Nashville-based alternative rock band Bluphoria is taking the music world by storm with their psychdelic, blues, and southern rock tinged music informed by the members’ collective influences that range from Sam Cooke, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, Primus, Pink Floyd, KISS, Death, and 80’s punk. The band was founded by Reign LaFreniere (lead vocals/lead guitar) in Eugene, OR in 2019 after moving there to attend film school at the University of Oregon. Reign had the idea to form Bluphoria prior to moving to Eugene, with it originally being more of a jam band. But, after receiving some label attention from Universal and EDGEOUT Records, he became more serious about the project and began looking for bandmates, meeting and recruiting Dakota Landrum (rhythm guitar/background vocals), Rex Wolf (bass/background vocals), and Dani Janae (drums/background vocals), who joined the band after their previous drummer left the band. The band signed with EDGEOUT Records in January of 2021 and entered their development program, which helped them to refine their sound and learn the in’s and out’s of what’s needed to be successful and well-rounded artists in the music business. Since signing with EDGEOUT, Bluphoria went to Nashville, TN to record their debut album with GRAMMY® award-winning producer Mark Needham (Fleetwood Mac, Imagine Dragons, Mt. Joy, The 1975) at both the famous East Iris Studios in Berry Hill section of Nashville and his personal studio. Adds Needham, “[Bluphoria is] a great young band with instinctive pop sensibilities combined with a cool edginess and rawness.” The band has released several singles from the forthcoming album- “Walk Through Fire”, “Set Me Up”, “Ain’t Got Me”, and their most recent single “Columbia”.
Regarding “Ain’t Got Me”, Reign says, “”Ain’t Got Me” was one of the first songs I wrote for Bluphoria. I wanted to write a song that was very nostalgic and mirrored a classic rock song and while fiddling on my guitar I came across these chords. I had so many different versions of this song come through, but I just never could shake the original verse and chorus I had written for it. So, I hope those who listen enjoy this rock n roll ballad as much as I have through the years.”
Regarding “Columbia”, Dakota says, “I always wanted to write a heavier more blues-oriented song for Bluphoria and I think that I did that with this song. When I was putting the words together, I wanted it to be a honest and revealing look at desire and infatuation and needed the music to follow that. However, this song has changed a lot from its conception and many things aren’t the same as the first demo. It brings so much energy and fun to so many shows and I’m proud the whole band made it so much our own.” Lead vocalist and guitarist Reign LaFreniere adds, “[‘Columbia’] is told through the lens of a toxic relationship with somebody. It is one of our more ‘60s hard rock songs and a favorite of the entire band.”
With the album to be released on May 5th, via EDGEOUT Records / UMe / UMG), the band hopes to book a solid tour and play abroad, with the desire to just be on the road and share their music with as many people as possible! Make sure to connect with Bluphoria via the following links to stay up-to-date on all upcoming album news, their album release, and tour dates! This band is one to follow for sure! Photo credit: Jena Yannone.
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What can the four of you tell me about your childhoods and developing your love for music? Who were some of your biggest musical influences and in what ways did they help to shape/influence you into the artists you are today?
Reign: Growing up I listened to a lot of Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, and CCR. I feel like those influences can definitely be heard in the music we make. My mom and my sister are some of the most talented people I know and can sing and dance circles around me so growing up I realized I had to pick up an instrument to even compete with what they were doing! So if there are any two individuals and artists that I could say inspired me the most to be a musician It would probably be them.
Rex: I come from a very musical family and I was surrounded by every type of music growing up. My music taste and influences come from my parents, specifically my mom. I started as a drummer at a very young age, learning all the classic stuff she showed me like Led Zeppelin, The Who and Black Sabbath. But eventually she introduced me to Grunge and the 90s music culture. One day, she showed me Primus for the first time, and right then and there, I put the drum stick down and knew I had to pick up a bass. That is the stuff I really fell in love with. Bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Primus, Helmet, Tad, Silverchair, The Melvins and of course Nirvana. It’s still the music I most enjoy to this day. While our band doesn’t play grunge or punk inspired stuff like that, I like to think I use my music taste to still influence the kind of baselines I write. I like to incorporate a heavy sound, while not shying away from exciting melodic structures as well. I find it to be a fun and interesting balance.
Dani: I hung out with my dad a ton growing up so I spent a lot of time listening to 80s punk, grunge, ska, and glam rock. B-52s, Kiss, Death, Pearl Jam and Reel Big Fish are who I remember most. The weekends however, were full of Sade and Eryka Badu from my mom. All about balance. High School was where I really discovered myself as a musician due to a program I was a part of. Essentially for 4 years straight I was collaborating, writing, performing, and even recording the music I loved all within this program. I thank my teacher Vince Martini all the time whenever the band hits a milestone. It was really something special. High school and beyond is when I started to branch out musically and I became most influenced by Talking Heads, Mitski, TV On The Radio, Nina Simone, Bowie, Donny Hathaway and Leonard Cohen.
Dakota: When I was growing up music was a very spiritual thing. The only time I really heard it was at church or on the gospel radio as my mom drove me places. It connected me with a loving community and with a feeling of higher power, so from a young age I’ve always been very inspired by it. When I was about 12 or 13 my dad showed me Pink Floyd and felt like seeing color for the first time. From there I just knew I had completely submerged myself in music.
Reign- You moved to Eugene, OR in 2019 to attend film school at the University of Oregon, and while in school you also planned to start a band. What can you tell me about meeting your band mates and starting Bluphoria and the early days of the band?
Reign: Bluphoria was an idea I had for a few months before arriving in Oregon. Originally it was more of a jam band passion project but once Universal and Edgeout started to pay more attention I started getting more serious in finding like minded individuals who wanted to have careers in music. I first met Dakota who, since we were one of the few black people in the state, I saw at a house show. We got to talking about guitar and decided to jam. From there we had a three piece with a friend of ours on drums and Dakota on guitar. One day I was really bored in my French class and I got a notification that Rex had followed me on Instagram, so I checked out his page and to my surprise it was pretty much an Instagram page dedicated to classic Instagram filtered pictures of basses. He joined pretty much the same day. I met Dani because she interviewed me for a podcast she was working on and a year later had become good friends with Dakota and said she wanted to join our band before she moved to England. After a couple of practices we decided she would be a good fit.
The band started out in the Pacific Northwest independently releasing music for two years before being discovered by and signing to EDGEOUT Records in January of 2021. How did that opportunity come about for you?
Reign: It was by chance to be honest. There was an event that Universal was putting on at my school where I had to get a certain amount of votes so that I could play at the big arena nearby. After doing so I just kept playing house shows until one night my dormmates had begged me to come with them to this friend of theirs’ room. After reluctantly following them I met one of the kids interning for Edgeout, and he introduced me to the team and for a year or so we kept in contact until our signing.
Shortly after signing with EDGEOUT, you entered into “THE STUDIO,” EDGEOUT’s development program. In what ways did that program help you to embrace your unique sound while also learning the in’s and out’s of what’s needed to be a successful and well-rounded artist in the music business?
Reign: It helped refine who we were a little bit. We all were very business oriented when it came to being musicians but were also incredibly passionate. We started to learn the ins and outs of the business in regards to music and branding. The program was really a crash course on the technicalities of the industry which we all had no problem embracing.
How do you all stay grounded in your daily lives, being in the music business, and stay true to yourselves and the vision of who you want to be as artists? Have you ever felt the pressure to conform to what others in the industry want you to sound like?
Reign: I feel like we all have managed to stay true to who we are by just being our true selves. Our whole vision was created together but it was created from things that were already us. I’m sure we’ve put up quite the fuss about certain things but musically it has never been an issue. There is music that naturally comes from us and it’d be hard pressed to try and get anything else. So there hasn’t been much pressure around our sound.
Reign- You have talked about how you wrote your songs for the band as a Black man making Rock ‘n’ Roll in America and how Rock ‘n’ Roll started as a Black art pioneered by Black men and women. What can you tell me about your journey of, as you say, taking your people’s music back? How have you as a band reframed it together in your own way?
Reign: I feel as though my presence in this genre and my participation in it has some effect on expectations. Growing up there weren’t a lot of black artists that were alive and in the zeitgeist that made rock. When I was a kid I could only name two. I think by being present and making the music that is true to me helps a kid who was also creatively conflicted like I was at a young age. For so long rock as a genre has been taken over by lighter faces and when I was growing up I frequently would look back to ’50s rock n roll like Chuck Berry, Big Mama Thornton, and ’60s influences like Junior Kimbrough. Even the soul of Sam Cooke could be classified as rock. It was all so profoundly a part of our culture and it always confused me to see that that had been taken away.
What can you tell me about how, while recording new material, having to find a new drummer influenced the album-making and songwriting process? Dani- What was it like for you to join the band at that time and how did the opportunity present itself to you? Do you feel that your transition into the band was an easy/smooth one?
Reign: It definitely changes the music a bit. It’s something that you wouldn’t assume affects a whole band in the long run but I think what saved us the most was Dani and Rex’s similar taste in music paired with Dakota and I’s. We pool together two separate generations of rock to turn our music into a timeless hodgepodge of rock’n’roll.
Dani: In short, I think we were just insanely lucky. I always knew of Bluphoria and had actually interviewed Reign for a music journalism podcast I was trying to revive during COVID. A few months later Dakota and I met through my partner, his best friend. I had actually just been accepted into a music school in London and was set to leave in a few months. However the more I heard Dakota talk about the band, the more I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. We met up for an audition and the rest was history. Couldn’t be more grateful.
You will be releasing your debut album on May 5th! What was the recording process and experience like for you all, traveling to Nashville to work with Grammy Award-winning producer Mark Needham at both East Iris Studios and his personal Nashville studio? What do you feel like he added to the album and what did you learn from him?
Reign: Mark really brought a profound amount of experience to recording our album. He joined the project and from the moment I first called him I could tell he was going to help us a lot. He understood our youth in the moment and was very patient and helped us experiment with ideas we wouldn’t have initially thought of.
While writing and recording your debut album, in what ways did you pay homage to the past while also paving a path for the future? How do you feel your sound has grown and evolved with the new album?
Reign: We really tried to dip our toes in everything and really refined our message and musicality. There were moments where we tried to bring in elements of previous songs and styles whenever we wanted to lift a song. A good example of that is “Set Me Up.” That song came in closer to an indie soft rock ballad and when we got to work on it it really transformed. I had the idea of using the Rolling Stones as an influence on how to bring a song that could, ideally swing either way in mood and tempo, be easily injected with energy. We decided to use the “Paint It Black” drum beat and rhythm to bring that song out more.
What has it been like to relocate to Nashville, with such a diverse and talented mix of musicians, and finding your place within the city’s music scene? How have you been influenced by the energy of the city and do you feel like being in that environment inspires you to work harder at your craft?
Reign: Nashville has been amazing. It is the first time I have felt like a music scene is truly collaborative and hasn’t been cutthroat. The bare minimum is to be talented out here and everyone seems to be in line to help in any way. It has been inspiring going to shows and leaving feeling like every band or individual I watched could confidently be on a TV screen someday playing their music.
What can you tell me about your most recent single “Ain’t Got Me”, and in having so many versions of the song coming through for you, what led you to go with the original verse and chorus? What inspired your recently released music video for the song?
Reign: “Ain’t Got Me” is one of our oldest singles and because of that I was always inclined to change it up a lot because I had heard it so many times. I got stuck on it for a while because I always felt like it was missing something or could be better. After a while I realized that the song was already a complete package and all it needed was the right energy. The song told the story I wanted it to tell and as a musician it is always hard to leave a song alone but sometimes that’s the perfect solution.
What’s next for you? What are your goals for the band going forward?
Reign: We hope to get a solid tour going and possibly play abroad. We want to just be on the road and share our music with as many people as possible.