Music Interview: The Underhill Family Orchestra


Photographed and interviewed by Matt Loveland

The Underhill Family Orchestra delivers an indie folk-rock sound steeped in a modernized rowdy Appalachian stomp. The band is made up of five musicians — Joe Grove, Steven Bryte Laney, Joelle Rosen, Benjamin Michael Cook and Roy Durand — all with diverse musical backgrounds and hailing from various parts of the South. Forming a home base in Mobile, Alabama, the band is seeking new fans and experiences across the States with a tour promoting their newly released album, Tell Me That You Love Me, which showcases what the band describes as Southern progressive popDrummer Roy Duran was featured in Issue 06 of Deitra Magazine with his previous band, Vagabond Swing, and contacted Editor Tamara Styer before stopping in at Front of House Lounge in downtown Springfield, Missouri. Deitra Mag's own Matt Loveland got the chance to catch up with this energetic collective to chat about their new music, performing on stage together and life on the road. 

DEITRA MAG: Briefly tell us about yourself and your music, also tell us why you want to be featured in Deitra.

THE UNDERHILL FAMILY ORCHESTRA: (Roy) I’ve been to Springfield a few times which is why I wanted to be featured in Deitra. I’ve known Tamara for a little while.

UFO: (Steven) Yeah I think what we do is kinda fashion oriented as well as music oriented. We hire people that don’t look specifically bad. I don’t think any of us are too ugly to be in a nice magazine. I think the cross pollination of art is where art finds its strength. So we’re a band, we play music we put a lot of thought into.


DM: You guys already sound like a band Deitra has probably hung out with at some point. So what inspires you to perform music? What do you like most about it?

UFO: (Ben) The performance itself is a lot of the inspiration; like being able to play in front of people and to interact and have that connection with someone, and with something you put so much time into. As far as the writing and the composing, it is the good part of performing, if that makes sense. It is what makes it all worth it. We went through a lot today just to get here and play. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love performing.

UFO: (Joelle) Every single one of us has had a connection with music since we were little, and people who play it or are just avid listeners — or people who just want to come and experience it — it’s all emotional and physical, it’s everything. It’s the closest you can get to try and create some feeling and for other people to connect as well. Playing live, you are able to get other people to feel what you're feeling. It’s really all about the human connection.


DM: I know what you mean. My main thing is photography, but I have also spent time on stage as an actor and usually small scale performances make people laugh, some make people cry. That’s the beauty of live performing because you actually make the air move as oppose to seeing someone on TV or film. So, what is your inspiration behind your style or genre of music? How would you describe or classify your sound?

UFO: (Steven) I can speak personally that my personal style is based entirely upon two people: Clint Eastwood and Han Solo. Music-wise, it is pretty much the same thing — it’s the sounds of blasters firing with no return shot. I think our style is pretty interesting because we all come from different backgrounds. You have your dreamy female vocal and then you have your rage and cage Roy Durand! We all take our meaning of music from a different place, so when we all come together we can create our own meaning from our own music, and it’s really interesting when you see what comes out.

UFO: (Joelle) My personal style and also music style is Patsy Cline and Stevie Nicks, both of their aesthetic and their voices. Also a 1970’s piece of furniture.

UFO: (Joe) We also try to represent the region we call home. There are a lot of intentional elements; we are trying to bring the Southeastern style of music to the rest of the country and make it an approachable thing.

DM: Yeah, I was wondering where you guys were coming in from.

UFO: (All) We are all from the Southeast!


DM: Who writes your songs and what are they generally about? Do you have a favorite song of yours?

UFO: (Roy) My favorite song might be "On the Wind" or "Go Spirit."

UFO: (Ben) I am partial to the two singles we put out! I think those are the two hits probably.

UFO: (Steven) "Silverhill Church Girl" for me is the one I poured as much of myself as I could into, that’s the one that hurts every time and feels good every time, and gives me chills when I listen to it.

UFO: (Joe) My favorite song to play is "Silverhill Church Girl" from our album, but my favorite song to listen to is "Wooden Hymnal." It is just this creepy sort of spiritual, church congregation song. Gives me chills.

UFO: (Joelle) I love "Silverhill Church Girl." It has made me cry. Steven wrote that one. A lot of the songs on the album are about being away from your loved ones, trying to be who you should be for your loved ones. That’s why the album is called Tell Me That You Love Me, because at the end of the day we are all in relationships and we are on the road, and it can be really hard.

UFO: (All) Writing the songs is a very collective process.

UFO: (Ben) We all have written portions on almost every song on the album. Especially the music, we write our own parts. It is definitely a very collective effort, because we all want to be connected when we play it.

UFO: (Joelle) Like Joe was saying, "Wooden Hymnal" is pretty much a completed song. It is mostly a cappella and we recorded it all of us singing at the same time. Joe wrote the last song on the album, "Holy Roller."

UFO: (Joe) That song was completely different when I first wrote it. Then, Ben and Steven helped change it and make it what it is now. It would’ve sounded a lot different without the collaboration with them and our producer.

UFO: (Joelle) Yeah we call him our sixth member because we had brought all the songs in and he had a lot of input in what we should do.

UFO: (All) That Noah Shane! He is part of the family now. Love you, Noah!


DM: What is your favorite era of music to listen to?

UFO: (All) The “Bustling 10’s” was a great era of music.

UFO: (Joelle) If I had to choose, probably the entire time Billy Holiday was alive. I could listen to that forever, all day.

UFO: (Roy) 90's hip hop, 90's punk rock, 80's metal, really everything. There is great music everywhere in all the genres.

DM: I consider 90’s hip hop a guilty pleasure because I’m a 90’s kid, but going back to the early 1900’s is great stuff as well. 50's, 60's, 70's.

UFO: (Joe) Oh yeah, Pink Floyd is the shit! Animals is probably one of the best albums ever made.

UFO: (Joelle) We have a playlist on Spotify called “Underhill’s latest listens,” and it is what we all have been listening to on the road, etc. It is everything from 90’s dance skating rink tunes, from Eminem to Radiohead.

DM: So, I guess the question would be, what do you guys not listen to?

UFO: (Joelle) Pop-country.


DM: What are your musical backgrounds?

UFO: (Steven) When I was five years old, I sang into a Fisher-Price microphone and that started it all. School talent shows, college... and I am 30 now. It is the biggest thing that has been with me the longest.

UFO: (Ben) For me, growing up in the church it was a lot of church music and stuff like that. I started playing guitar around 16, and have just been playing in bands since then.

UFO: (Roy) I grew up around a lot of musicians, so I started drums around six. After that I was in school band all the way through high school. I also started playing punk rock in high school, and that is what took over — playing live and in bands. So, I decided I wanted to play more that way instead of the academic way.

DM: Yeah, and I bet this way is a lot more fun than playing the academic way.

UFO: (Roy) Yes it is. Well, they both have their perks. You get put through a lot of shit while playing on the road. You learn patience. And all college will really teach you about music, is how to explain it.

DM: Yeah, that is how I feel about photography! I have been hesitant on taking a class because I don’t want someone to teach me their techniques, I just want to keep digging around in it on my own until I pass away. It is more fun to be self-taught.

UFO: (Joe) I played in punk and grunge cover bands in high school, and played with Stephen’s younger brother. That is how I met these guys.

UFO: (Joelle) I took their first band photos in a field! My mom always has records on every day. My dad was a musician so he would make us do five-part harmonies to James Taylor songs. I was 16 when I picked up an acoustic guitar, and I played violin.


DM: What do you love most about recording and performing music?

UFO: (Roy) I love that they are different. I love being in the studio because you can pretty much do whatever you want, and then performing live is basically therapy for me.

DM: Very cool.

UFO: (Joelle) They definitely both make you better. Through recording our album, we all came out of it learning and all doing better in what we do in the band. Once you’re playing in front of an audience it’s like, “Ok we gotta do it, right here, right now.”

DM: Not to mention you are feeding off of each other’s energy as well as the audience’s.

UFO: (Joelle) Yeah, exactly. Same goes for photography. The more you go out and do something you are gonna get better at it.

DM: Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process?

UFO: (Roy) I get a lot of my inspiration from reading. We just did a thing called Sing Me a Story, which is an organization that takes stories from people who are touched by cancer. They just write stories that pretty openly express their feelings. That was a really touching thing to do.


DM: What do your fans love most about your music and what has helped you gain popularity in the independent music scene?

UFO: (All) Meeting everyone face to face. Making friends with our fans.

UFO: (Joelle) We just put this album out a few weeks ago. We have been on the road without having an album for people to listen to, so I think it is our live show that pulls people in. We joke around on stage, we really are a family and you can feel the connection.

UFO: (Steven) It’s just like the magazine, we have a team, we are a team and everybody is working together to make this happen. We have a fantastic publicist named Susan; the label owners, Kate and Scott; Noah, our producer... and these people are so in tune with our vision.

DM: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

UFO: (Joelle) We want to be on the road and not have to go home and have day jobs.

UFO: (All) Really just make a living from this.


DM: What is your advice to local and independent artists trying to make it?

UFO: (Ben) I think you just need to be honest. You can smell a phony artist from a mile away. There are ways to show honesty through music. Take criticism! You can always be better.

UFO: (Joe) And practicing every day. Put yourself out there and have a good time.

DM: Websites, social media, links to music, shamelessly plug yourselves now!

UFO: (Joelle) Our website is www.weareunderhill.com. Our facebook is The Underhill Family Orchestra. Our Instagram is @theunderhillfamilyorchestra, Twitter is @UnderhillFamily! Find us on Itunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora and etc! Our Album is called Tell Me That You Love Me. Goodnight!

See the full photo album from their live performance on the Deitra Mag Facebook Page.




All contents property of Deitra LLC, copyright 2011-2018. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.


Matt Loveland is Deitra Magazine's feature photographer, social media manager and Deitra Scene reporter.

This interview was transcribed by Madison Shaffer.

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