Millions of people standing around Millions of people with their heads held down They don’t know what to do with themselves Just a few people stood up Just a few people who spoke out They said if you don’t like it this way Then you should stand You should stand up and make that change!
And now, with debut album in hand, set for release on April 30 at the Monkey’s Tale in Broad Ripple, the band looks to move beyond just being the best Indianapolis band you’ve yet to discover. Tackling weighty political topics through alternative rock has never been a rarity, but the way Eleadah Kemp rises to the occasion on these recordings, melding the immediacy of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” with the hooks of Alabama Shakes, it is impossible not to be swept up in her, and the band’s, enthusiasm.
“When you're singing live in venues, sometimes it's difficult to hear the words,” Kemp explains. “And when you sit down, especially with this album, you're gonna hear the words when you sit down with it. You're going to realize just how politically charged we are as a group. A lot of our songs have a lot to do with what's going on right now and it's not necessarily one sided. It's about making you think about your own voice, and are you doing everything you can to make it heard?”
On the new album, which the band recorded and produced with Ryan Michael Gibbons at Elixir Records, they manage to accomplish what might have seemed impossible, making a studio album that sounds as though it was recorded entirely live. But if you thought you’ve felt these songs’ raw power live, that experience is nothing compared to how Kemp’s powerhouse vocals are pulled to the forefront on the recordings, singing lyrics which advocate social change on an elemental level.
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Add to that the exceptionally confident grooves laid down by her bandmates — Guitarist AJ Noblitt in particular embraces that swamp-rock groove on standout track “Hint’s Barn” — and this becomes a debut you’ll have to hear to believe.
“To me that’s one of the songs on our album that pertains so much to what's going on right now and the fact that we are the ones whose voices often get compromised,” Kemp says of the album’s emotional centerpiece “We All Fall Down”. “The people in power are the ones that get the votes and the control. I think a lot of people end up shutting down when they're in a situation where there are people who disagree with them. Now people are starting to get a backbone, if you ask me. There's a lot more coming out where people are speaking up.”
With that in mind, the band recruited a couple dozen close friends to record group vocals for that song back in January, their contribution becoming part of the album’s defining moment. By relinquishing a little control themselves, Among the Compromised turns the song into something more than anthemic. All of which ties into the band’s motivations as a whole, a deeply embedded sense of '60s-era protest movement revival, delivered via the immediacy of songs which speak to modern audiences.
“There's a lot of that coming back now,” Kemp readily acknowledges. “A lot of protest as the people are getting this thing inside them where they want to fight back and speak up now. They actually care about what's going on. I think we're actually really privileged to be in this time right now and see this. I wasn't surprised at all to see people like Bruce Springsteen pulling out of shows in North Carolina. I commend those performers who are pulling out of the states passing these laws, because we are legalizing discrimination.”
Living in Indianapolis for only the last two years, during a time in which our city has become, like many others, a ground zero for discussions of rising violence and social tension, Kemp says she has channeled that into her writing.
“I come from the Northeast, and in the Northeast any kind of prejudice tends to be kept underneath the rug,” she explains. “Here, it's a lot more evident, which I respect. If this is how you feel about something, I don't mind you telling me!”
More than anything else, the upcoming release of Among the Compromised’s debut is the opportunity for fans who have followed the band all year to really become part of that process, Kemp says. The band plans to debut new songs at their release show, including songs that may wind up on an EP this fall. But the centerpiece will be these songs you’ve heard before, songs you may think you already know, but be ready for surprises.
“When you really get to hear this album all together you are going to hear something maybe people haven't seen yet from our live shows,” she says. “You see it in the performance to an extent, but when they hear everything put together and get to the core of who we are and what we believe in, things are going to start making a lot more sense. I like that people really don't know where to put us yet. And I want that to continue.”
Jonathan Sanders is a recent transplant to the Indianapolis scene, but he's figured out how to make a quick impact -- find great local bands and fight to be the first to get them in print. An unabashed karaoke junkie, he is at home anywhere wannabe rock-stars regularly caterwaul.