Nate Zuercher of Judah & the Lion is sitting in a parking lot outside of an arena in Bozeman, Montana.
“I wish you could see where I’m sitting, it’s pretty absurd,” he laughs, describing the nine-tour buses, 12 semi-trucks and the band’s own 15 passenger van, sprawled across the lot. “We’re very much the baby of this tour, but we’re very grateful and can’t really believe this is happening.”
Nearly four months ago, Zuercher (the banjo wiz) and his fellow bandmates – frontman Judah Akers, drummer Spencer Cross and mandolin player Brian Macdonald – were sitting in the green room before a performance at Mississippi State University’s Beta Upsilon Chi Island Party. Right before hitting the MSU Amphitheater stage, the four-some got a phone call with the news they would be joining Twenty One Pilots on their Emotional Roadshow tour.
“That night at the hotel, we all sat around for like two hours in our room just kind of being thankful and talking about the journey we’ve been on,” Zuercher told Golden1Center.com. “That was one of the most defining and exciting moments of our career.
College brought the four musicians to Tennessee, and ultimately to each other. Although Zuercher compares the band’s very first jam-session to love-at-first-sight, Judah & the Lion isn’t your typical alliance. While Zuercher prefers metal, punk and EDM, Akers loves classic rock and pop/hip-hop. Cross and Macdonald are “everywhere in-between.”
Their newest album, which blends genre’s left and right, is fittingly titled “Folk Hop N Roll”.
“We play folk instruments primarily, but we don’t listen to and write folk music primarily,” Zuercher explained. “When we started out we had the banjo and the mandolin and so we felt like we had to write what people would expect us to write. But over the last couple records, we’ve had the opportunity to experiment.
“We tried to get on so many tours this year, and it seemed like nothing was working out,” Zeurcher continued. “Part of what was frustrating was that I feel like people don’t really understand us until they see us live.”
It makes sense. When “Kickin’ Da Leaves” comes on through your headphones, its reminiscent of alternative bands like Mumford & Sons or Alt-J. Hit Shuffle, and you’re listening to “Folk-Hop Sound” and reminded of the Beastie Boys.
But somehow, the whole thing works. And that’s something special.
When “Folk Hop N Roll” was coming out a year ago, the band sat down and discussed their future, asking themselves, “What is our No. 1 ‘dream tour’ to go on? Shoot for the stars.”
They all agreed: Twenty One Pilots.
“Tyler and Josh [of Twenty One Pilots] have been so encouraging,” Zeurcher said. “They watch our set and they support us and they care. Every night we come out and play a song with them, and they just talk us up before we come out … It means the world.”
See Judah & the Lion, Jon Bellion and the one-and-only Twenty One Pilots on Saturday, Feb 11 at Golden 1 Center.