A lot has changed for the Congress since the band released its 2010 self-titled debut EP. For starters, it's gone from being a quartet to a trio, and it brought in a new drummer, Mark Levy, about a year and a half ago. This was right around the time the band started touring heavily and building up its fan base across the country, including the South, which is where singer/bassist Jonathan Meadows and guitarist Scott Lane are both from — Richmond, Virginia, to be specific. While the Southern-rock thing is not inherent in the first EP, the trio's new album, Whatever You Want, is a heavier-rocking affair. We spoke with Lane about the difference between the two.
Westword: How would you say you've changed musically in the two years since you released your first EP?
Scott Lane: It's really easy to tell how [the two recordings] differ — just listen to the two of them. The EP had a singer-songwriter kind of vibe, in my opinion, and the instruments were kind of built around an acoustic guitar and a voice. That's kind of how I recorded it, and I think that's really reflective in the style of the EP. It was also before we were playing as a band. I don't think we had played more than one or two gigs, and every time, it was with a different player on bass and drums. We didn't really have a band yet. Jonathan had just moved out, and we were like, "Let's just get some friends together and record." That was the vibe of that EP.
Then we toured for about a year and a half, and we got tighter and started writing arrangements, and we had a lot of time to develop these songs. And when it was time to make the next record, we decided we really wanted to make it reflective of our band and alive in an honest way. The EP has organ and horns and pedal steel and all this stuff on it. We had all of our friends who are good come in and lay down something. It wasn't really honest to the band, I feel like. If you listen to that, you'd be like, "Oh, cool, go see them," and then it would be two guitars, bass and drums, and you won't have that organ and all that stuff.
This time we decided to do all the instrumentation between Jonathan and I, and Mark on drums. I played all the keys on it, I played most of the guitars, and Jonathan played some guitar. Jonathan and I split the bass, and then half the record has our old bass player on bass. It's a balls-to-the-wall rock-and-roll record compared to the other record.
How do you like playing in the trio versus the four-piece? Has it changed the dynamic a lot?
It really does, a whole lot. The first thing I noticed...I've been playing music with Jonathan for many years. I know his playing style and where he's going to go really easily, and so basically, if he's playing bass and I'm playing guitar and those are the only harmonic instruments going on, I mean, there's already just so much trust there. The first thing that happened was that we were immediately tighter because Jonathan and I know each other so well.
Then, beyond that, it used to be that we had two guitars, and one of the biggest things I also noticed was that the sound guy used to try to distribute us with the two guitars evenly and have a good spread. I think a lot of times it took away from the bigness of our sound. Once we were a three-piece, I noticed immediately that the sound guy would just start jacking my guitar up and up, so everything was immediately sounding huge. Basically it's more like a big rock-and-roll sound, which is great. It got tighter and bigger, for sure.