COVID-19 Brings The Benders Band Back Together After 16 Years Apart

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“In 2004, after four years of fun, sweaty, bluegrass-gone-wild live shows, multiple U.S. tours and three albums released on an indie label, The Benders went their separate ways,” Jabe Beyer told American Songwriter. “Nolan McKelvey had moved to Arizona, Tim Kelly moved to Taiwan, I moved to Tennessee, Bow Thayer was in Vermont, Sean Staples was in Boston and McKelvey’s 2004 replacement on bass — Jay Aucella — was in New Hampshire.”

And for 16 years, that’s how it remained. Like many great bands before them and many great bands since, the original run of The Benders was a wildly exciting ride that came to an unfortunate — and rather premature — ending. Aside from a couple of reunions, their legacy lived on only in the dusty hard drives, beloved CDs and timeless memories accumulated during those beautiful salad days. This was the end of their story… until Beyer started to dig through those dusty hard drives. 

“Fast-forward 16 years, to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020,” he said. “I was in my Nashville recording studio looking through old hard drives and I stumbled upon an unfinished Benders album, recorded in the fall of 2004. Upon listening to the tracks, it was clear the bones were there, but it would require the rest of The Benders to finish it. I reached out to everyone in the band — within hours everyone was on board.”

With Beyer at the helm as de facto producer sending and receiving the tracks for overdubs, compiling the best takes and mixing it all together, the band got to work, not only completing their unfinished 2004 record, but recording a whole new one too. In total, The Benders Band (a new name adopted to differentiate themselves from other bands called ‘The Benders’), produced a sprawling, encaptivating and heartfelt double album of 25 unreleased Benders songs, entitled Twice In A Blue Moon – Vol. 1 & Vol. 2.

“It felt so good to reconnect,” said Nolan McKelvey, bassist for the band. “This band was born from — and was always about — a bunch of friends getting together, sharing tunes and enjoying playing music. Everybody brings a different element to the band and the combination is what makes it what it is. Life sent us down different roads, but there was never any acrimony or any good reason to ‘break up.’ It was just time and distance that caused our hiatus. Falling back into playing with these guys was effortless. There’s a history and camaraderie that was accessible and we tapped right back into it.”

To go along with the album’s announcement, the band dropped a new single “Lockdown Quarantine,” which is one of the new songs they wrote for this release. 

“‘Lockdown Quarantine’ was written in late March 2020, very soon after the quarantine was issued,” Bow Thayer said. “It is one of my most obvious songs, literally taken from everyday life at that time. It has a very humorous side to an underlyingly depressing situation and it hopefully can unify people in the fact that we all must behave in these bizarre ways to combat this virus. The song was written in the style of Doc Boggs whose persona is directly affiliated with human mortality, specifically the influenza epidemic of 1918 and other hardships of the 1920s. Of course, the Bender’s contributions gave it a life of its own and heightened the satirical content.”

So, now The Benders Band is back and better than ever. “Lockdown Quarantine” not only demonstrates their uncanny ability to tap into the raw power and beauty of the American folk tradition, but it also demonstrates their ability to work together as a cohesive unit, even remotely. With intricate interplay between all the parts, perfectly placed accents and a natural chemistry transmitting from every beat, The Benders Band is a personification of the best American acoustic music has to offer.

Listen to “Lockdown Quarantine” off The Benders Band’s new album Twice In A Blue Moon – Vol. 1 & Vol. 2. below:

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