The end-goal is to make as good of music as we can, and to make as many people as happy as we can.
It often takes years for bands to find their niche. Artists are constantly figuring out the most effective ways to infiltrate their musical spheres, and try to make the most of what they have. Specifically, the world of indie and alternative — and, subsequently, indie alternative — has become oversaturated and overcompensated by artists trying to “make an impact.”
If there’s one band within this sphere that has seemingly succeeded in transcending the norm, it is Knox Hamilton from Little Rock, Arkansas. Having first emerged on the scene in 2014 with their bouncy debut single “Work It Out” — which ultimately saw significant airplay on alt radio stations across the nation — the band then released an EP in 2015, but had yet to release a longer LP.
Listen: “Work It Out” – Knox Hamilton
On March 10, Knox Hamilton finally released their long-awaited, highly anticipated debut LP, The Heights. Through a haze of indie luminescence, beatific guitar riffs saturate each shimmering track, curating an affable blend of sounds that prove Knox Hamilton to be a glimmering indie tour-de-force. The album, which includes songs like the sanguine single “Washed up Together” and newer tracks like the acoustic, eponymous “The Heights,” is a cohesive blend of everything the band does best; as a formal debut, it is highly impressive and markedly idyllic.
Atwood Magazine chatted with Knox Hamilton’s lead vocalist, Boots Copeland, via phone a few months back in anticipation of the group’s debut album release. Discussing everything from the group’s song making process, faking it ’til you make it, and getting the best advice from a little old lady, Copeland remained acutely aware of the band’s place in their present music scene. As the conversation progressed, however, one thing became expressly clear: Knox Hamilton are pursuing their passion, and their rise to the mainstream is inevitable.
Watch: “Washed up Together” – Knox Hamilton
A CONVERSATION WITH KNOX HAMILTON
Atwood Magazine: Thanks so much for chatting with me! So I remember you guys saying a little while ago that your band name came from some old yearbook you found in a random store somewhere.
Boots Copeland: Yeah, actually, we volunteered at our church thrift shop, and on our break one time we found this yearbook, and found “Knox Hamilton” the guy, from the class of 1972.
Were you able to ever track him down?
Boots: We met his mother, and we met a few mutual friends, but never actually met the real “Knox Hamilton.”
You should do a show, 'Knox Hamilton for Knox Hamilton.' That would be very meta.
Boots: Oh absolutely.
And you’re all from Arkansas -- do you still currently live there, or have you moved someplace else where you can better express yourselves in your music?
Boots: There’s always been talk of L.A., or maybe even Nashville, but all of our family is in Little Rock, and we’re able to do what we need to do there. We have some studio space there, with some good producer buddies, so we’ve pretty much got everything we need. It’s cool, we love living there. It’s quieter, and much slower than a lot of the places we’ve contemplated moving to.
Is it a cool music scene?
Boots: No, not at all. There is zero music scene. Not much of anything going on.
…if you go to a Knox Hamilton show, you go for a good time…
Maybe you can make something happen, if you stay there. And with your record, are they all new songs, or are you bringing on some old stuff?
Boots: We’re very excited; it’s the big debut. There will be a few old tunes, but we’re trying to put on as many new ones as possible. We’re trying to give the listener the best bang for their buck.
There’s definitely some bootlegs on SoundCloud of some of your older songs, so I was just curious if you were going to incorporate any of them!
Boots: Oh, that’s very cool.
And your songs are very upbeat, and kind of dreamy, in a way. But your lyrics can sometimes be a bit more serious, and not really the same as the instruments. What process do you usually have when it comes to songwriting?
Boots: Sometimes, songs come from lyrical ideas, and especially with me, I will play the guitar or have something in my head and just put it to music. But sometimes the lyrics won’t fit a certain tune, and I won’t use a certain word if it doesn’t go with the sound. So really, just getting the sound right, getting the melody; I think our music and melodies kind of foster more of the actual feeling of the song than the lyrics, sometimes. I’m definitely no Bob Dylan, but you know, it’s a good escape; if you go to a Knox Hamilton show, you go for a good time, and it’s not to get really heavy. It’s more or less to help get your mindset through these situations. We’re there for a good time.
So you start with the instrumentation first, and then do the lyrics later?
Boots: Yeah. Sometimes, melodies can remind you of different things. It can remind you of a city, or it can remind you of a feeling, or a time in your life, and there’s so many different elements that play into it. It’s ever-evolving. It takes you to a different place without ever actually having to leave.
Do you think that you have anything specific that really makes a trademark 'Knox Hamilton' song? Something that separates you from other bands?
Boots: I think the main thing that separates Knox Hamilton is that I’m a terrible guitar player, so the chords that I come up with aren’t actual “chords,” because I can’t play guitar. That brings together the different points, and you have Drew [Buffington], who’s a good guitar player, who’s been playing his entire life, and he’ll kind of put together the jazzy types of chords that can complement what I’m doing. And then Cobo [Copeland], my brother, the drummer, he’s a wholehearted drummer.
It’s a good collaborative effort!
Boots: We definitely never try to be “different,” it’s just our sound, the way we play together. You know, I can play all of my songs on acoustic, and they’ll all sound the same. But you incorporate the whole “Knox Hamilton” song, it gives it that uniqueness.
Listen: “Pretty Way To Fight” – Knox Hamilton
I mean, you don’t have to have it all together. Just fake it 'til you make it.
Boots: That’s our motto, man.
So you seem to tour quite often, at least from what I’ve seen on social media, and you’ve toured with some pretty cool artists over the last couple of years. What’s been your favorite tour memory?
Boots: Oh man. I hate to take away from the intimate club setting, because we do meet a lot of cool people on the road. But the festivals are just amazing, like Firefly and ACL. You just get to hang out and have fun. Those are kind of always in your mind. But that’s not to take away from the intimate setting.
Do you have a dream festival that you’d want to play, that you haven’t played yet?
Boots: I mean, we’d love to play Coachella; or Glastonbury, Leeds, really any European festival. We haven’t played Lollapalooza yet. Luckily, we have hit pretty much all the majors. We’d love to hit them all, but we’ve been pretty fortunate thus far.
You’ve definitely done some pretty cool stuff! Have you been to Europe yet?
Boots: Not yet, we’ve only done North America.
Well there’s nothing wrong with that! So what, then, is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received in terms of music?
Boots: Okay, I have one, and I think I can apply this to music.
That’s fine too, that counts.
Boots: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received, I was laying tile at a house in Little Rock, and I was taking supplies out the the truck, and this elderly lady was sweeping her sidewalk and driveway, and she just started talking to me. We just got chatting, and she told me, “If you are honest, and work hard, you will always have work.” And I’ve never really forgotten that. I don’t really apply to my life 24/7, but for the most part I’ve always remembered that.
The end-goal is to make as good of music as we can, and to make as many people as happy as we can.
That’s great! And you can definitely apply that to music. What, then, is your favorite part about what you do?
Boots: I mean, apart from the obvious stuff, like meeting so many new people, I think it’s really cool for our families — like, my father-in-law, he’s always asking if I’ve written any new songs. He has a very rudimentary understanding of the whole thing — which, I think we all do — and he’s just stuck on it, like, regardless of if they’re good songs or not, how you can just write a song, period. So, getting to do that, I don’t think we realize how cool that is. But it is amazing, city by city, having people who have seen us multiple times. It’s crazy. I don’t think you ever realize that that’s going to be your favorite part, when you’re touring, but it turns out that you’re just forever grateful for people.
It’s the little things! And you seem to have a very tight-knit, core fanbase.
Boots: Yeah, for sure. We’re a fam-ilton.
Good! What is one short-term and long-term goal that you guys have as a band?
Boots: I would say that the short-term goal would be to win a Grammy for Album of the Year, and the long-term goal is to not let this ruin any friendships. The end-goal is to make as good of music as we can, and to make as many people as happy as we can.If there was a single word to wholly describe Knox Hamilton, it would be happiness. Their music, their energy, and their personalities have all proved the band to be worthy of note, and to call them anything less than promising would be an insult. They have decidedly carved out their own unique space within their particular genre, and are confidently — maybe, because as aforementioned, it’s all about faking it til you make it — claiming it as their own.
Catch Knox Hamilton on tour with Atwood favorites Colony House for the next few weeks in support of their release, or check them out on their small headlining tour at the end of April and early May across the U.S.
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Cover Photo: Knox Hamilton (L to R: Coby Copeland, Boots Copeland, Drew Buffington) © Connor North Goad