Throughout my years around the music industry, I’m sure I must have either met, heard or known over a thousand bands. A few have done very well and grown to household names. Many more have worked hard and not quite received that break to put them over the top. The large number gave it their best, but members quit and went on to other careers. Regardless, each band commonly experiences “the struggle”. That great amount of time working hard at their music, and promotional activities, but doing so in the face of great doubt or fear of failure. Such was the case with this weeks’ featured band, The Unlikely Candidates.
The Unlikely Candidates are an indie rock band from Fort Worth, Texas. The band formed in the year 2008. Like almost all bands, TUC started in high school as a musical duo Kyle Morris and Cole Male. A few years later their lineup expanded to five members. What started as an impromptu musical duo that couldn’t play music, and as songwriting partners who had never jotted an original lyric or tune, grew into something serious. Something that might be good.
Their sound toughened by innumerable live shows, they found themselves in New York to pick the best of the offers being extended by several major labels. The Unlikely Candidates committed to Atlantic Records.
Now, many reading so far might feel that The Unlikely Candidates didn’t seem to struggle too much on their way to signing a major record deal. However, the story of the struggle begins right at that point. After a roller coast ride that included a triumphant set at South By Southwest, a run with Bonnaroo and appearances across the U.S., TUC lost its deal following a shakeup at their label.
This is part of the struggle that many fans, as well as young aspiring artists, don’t understand at the beginning. The fact is that just because you are signed to a recording contract, even with a major label, does not mean that the deal will last forever. In fact, the deal may not last long enough to record any music. The Unlikely Candidates even celebrated heartily after signing their deal. They all got drunk, spent a chunk of their hours-old advance at a fancy bar, participated to varying degrees in trashing their hotel suites. “It was stupid and indulgent,” Morris admits. “But we were living out our rock-star fantasy, even if only for this one night. It just had to be done.”
The Unlikely Candidates didn’t let the setback kill their dream. The band went right back to work. “We’ve been poor for years, sleeping on other people’s couches and in our parents’ homes,” Morris says. “We’ve spent years sharing a house in Fort Worth. We played any show we could, even to empty rooms. Because we’re not in this not just for ourselves but to change people’s lives.”
In a city known for stockyards and bull-riding machines, The Unlikely Candidates charted a course that was more likely to change the world than to find them any hometown gigs. Still, when they did get booked, they made sure to present themselves as who they are and not what locals might expect. And it worked. Morris continued, “Once they saw how passionately we play, how wild we can be onstage, they started welcoming us. I remember playing a biker bar in Fort Worth called Tomcat’s. Our stuff was unlike what these guys were used to listening to. But by the end of the night they were buying us shots and we were hanging out together.”
I recently got the opportunity to witness The Unlikely Candidates playing live here in South Florida. They played at the Undertow Jam 2017 at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre on May 28, 2017. It’s always good to hear a band live instead of just music videos and recordings. I always learn a little more about the musicians and the music with the live performance. That was definitely the case with The Unlikely Candidates.
Before I attended the concert, I read many reviews of others and their thoughts about the band’s music. One thing that I found interesting is that some compare The Unlikely Candidates to the band Imagine Dragons. Although I don’t like to compare musicians, it did give me a point of reference. However, I found that The Unlikely Candidates had the propensity to rock a little harder than I thought. That certainly helped them give a balanced show. Kyle Morris is as personable a front man as you might find. The rests of the band are a collection of very good musicians who interact with an audience well.
The Unlikely Candidates continue to perform on a lot of dates. This, as well as the struggle to find success, has seasoned the group well. You can hear it well on their album Bed of Liars. It may be harder than ever to find audiences that haven’t yet gotten behind these guys. Millions have already listened to TUC’s songs on Spotify. They’re on Taco Bell’s Feed The Beat program too. And their second EP, Bed Of Liars, is expanding their base dramatically. Released by Another Century Records/Sony, it’s pure, powerful, eloquent, ambitious, message-driven rock, fueled in large part by Brenton Carney’s input as first-time co-writer with Morris.
TUC has not escaped the critical acclaim of many in the music industry. Not long after the release of Bed of Liars in February 2017, much was written to positively describe the songs found on the EP. Fort Worth Weekly observed that TUC’s “sonics range from Led Zeppelin to The Strokes, with sleek, infectious riffage and smart, catchy vocals.” The Aspen Times described their sound as “indie rock made for stadium-sized crowds … moving from the Mumford-esque acoustic anthem ‘Just Breathe’ to the electro-pop of ‘Ringer.’ And Alternative Addiction lauds “Ringer” as possibly “the most fun alternative rock song of the year … The Unlikely Candidates should be household names right now, the band’s always been that good. With their new EP, they get to prove it. Here’s hoping that in 2017 they earn the rep they deserve.”
What might be the future for The Unlikely Candidates? Their old school approach might bode well for them and those who listen to their music. Kyle Morris took a moment to reflect about the band’s music, “We enjoy and embrace and steal from those great bands from when rock ’n’ roll was in its most shining moments, when rock stars seemed larger than life and songs were so important. Music today is pretty disposable. We want to write songs that people will be listening to 20 years from now because they’ll be that good.”