When The Pitch checked in with Quiet Corral last year, the Lawrence-bred folk-pop group was fresh off the release of its self-titled debut EP. Since then, Quiet Corral has been touring the country — half of its six members have put college at the University of Kansas on hold — and capitalizing on the surprising new American appetite for bombastic, stadium-sized folk anthems (see: Mumford & Sons, Avett Brothers, et al.). They've played to huge crowds at Austin City Limits and received the VIP treatment in Las Vegas. On November 29, the band comes to RecordBar, where it performs some songs from its upcoming proper full-length. The Pitch sat down with the band members for a status update.
The Pitch: You've got a new album coming out in the spring. How does it stack up to the 2010 EP?
Isaac Flynn (guitar): As cliché as it sounds for a band on their next release, it's definitely more mature-sounding. The songs are more cohesive. I just think they're better songs. We've become better songwriters. Our musicianship has gotten better. I think we all understand how to play off each other better. Whereas when you first start a band, it's almost like who can show off on their instrument more or who can come up with the cooler part. Now I think we are playing for the song instead of playing for ourselves. We're getting better at that.
Jesse Braswell Roberts (guitar, mandolin): We've had a lot more time playing together, being around each other, and we know how each other works better, and I think all of that shines through in the record. We like to take our time and get our arrangements right. We've had a tough time narrowing down songs. We recorded more than we are going to put on there, and we are having a difficult time agreeing on the ones to cut.
Matt Green (bass): We've stuck to the four-part harmonies and a lot of acoustic — Jesse plays a lot of mandolin and acoustic guitar on it. But I think we've branched out a little bit more. Isaac put in a lot of work on electrics, and adding Zach [Mehl]'s piano parts now, there are a few songs where it's really featured. It adds to a whole band sound.
Jim Barnes (drums): I think the idea is to kind of find what your band's identity is. I still don't think we have found it 100 percent, but we are a lot closer than the EP.
What would you say are some of the influences on your sound right now?
Braswell Roberts: There is definitely a folk influence, but sometimes it sounds just kind of rock and roll.
Green: As far as what I bring to my instrument and what I try to bring to the songs, I look toward Mutemath. Great bass player, more on the rock side. I feel like a lot of comparisons we get are to Mumford & Sons, but I never once sat in a room and learned a Mumford & Sons bass line.
Barnes: The acoustics and Jesse's vocals are not too dissimilar [from Mumford & Sons], but other than that, we have three electric guitars sometimes. But the vocal is the vocal, which is the centerpiece. Both Marcus [Mumford] and Jesse have really good emotion in their voice and really good vulnerability, which I think is a big reason. I think that that comparison will be something that fades more with the album coming out, but I don't mind the comparison at all. It's unbelievable that an Americana or folk or bluegrass band is considered to be mainstream or Top 40.
Barnes: Hopefully the magic of the band is when you have all these different influences and you can make it work.
You're pretty young and have seen a little success. What do you credit most for it?
Barnes: Isaac. Isaac is a great communicator with people. A lot of people can play music well, and they stay in their room all day and just practice their instrument and they feel their passion for their art, but they aren't necessarily communicating with people. And you have to get to know all different people to create opportunities. Isaac is naturally really good at that, and it helps a lot because I am not. I sit in my room all day and play music.
Flynn: I would attribute some of the success to Jesse's lyric writing. There is an interesting narrative in his songs, and people really relate to what he writes as a songwriter. I feel fortunate that I get to write songs with Jesse because him and I do the majority of the initial songwriting, but also I get to play with so many creative guys that are great at taking something I made or Jesse made and making it so much better than I ever envisioned it being.
Has touring met your expectations? Any big memories so far?
Braswell Roberts: You always hear about bands' vans breaking down, but we've been blessed with good traveling and good shows in fun towns, and getting to see friends across the nation.
Flynn: We did lose one automobile. I lost my '99 Dodge Durango. It was tragic. Thankfully now we have Clifford, the big red band van. He's been a trouper.
Green: Austin City Limits was everything I dreamed of. That was definitely a big highlight. We saw Ryan Gosling.
Flynn: That man could turn a straight man into something else.
Green: We also toured down South and got to meet Jim's family in Mississippi.
Flynn: We were fortunate to play at Cosmopolitan in Vegas for five nights, and they gave us the royalty treatment, which is something we are not accustomed to. We usually sleep on our friends' floors and that type of thing, but they gave us each individually our own suite.
Green: Hot tubs, bed, TVs.
Braswell Roberts: Most comfortable bed on tour. That will do it.
Flynn: We're starting to support bigger bands, and we hope that progresses more and more. It's really cool to play with a band that you actually know, and I think you start to really see the progress because you're getting in front of more and more people every night and you see the band developing more and more. So I think we've been really satisfied with everything, but I think we are ready to take it to the next level. Hopefully that's what the album will do. We played with Gary Clark Jr. and toured with Gomez and Dawes. To see their professionalism and to see that they have established a career out of music is inspiring to us.
Hardest part of touring?
Braswell Roberts: Missing my girl!
Flynn: Driving through the night.
Green: Eating well.
Mehl: Staying healthy.
Flynn: Zach had the flu when we went to Chicago, and we were hanging out with all of our friends. He was in his room sleeping while we were eating deep-dish pizza and pie. It was kind of mean. But he is fine today.
Some of you guys dropped out of KU to pursue the band. Where does school figure into your future plans?
Mehl: We'll go back someday.
Green: I had to forgo my exciting career as a geologist, but I can always go back.
Braswell Roberts: Rocks last a long time.
Flynn: It's kind of frightening taking a break from school because people our age are graduating now, pursuing careers and getting real jobs. My goal is that hopefully the album can provide some supplemental income. It's just like if you're graduating with a degree, you want to go straight into the work field or start a career. So I am hoping this thing can flourish and become our careers. That's the objective at least. If it doesn't, I'll return to Kansas University J-School, and we'll have had some life experience.
How have you been supporting yourselves financially in the meantime?
Flynn: Zach and Matt work construction. Garrett [Childers, guitar] works at the Burger Stand in Lawrence. Isaac fills in at Mass Street Music in Lawrence — his dad owns the store. Jim does some freelance work mixing tracks. We do fine on the road. We're not losing money and we're not spending money, but we aren't really profiting individually yet. All we ask is that we can make enough to survive — pay the bills, be able to pay for the burger at the Burger Stand that Garrett is serving you.
What can we expect from the RecordBar show?
Flynn: We don't play in this vicinity quite as often as we are touring now. It's going to be one of our last shows in 2012. And there is an 8 percent chance Garrett will take his shirt off.