Future Crib is one of the best bands in Nashville, and I don’t just mean one of the best bands in Nashville “right now.” No — for the entirety of Music City, U.S.A.’s long, colorful history, there has only been maybe a handful of bands as passionate, emotive, bombastic, wondrous and authentic as Future Crib.
Perhaps the secret to Future Crib’s success thus far is their age: the band is quite young, with a few members still finishing up their degrees from Nashville’s entertainment-industry-vocational-training-mecca, Belmont University. But at the same time, maybe that isn’t their secret, since so many of their songs speak wisdom far beyond their age. Perhaps a more likely theory as to how Future Crib got to be so good is their camaraderie.
Mainstays of Nashville’s bustling young indie scene — alongside acts like Briston Maroney, Nordista Freeze and Vanosdale — Future Crib consists of five very good friends: Johnny Hopson, Julia Anderson, Bryce DuBray, Noah Pope and George Rezek. Meeting throughout their adolescent years, Hopson started the band proper back in high school when he began making recordings on an 8-track tape machine. Those recordings went on to become the band’s first release, Stevie B, which was followed up in 2019 by their second release, Friends.
Both records showcase what Future Crib is best at: marrying genuine musical creativity with unbeatable songwriting. That is to say, Future Crib’s sound — that sort of pop-punk-inspired, raw and powerful, yet intimate and joyous sound — truly conveys the organic musicality of five friends who trust each other wholeheartedly. Despite being a band with multiple powerhouse songwriters, you can hear the five personalities of Future Crib effortlessly melt together into a wonderful stew that emits uncompromising authenticity.
In this regard, Future Crib captures an emerging sense of American identity. Their sound is transportive — it feels just at home in a sweaty, basement house show as it does in a wide-open, blooming meadow. It paints vibrant images of youthful love, coming-of-age confusion, nostalgic intimacy and 21st-century existentialism. It could just as easily meet you in the back of a dirty 2010 Toyota Corolla as it could on a Sunday morning bike ride. It is the soundtrack to what it feels like to be a young person alive in this time and space.
On August 28 of this year, the band released a new EP, Silverdays, which captures another side of their creative capacity and showcases some of the more experimental intuitions that they have. Last week, American Songwriter hopped onto a Zoom call with Hopson, DuBray and Pope to talk about all of this. Charming and infectiously humorous, the three bandmates opened up about their story, their process and what’s coming next from them.
When did Future Crib begin?
Johnny Hopson: Well, in high school, Bryce and I had a band called Naff Noise that played fast, verging-on-pop-punk music, which was really fun. We loved that. But, senior year of high school, Bryce and our drummer Spencer started getting a lot busier with college prep and marching band. They enjoyed marching band and they were really good at it, but it took up a lot of their time. That’s great, but it resulted in me having a lot of free time where I was writing these songs that were pretty different from what I had written before. They all seemed to fit together.
At the same time, I really wanted to get into tape recording. I was looking around eBay for an 8-track machine. I drove to Chattanooga and picked up a Tascam 48 that I had bought off eBay. My dad and I spent a lot of time learning about it and fixing some of the channels that were busted. Then, I got to recording. I recorded pretty much all of the songs in my free time, like after I got home from school. Those were the songs that ended up being our first release, Stevie B.
Then, for the first year or so that we were playing shows, we mostly did those songs with a few new ones incorporated in. At that time, there was a rotating different cast of characters that would come out to actually play the shows. It just depended on who was available. That’s just how our community worked at that time — we all played in our friends’ bands, which was a lot of fun. Eventually, Bryce began to play in the band more consistently, which felt really nice and at-home. Julia Anderson has played bass since the beginning. We also started to play with Noah more — I remember the first time we practiced with Noah felt like magic, we all fell in love. So, that group of the four of us felt like the band at that point. We played more and more shows and kept working. At one point, George went on tour with us when Noah couldn’t come and we learned that we really like having him around too, so now it’s the five of us. It all felt really organic and fun. We’re best friends, it’s great.
Last year y’all put out Friends, which is a fantastic encapsulation of your sound — what’s the story behind that record?
Bryce DuBray: Those are a bunch of songs that we had been playing for the better part of 2018 and 2019. They were songs that felt really good to play together in a live setting, which translated really well into us recording them. Continuing on with the “tape train,” we recorded a lot of them live with the full band onto tape with just a few overdubs. Then, there were a couple of other songs that we never really played live but snuck their way in. We really enjoyed working those up in the studio.
But, yeah, for the most part, it was a self-contained thing of recording back-to-back for a week or two, with a few details getting hammered out in the following months.
Y’all have a couple of songwriters in the group — what does your writing process typically look like?
BD: I don’t write a lot of songs — I haven’t written any for Future Crib — but it’s really great to hear Johnny or Noah or George send in a demo they did on their own like “I have this idea that I’m really excited about.” We’ll listen to it, we’ll talk about it and we’ll play it together. It kinda morphs, because we all have something to contribute, but at the core of it, it’s all about letting out ideas blossom with the crew. It’s really fun to see everyone’s hearts be trusted with the group to make a final product. All of these songs are good enough to go out in their demo form, in my opinion — err, I guess I can only say that because I haven’t written any of them and I’m an objective listener. I think that it’s really cool that we have the faith in each other to make final versions with the band.
Noah Pope: Yeah, we all write on our own and then come together to make changes. We’ve also exchanged half songs and written parts together — especially now that we’re quarantining and can’t be together. In general, everyone’s really open to doing stuff, it’s not like we have one method that we always go by. I feel that some of my favorite stuff that we’ve come up with was stuff that wasn’t what we were originally planning on doing.
JH: Yeah, for me, the songs I feel the most compelled to play live and share with people are the ones we work on together. Like Bryce just said, we played most of the songs off Friends live before we recorded them. That typically is how it goes, until quarantine put a wrench in everything. That’s part of the reason that Silverdays ended up the way that it is. The last half of that record consists of demos that we essentially glorified. We’ve never played these songs together before, so the demos felt good to us and gave us good feelings. Your favorite things tend to be the ones you don’t expect, which is fun.
Yeah, Silverdays does have a different sound than the rest of y’all’s stuff — tell us the story of this EP.
NP: Everyone started writing like crazy after we put out Friends. Pretty much for that whole year we were writing and writing. We didn’t exactly have a set plan for all of those songs, we were just throwing them all into a Dropbox folder. Silverdays were a bunch of odd ones that were not really fully finished — so many of those songs are short. Yet, I think that they say stuff a whole lot faster than any of our stuff before. We put this whole album that was like 10 or 11 songs, then we thought “well, what are we going to do with all of these other songs? Are these songs for another album after this album that we haven’t even made yet?” Ultimately, we decided to put all of the little stragglers together for this EP. Those songs weren’t really written together to be an album, they go all over the place. But, it’s cool how it’s a mosaic of an album.
BD: Exactly. When I hear it back, it reminds me of a collage or a book you open and there’s a different painting on each page. All of the songs happened in different ways and sound so different, they were all recorded in different times and spaces. The idea was to record all new versions of those songs all at the same time as that other record we’re working on that Noah just mentioned. But, we’re holding out to do that other record until all five of us can get together and cultivate a nice feeling and process. So, yeah, we ended up just having the time and energy to do Silverdays when we did. We started it in December 2019. It’s really a mix of phone demos, Logic files and a few new versions of old ideas. It’s a big collage.
So, y’all are young and engrossed in the new wave of DIY music-making that’s been sprouting out of house show scenes across the country — what’s it like to balance things like social media and DIY touring and being in a local scene? What’s it like to be Future Crib?
JH: I think that most of our ethic comes from being kids who just wanted to go see shows so bad. I remember getting my mom to sneak me into the Exit/In to see Jeff the Brotherhood, stuff like that. It was like, “well, all of these people are doing it — why can’t I do it?” The answer is: you can! That’s the whole DIY ethic, I guess. That’s really important to us. That’s why we like to create our own recordings and spaces. We’ll take help where we can get it, but we like doing stuff ourselves. It’s a really rewarding thing. Growing up in Nashville especially encouraged that work ethic for me and the rest of us, I think.
NP: Yeah, we really value friendships over anything. We like having our band be a place where we can all hangout, make music together and talk about whatever’s going on in our lives. We do things outside of music too, like biking or mowing the lawn or, like, playing disc golf. We do all different things together — not just Future Crib, but all of our DIY Nashville friends. There’s a really cool community there, it’s very alive. Everyone’s doing things in their own creative ways, finding new methods for stuff. That’s the cool thing about Nashville — it’s not like you hop in like “ah, here I am, in the DIY scene.” It’s more like a ball that’s always moving; once you’re into whatever you’re into, it keeps changing. New people start coming, old people show up again. I’m from Franklin — which is about 30 minutes outside of Nashville — and I remember being 16 or 17 and thinking “Nashville is the place to be. Everyone’s cool, all the cool shows are there, the posters blow my mind.” It just looked like this big, crazy thing from the outside, but then when you start going to shows, meeting people and hanging out, you realize that everyone is really open. They’re especially open to folks being as creative as they want to be. I feel like there’s no restriction as to what could happen next in the scene.
BD: Yeah, it’s part of the nature of DIY, but everyone is so inclusive. There’s always an environment where you can do what you want and people will support you. And they support you because you’re doing what you want. It’s because we know who they are, what they’re doing and why they’re passionate about it that we can love them even more. That’s why DIY is so special, especially in Nashville. That’s something that we want to carry as a band: be as welcoming as we can to anyone who wants to join our space. We want folks who listen to us to feel comfortable, we want to make them welcomed into our world.
JH: Yeah, you can’t ever forget what it’s like to want something so bad. I’ll never forget that feeling of “oh, if only we could just get a show at The End and stop playing in mom’s basement!” Mom’s basement was awesome, but, you just want it so bad. It’s cool — to Noah and Bryce’s point, your heroes end up becoming your friends. You look up to these people so much just because of the work they put into their art, craft and community. Then you meet them and they’re like “you wanna hangout?” and you’re like “you wanna hang out with me? No way!”
BD: Totally. I remember seeing Nordista Freeze for the first time ever and being brought to tears, thinking “wow, these guys are gods.”
JH: They were like rock stars!
BD: They are rock stars, they still are. But they’re also awesome people who we’ve been lucky to get to know as great friends too.
How do you get that “Future Crib” sound? Are there any particular pieces of gear that y’all feel informs your process?
NP: I think this counts as gear — my all-time favorite thing to make demos on is this app called BandLab. It is the sickest app. It’s free, you can just whip a demo up in two seconds, super easy. There are all these cool little sounds.
BD: Yeah, Noah’s a madman on that app, he just cranks them out. He won’t stop.
JH: Layers and layers!
BD: To answer your question about informing the process — we’ve all had a lot of time over quarantine to accumulate more gear than we’ve had in the past. We’ve always had stuff that we felt comfortable making our own music with, but we’ve made some bigger gear purchases recently. We also consolidated our studio space into a better environment for tracking, which has opened us up to have more time to experiment. But, even through all of that, I think the overall thing that has proved to be most exciting for us is creating natural landscapes for our songs. If you create a bed that kinda sounds like you could hear it with your own ears, it sounds very welcoming and warm. But, it also leaves room for the more uncanny things that you sneak in there, things that aren’t natural. That draws attention to them even more and showcases them in a cool way. I think those are the moments we like to create in our own recordings.
JH: I think my favorite piece of gear is nature.
BD: Oh, wow.
NP: Nice, Johnny. Really unique.
BD: Try to put a price on that.
JH: It’s priceless. There are instruments everywhere. It’s great.
What’s next for y’all?
JH: Well, here’s the plan as of right now: Bryce and I are both finishing up school this semester, we’ll be done before Thanksgiving. We’re really excited about that. Then, everyone’s free end of November, beginning of December, before the holidays, so we’re trying to find a space to bring all of our stuff, hole up, eat together, sleep together, go on bike rides, walk around and make that record we were talking about earlier. That batch of songs is the batch we’ve played together the most, so we’re really stoked to get together to make it.
BD: Yeah, we’re really excited to go somewhere new and create a fresh environment. We want to really focus on eachother and what we can do with these songs that we’ve played and love a lot.
Watch the music video for “Astronaut” by Future Crib below: