Grief, faith, and rock n roll
Goodbye June’s music is driven by tragedy - but the outcome is life-affirming and passionate.
The title track of their latest album, See Where The Night Goes (18 February 2022; Earache Records) was written in tribute to those who lost their lives during the pandemic, but the real motor comes from a much deeper place. Some years ago, in the month of June, Gibson-guitarist Tyler Baker heard that his brother Shane had been killed in a car accident, and two of his cousins Brandon Qualkenbush and Landon Milbourn rushed to Indiana to offer support. Having been raised in religious families, they additionally found that the tragedy was testing their faith. In order to help with all this confusion and grief they began writing songs, and then playing a few gigs locally. When people started asking what they were called, Qualkenbush explains: “We decided to name the band Goodbye June, to honor the memory of our brother passing and encapsulate what inspired the beginnings of this band.” Tyler Baker adds that he needed the band to cope with his loss: “I was gonna be an engineer or accountant, but when he passed, it was a light switch. I’d always loved music, and I realized life is now – and you better live it. That’s what pushed us together, and the grief is what we were all trying to get out.”
Their first album Magic Valley was released in 2017, and along with assistance in the studio and on the road, respectively, from drummers Nathan Sexton and Kevin Smith, the family began the tough process of growing their band. “When you’re starting out as a rock band, you’re playing the shittiest bars and nastiest places. Those nights at the Nick in Birmingham, playing to two people in the back who don’t care - you just slam into that indifference, trying to break it down or through it. And it’s hard to get going. You’re eating cheap awful gas station hot dogs, sleeping in a van, not showering for days and it sucks,” explains Milbourn. “But it builds you up, and turns into something glorious when you put it into the music.”
The result has been described as ‘slash and burn’ passion, which no doubt can be most viscerally experienced in their live performances, but that is also well captured by five-time Grammy-nominated producer Paul Moak. As has been noted elsewhere and is clear to any rock fan, the sound and the energy often recalls AC/DC, The Black Keys and Led Zeppelin.
The former band’s influence can instantly be heard on Step Aside, which kick-starts the album. It is raw rock n roll that opens the way for the single, See Where The Night Goes, which one can imagine joyous hordes dancing along to in a stadium-setting. Take A Ride picks up the pace with a fun lyric; Stand And Deliver moves in an unexpected Indie direction; while Baby, I’m Back is a life-affirming ode to partying.
The outstanding track for this critic, however, is the second single release, Three Chords, in large part because it captures something of the band’s own story with a lead character, Grandpa Wilbur, who was “the first to be saved.” Mixing his religious faith with rock n roll, his response to grief in the world is to to “Give 'em three chords, And the Holy Ghost” […] “they’ll be dancing all night long.”
What could be better than this approach to help blast the cobwebs away? Perhaps one thing… capturing that energy by going to see Goodbye June live on their current US tour or, for example, when they play Madcool Madrid on 8 July 2022!