Artist Spotlight: Genre-Bending Anthems From Kentucky Cuties Wicked Peace

Artist Spotlight: Genre-Bending Anthems From Kentucky Cuties Wicked Peace

We get to know all kinds of awesome music every day, from indie singer-songwriters to pop princesses and more, but it's not often that we hear from a genre-bending Southern trio doing their best independently to jam together and drop anthemic pop-rock tracks to dance to. That's where Wicked Peace comes in. Comprised of siblings Tanner Blevins and Amanda Turner along with college buddy Patrick Brumback, the trio aren't exactly sticking to a script. Or a recipe. Or even a loose set of guidelines. They're just spanning the sonic spectrum, experimenting with outlaw-rap (no, seriously, it's called "The Country Song," and we did not think we'd ever mention anything like it), bubbly pop, pure folk, and a whole lot more.

Formed in a Kentucky dorm room back in 2013, Wicked Peace have since grown into a fully-fledged folk-rock outfit performing live when they get the chance and recording new tunes in between their pesky adult lives juggling full-time jobs. A year after their brainchild was born, the band dropped Conclusions, their debut album, chockful of sweet self-produced indie gems. The effort was worthy in its own right, home to fan-favorite "By Now," but just a few years later, they've really managed to form a more rounded, cohesive sound. 

2016 found the group dropping The Edge, their latest EP, a year after Growing Pain, just ten minutes of a musical rollercoaster. The minute-long "Prelude" opens the record, tropically-tinged guitar rhythms meeting howling vocals for a quick taste of what Wicked Peace are capable of before leading into the EP's title track, powered by folk strums and rock percussion, a high-energy dancealong. "Keep Your Body Moving" comes next, featuring Amanda's airy vocals leading above an insistent percussive-based arrangement, blooming with an emphatic urgency before breaking down into dark dance vibes. The Edge ends with "The Country Song," a bizarre (both bizarre in its musical crossroads and bizarre in that it works, frankly) outlaw-meets-rap track. The instrumentation here is at its most frantic, its rapid-fire energy mimicked by quick-wit delivery spitting above the rollicking strums and claps and stomps.

Two years later, we still don't have another full-length release (though Tanner says that's their end goal and they'll be working towards it with more home recordings), but Wicked Peace have at least been offering a couple killer singles to sate us. Last year, they dropped "All Of Me," a totally addictive little folk-pop anthem. It's not punchy or intrusive; the layers of pulsing, wailing rhythms are subdued enough to lay gently beneath Wicked Peace's most impressive vocals. We get warm ukulele, dazzles of tambourine, and a vibrant horn section, all these soft happy elements that come together for a song begging you to smile. And it will, because it feels like a hug.

Earlier this year, they followed suit with "Halfway," yet another sweet singalong. The track opens with an introductory strum before Tanner wails that hook right away: "How can I love you but still be lonely?," an emotional inquiry before the arrangement builds with layers of lush lead guitar, shaky percussion, and breathy backing harmony. It's an emotional track covering heavy subject matter (you know the drill: love and self struggles in the modern age) made sweeter by those rosy rhythms. 

Wicked Peace's most recent release is "New Addiction," just as grin-worthy and catchy as their previous tunes. Amanda's voice is at its best here, matured and versatile, as she sings a sugary love song over warbling bass lines and quick-tempo drum beats. It's a close-to-the-heart kind of song, and you can tell, because the arrangement feels more tender and thoughtful here than in other tracks. In case you're not convinced, just watch the music video, a beautiful visual covering Amanda's real-life wedding to the band's manager, Adam Turner. 

The members of Wicked Peace are doing it all. They're not settling for just a DIY release or a radio-ready single -- they're just jamming hard and writing their hearts out. The result is an unending collection of playful anthems chockful of snappy rhythms, shared vocal talent, and a whole lot of love.

We're stoked to have had the chance to chat with Wicked Peace about Kentucky's church-and-country habits, their musical evolution, and favorite musicians. Connect with the band on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourselves and your music?
Tanner Blevins:
We’re Wicked Peace out of Lexington, KY, with roots in Morehead, KY where we all went to college together. Pat and I shared a dorm hallway where we heard each other playing one day and started talking. We added my sister Amanda on board and called ourselves a band!
Patrick Brumback: We’ve always played loose with genre and left it to others to tell us what we were. We’ve been called everything from pop-rock to Americana to the catch-all “indie rock.” Hopefully whatever we are, it’s good to your ears.
Amanda Turner: Tanner and Pat also both have media backgrounds, so we’ve been lucky enough to handle much of our videography/photography/design ourselves. We’ve just built ourselves a home studio as well, so we embrace the do-it-yourself approach to creating whenever possible.

TMM: Describe each other using just one word each.
Tanner is loud (in mostly good ways) and Amanda is quiet (but can belt it when she needs to).
AT: Tanner is creative and Pat is kind.
TB: Pat is a cigman and Amanda is a dogmom.

TMM: What’s the music scene like where you originated in Kentucky and how has it influenced your work at all?
When I was younger, the only music scene in Owen County was church music, but it’s changing and becoming more accepting now so it’s nice to go back and get loud. Jamming with my family was the only music influence I could find, so playing in a band was a big dream of mine growing up.
AT: The music scene seems to have grown in recent years, but there weren’t many local shows to go to growing up. Country music is definitely the go-to in our area, and a lot of music of various country artists have influenced the way I’ve written certain songs.
TB: There have been some major country acts come out of our "home" of Johnson County, Kentucky, from legends such as Crystal Gayle and Loretta Lynn, to modern acts like Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers. I didn't understand the importance of my hometown to country music until I started playing myself, but looking at it now makes me feel like being from a tiny town doesn't put me at a disadvantage in the music industry.

TMM: How has your music evolved since your 2014 debut Conclusions?
Everything. But mostly, we became louder. More electric guitars, less cajons.
AT: We’ve grown and changed as a band and as people in general. That has an effect on how we write and play. We’ve gone from barely ever playing together in 2014 to playing shows every weekend now. We’ve changed for the better.
TB: Since our debut, I like to think we have grown and matured a lot as songwriters. Even at their bare bones, I feel the songs are more together and fleshed-out.

TMM: Your last official release was a few years ago with your EP, The Edge. Since then, you guys have been putting out some killer singles. Is there any strategy to releasing your music in quick bursts as opposed to giving us a new record? You’re teasing us!
Albums are expensive. But for now, we are working on recording our own stuff in our basement. You’ll be hearing a lot more from us soon. Multiple albums' worth.
AT: With all of us working full-time jobs, it feels difficult to practice, perfect, and record a full album of songs we’re proud of, but the boys recently set up an in-home recording studio and we’ve done more recording the past few months than we ever have, which is exciting.
TB: As an indie band with no label support, we have been just recording when we have the funds to do so. Never having enough for a full-fledged album, it has always been our end goal, and we plan to reach that goal with a self-produced and home-recorded demos record!

TMM: What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are to making a name for yourselves in such an over-saturated world of music?
It’s hard to cut through to places with music. But if we’ve got a good social media presence, and a buttload of songs, we are hoping that speaks for itself.
AT: The good thing about it is that there are a lot places that have live music that we’re able to play at. There are also lots of bands we’ve met that we enjoy listening to and genuinely like being around. The experiences and the people to meet are the cool part about it all. The hard part is trying to stand out and get people to listen to you when there are limitless options already.
TB: It’s great because it gives everyone a chance to put their material out into the public, so that benefits us. But it also gives you less of a chance to be heard, so we try to make interesting videos to go along with our tunes in hopes [of sticking] out!

TMM: Which one of your songs do you guys feel closest to and why?
“Portland” speaks to me, but you guys don’t know it… YET. (But you will soon enough.) It’s a song about finding what you’re after -- something people our age need to not feel alone in.
AT: The song I feel closest to is a song we don’t play much. It is one I wrote years ago called “Anything.” I’ve never been able to express what I was thinking so clearly.
TB: Out of our latest tunes, I feel the proudest of “Halfway,” and it holds a special place in my heart.

TMM: Who are three musicians the world needs to hear ASAP?
I can’t get enough of Shakey Graves' new album. Locally though, Ben Sollee will be a legend in his own right [Editor's note: Ben is one of my all-time favorite musicians! So happy to see him get some love]. Gotta stick with my roots here and say The Avett Brothers probably have something to offer for everyone as well.
AT: One of my favorite artists is Kacey Musgraves. But locally, Bek and the Starlight Revue are super talented. Bek is a powerhouse.
TB: From a local perspective, I'm really digging Nicholas Jamerson’s NJ album.

TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment so far?
It’s either watching an unnamed bandmate knock over an expensive, vintage Martin guitar of local hero Tyler Childers (he was cool about it), or when we signed autographs to ill-informed middle schoolers of my hometown who thought we were famous.
AT: Probably headlining the Apple Day festival in our hometown. Or more recently, recording new material in our basement.
TB: The first time we ever played our hometown festival and the street was full, we started playing our first so-called single "By Now." People cheered when I hit the first chord, and it felt really cool.

The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Wicked Peace?
Patrick Brumback:
 Recording recording recording. Tanner and Amanda write songs for breakfast it seems. I’ll try to write a few more to throw into the mix. We just want to put out as much high-quality music as we can in the next year.
Amanda Turner: Lots more shows and new music soon.
Tanner Blevins: Be expecting a plethora of demo recordings SOON!

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