and it will shock me because I’m like, how did you come up with that? How does that come naturally to somebody who’s technically somebody who’s a grunge rocker. He’s obsessed with the 90s. But he’ll have these beautiful, beautiful riffs. And then Dakota always brings that whimsy to it. He’s got a certain type of guitar playing with his riffs that I feel really makes us sound unique. And then Dani brings her punk drumming, which we toned down a little bit, but it still brings the energy to songs that would otherwise be a little more downtempo which is really great. It’s this eclectic mix. We’re all fighting our inherent nature with songs. Like I love writing ballads and slow songs. Every song that I’ve written for this band started off as a really slow song and then it turned into what it is because we all contribute a part of our identity into the music and I think it makes a good sound.
I think you can hear that in every song, there’s a level of collaboration and genuine joy. Is there a certain song that when you first brought it to the band, you never would have expected it to transform the way it did?
Reign LaFreniere: “Set Me Up” is a great example of that. It was the most recent song we wrote for the album. I went into the studio with it being a super slow, soft song and then turned it into this angry, angry breakups song. Then, second to that would be “Pretty People.” I had this yacht rock thing in mind when we made that song. I didn’t expect it to turn out as good as it did. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record.
Every song that I’ve written for this band started off as a really slow song and then it turned into what it is because we all contribute a part of our identity into the music and I think it makes a good sound.
I love how you were talking about how you all bring your identity to the music. There was a press release put out a little bit ago where you’re quoted saying, “I wrote these songs as a black man making rock ‘n’ roll in America, Rock 'n' roll started as a black art pioneered by black men and women. I'm taking my people's music back.” That's a rad and extremely profound statement, what’s a piece of Black rock n roll history you carry with you or like you'd love more people to know about?
Reign LaFreniere: That’s hard. I honestly should verse myself more in Black rock n’ roll history. Moving out here to Tennessee and learning so much more about Black Rock and how it grew – there’s actually this amazing museum here in Nashville: The African American Music Museum. It goes into Memphis and Beale Street and how impactful a lot of these artists like Chuck Berry and Big Mama Thornton are. The impact that they had on music and rockabilly, turning country into rockabilly and all that stuff. One of the biggest things that I didn’t realize too, is one of my biggest idols, Jimi Hendrix, literally lived up in Nashville. It was a funny thing for me, because I was walking around and there’s all these Jimi Hendrix murals and I had no knowledge of him being here. I’m still learning a lot myself.
I’m still finding that power, of that history and that heritage, in the music itself. I’ve finally gotten past the point where I’m hating the fact that I make rock n’ roll. I’ve accepted that it is an art form that I should be allowed to make, and it shouldn’t be an expectation that I do something else. And there’s so many Black artists that are also [making rock] music as well and I am just happy to be a part of it. Artists like Black Hippy and Benjamin Carter, I mean, it’s a great time.
You had a chance to play Hendrix's guitar in the creation of this album. What was that like for you, considering he's such a profound bit of your music history?
Reign LaFreniere: It was kind of wild. It was just handed to me. I was so geeked! I knew I couldn’t mess up the part I played on “Columbia.” I took two takes with that song, I don’t feel like I messed up at all! I was so locked in. I was like, ‘I’m playing Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, I can’t screw this up!’ It was really amazing to be able to be a part of that history and hold that history and put it towards my own music, I’ll always cherish that moment.
Speaking of other things that inspire you, you've spoken a lot in the past about how visuals and films inspire you. If you could put any of your guys' tracks on any film what would you feel drawn toward?
Reign LaFreniere: You’re asking some really good questions. That’s a hard one because I feel like I used to make a lot of short films. So I feel like I would be a stickler about it and I would want to make a completely independent work. But if I was going to choose a song, I feel like “Pretty People” would be good in one of those A24, indie, coming of age films. Lady Bird keeps coming to my mind, but I don’t know.
I think Lady Bird would f with your guys' stuff.
Reign LaFreniere: It would definitely be on that track. Oh, or “Columbia” for some crazy scene.
Is there a music video idea, or visual aspect you would love to create with the music?
Reign LaFreniere: I really want to do one of those music videos where it essentially is a short film. I think it’d be really interesting to flesh out a song like that and to be able to create this world around it. When I write music, I tend to have a visual idea with it. I associate all of my songs with a certain color and a certain vibe and a certain visual. I really want to do a Western. I’m a big Western fan. And I want to make a song that would make sense for that. If I had all the money in the world, I’d be making a little short film for each one of these music videos.
Y'all were so pumped about the release of “Columbia.” Was there any other track on your self titled debut album that you were excited for it to be in other people's hands?
Reign LaFreniere: “Columbia” was a huge one for us, it was so high energy and different. And then also, this technically wasn’t the same album cycle, but I was really stoked for the Christmas song. My band was not but I love that song. [laughs] I got to do all my Elvis shit on it. I really enjoyed it. “Set Me Up” was also one of our most anticipated ones because it was our first song we released in, effectively, two years. It was nice to tailend the singles releases with “Columbia,” because we were just very, very passionate about that song.
You guys also re-recorded one of your songs, “Something More” for this album. What was that experience going back in the studio to reimagine the song with your current lineup and current sound?
Reign LaFreniere: Yeah, it was interesting because I wanted to stay true to how the song was recorded and how it was made previously. But with how much we’ve changed, it’s kind of hard to do that. A lot of that studio experience I spent being like, ‘This is how we did it before,’ and I came to realize that work is still up there and it’s gonna be up there, so why not just do a new spin on it. So we decided to make it a little bit dirtier, less indie pop and more of a deeper track. It felt fuller to me.
What was the process of putting together the album to be this cohesive piece rather than standalone singles and projects in the past?
Reign LaFreniere: It was a long process. We wrote a lot of songs for this project. It was around 50 to 100 songs, we were naturally weeding them out. We’d hear them, we’d be like, ‘how much do we like the song?’ and then ‘how much does it make sense with the rest of the songs on the projects?’ It’s hard to write a bunch of songs and have to dwindle it down to just 12. But it became second nature to us.
When I presented “Set Me Up,” for example, we had another song that was going to be on the album, but it had nothing, content wise. It was a complete departure from the rest of the music, lyrically, and thematically and it didn’t feel right for that project. So we replaced it with “ Set Me Up.” There was a lot more deliberate action in that, but there was a lot of feeling it out and being decisive in an emotional sense.
You were saying you assign songs to colors, does the album have a color scheme to you?
Reign LaFreniere: Definitely a sun orange. Like a deep orange or red vibe to me. I tried to get that vibe in there but we had to go with the cover we went with, which I really like as well.
What was a standout moment in the creation of this album?
Reign LaFreniere: The journey to make it was very memorable to me. Other than playing Hendrix’s guitar, meeting Mark Needham, and then being in Nashville and that studio environment, it was the journey there. The feeling we had going into it was such an amazing and transcendent experience. We recorded the album and then sat on it for a year. My most impactful moment was just the drive to Nashville. That drive alone fed so much into the music, the music sounds almost road trippy, and it has elements of road trips in it. I feel like that’s a collective outcome of our experiences.
Did you feel like that road trip to Nashville was the catalyst to this album?
Reign LaFreniere: Pretty much. If we had flown in, it would have been a completely different feeling going into it. That was the first time I had seen most of America and just being able to see that landscape, realizing how huge this country is. People really be living in the middle of nowhere! Like places you didn’t even know existed.
Being able to experience that really made it way more impactful rolling up to Nashville. When we drove through, you have to drive through Oklahoma and all these parts of Texas, so Nashville looks like an oasis in the desert. We pulled up to the river and the AT&T building and we were like, ‘okay, this is where we’re making our album’. We were all super stoked. I think having that experience really morphed our decision making in the album.
Speaking of an even longer road trip, you guys are now going to go on a co-headlining tour. In three words, how are you feeling?
Reign LaFreniere: Stoked, scared and anxious. But with anticipation. It’s going to be the longest I’ve not been at my damn house, so it’s gonna be interesting and I’m really stoked to be on the road again. I just wish I could bring my cat with me!
My most impactful moment was just the drive to Nashville. That drive alone fed so much into the music, the music sounds almost road trippy, and it has elements of road trips in it. I feel like that’s a collective outcome of our experiences.
You guys have spoken a lot about how playing live creates a completely different energy. Is there a song that you're really excited to create that live adaptation for?
Reign LaFreniere: Definitely “Columbia,” “Ain’t Got Me” and “Walk Through the Fire” just come off completely different off of the record. There’s more energy, more interaction with the crowd. I’m currently working on trying to get a live thing going, you know, a little live project to put out before the tour. I definitely want people to know what our live show sounds like before they show up. I’m just so excited for people to hear that.
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© Jena Yannone
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