Knoxville’s Madre ran upon a potentially career-ending obstacle in 2011 and ’12, when vocalist Stephen Osborne moved to Los Angeles to be with his wife, Christine, after she found work there. But while most struggling local outfits might have folded, the members of Madre had a plan. Osborne believed he and Christine would eventually move back to Knoxville, and the rest of the band—guitarist Andrew Sayne, bassist Bryan Norris, and drummer Alex Melin—were committed to reconvening once Osborne returned.
“We’ve all been friends a really long time, and we had this agreement that we’re going to do this as long as we can do it,” says Sayne, relaxing over beer and dinner at an Old City watering hole. “We have a special chemistry, and we’ve had that since the first day we played together.”
That would have been about eight years ago. Madre coalesced in “the dirty part” of Fort Sanders from a group of neighbors and co-workers. Founders Sayne and Osborne met as employees of Chesapeake’s and held an impromptu jam session in Sayne’s Fort Sanders apartment soon after their first hello.
“Stephen came over after work, and it sounded really awesome right away,” Sayne says. “It was like, hey, we should form a band immediately.”
That chemistry is still evident today. Madre’s music has an unfettered yet mature and fully realized quality to it, an exuberant sophistication that belies that fact that no one in the band is older than 27. They bring together bits of bedrock power pop plus some Pixies and Radiohead and some subtle hints of prog, the whole of it spiced with a post-millennial sensibility that makes the nods to classic college rock seem somehow intriguing and fresh.
And on Aug. 30, Madre will release their fourth record—and their second full-length—an eight-track CD with the unlikely title Losing Teeth and Other Strange Dreams. And though he acknowledges that it sounds cliché—an artist claiming that his most recent project is his greatest work to date—Sayne enthusiastically maintains that Losing Teeth is “the best stuff we’ve ever done.”
“It’s way more technical than anything else we’ve put out,” Sayne says. “And it’s more collaborative. Before, either Stephen or I would usually write a song, then everybody else would add their fingerprints to it. Now, we walk into a room and we just start playing together. It’s more organic, letting everybody kind of go for it.”
Sayne says that the band’s year-long hiatus was difficult but probably helped more than it hurt. Sayne spent the time off working with local six-piece jam-rock outfit Grandpa’s Stash, a sojourn that he says helped him become a better guitar player.
“Those guys are so good, they forced me to up my chops,” he says.
And for Osborne, Sayne says the time away with his wife, after the couple had been apart due to her job circumstance, was “really good for him—being his best friend, I could see that he was just not in the right head space.”
All in all: “There was some ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ too,” Sayne adds. “We all grew up a little bit. And I don’t think I will take this band for granted anymore.”
And so Madre stuck it out and got the band back together, literally, when Osborne returned as promised toward the latter part of 2012. And now, with the band on the cusp of a new release, Madre has a new set of goals.
One of those goals is acquiring reliable transport—an objective that goes hand in hand with another goal, that of raising their profile in other cities.
“We’ve done a fair amount of touring, but always in a borrowed car,” Sayne says. “And we’d like to more, maybe land some small-stage appearances at larger festivals. Our main vehicle has always been Stephen’s old van, a 1994 Plymouth Voyager. We’d get all four of us plus our gear and bags in this tiny van. It was like a clown car. We played a show in South Carolina once, and the band we were playing with pulled up next to us. They had a 16-passenger van that made us look like Mini-Me. They were all laying around, comfortable, with snacks and sodas and captain’s chairs. And I’m sitting there having to hug my knees.
“Their set-up looked awesome. And ours was terrible. That’s our big goal for this year—to invest in a new van.”
WHO: Gamenight with Madre and Marina Orchestra
WHERE: Pilot Light (106 E. Jackson Ave.)
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 30, at 10 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $5
MORE INFO: thepilotlight.com