The End Of America, who go the the moniker TEOA, embody exploration through travel. Comprised of Brendon Thomas, James Downes, and Trevor Leonard, they derived their name from the Jack Kerouac novel ‘On The Road’, finding inspiration from the idea of traveling to the end of the continent for inspiration and arriving at the end only to realize there was no where to go but back, exploring one’s self in the process. Having previously been in other bands, the three met in 2005 while on tour with their respective bands and became fast friends, joining each other on stage to add harmonies to each other’s songs. After their other band’s stalled, they decided to form TEOA , blending their three part harmonies with indie rock and folk sounds. Having toured the US and Europe, they have played festivals that include SXSW, Savannah Stopover and the Baltimore Folk Fest and have shared the stage with Larry Campbell, David Bromberg, Garry Louris of The Jayhawks, Simone Felice of The Felice Brothers and had the opportunity to join Beck in LA for his Song Reader sheet music release show. Since forming, TEOA has released three albums and released a song a month for 6 months last year with resulted in the release of their recent Light Within EP. The band released their latest single “Canyon” in June, a song inspired by the loss of Brendon’s friend and partner Amy Regan in 2016. With the release of their next single “A Million Miles of Low Road” this month, the band plans to release a single each month throughout the year. With a string of new singles and plans to potentially release an album in 2021, TEOA has plenty of exciting new music coming up to delight their fans and to make new ones! You can follow TEOA and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and band news, as well as stream and purchase their music, via the following links:
You recently released your latest single “Canyon” about Brendon’s friend and partner Amy Regan who passed away in 2016. In what ways do you guys hope to honor her spirit with the song and what was it like to work on the song together as a band? What has it been like to share her spirit with the world and why was it important to have the song feel conversational?
Brendon: Amy had a lot to share with the world that went unsung. Her passing was a lot to process, but writing about it has helped. Singing with James and Trev has always been spiritually activating for me, and working together on ‘Canyon’ has done the same for the song, which is why the lyrics were written conversationally. It puts me in touch with her again. I look forward to the day we’re able to play it live.
The three of you have lived in different states since the start of the band 15 years ago, so I imagine you are somewhat accustomed to working apart. What kinds of challenges have you faced as a band as a result of the pandemic and social isolation measures? I read that you write songs both individually and as a band. Has the social isolation changed how you are writing new music?
Brendon: Not being able to sing in the same room is a drag, for sure, but we’re adjusting. Jamming online is a work in progress, dealing with latency and tech stuff. I think we’ll be on top of it soon. Thankfully we all have home studios and engineering skills, so we can stay on track with our single-a-month release schedule. Writing is mostly happening separately but James and Trev penned a great new tune together on Zoom recently, so it is definitely possible to co-write virtually going forward.
Last year you released 6 singles in 6 months, having said that it helps to have music to release on a consistent basis. You then released your EP Light Within. Was it your plan from the start to compile all of the singles into an EP and with plans to keep releasing a single a month, do you plan to release another EP or LP in the future?
Brendon: Yeah, exactly. The single approach has been good for building our presence on streaming platforms. Every song gets some serious love with a premiere and full promotional campaign. Compiling the songs into EPs allows us to re-release them as a physical body of work later, which appeases the die-hard CD consumers across our fanbase. We’ll be continuing with singles through the year, and then maybe consider making an album in 2021.
You have said that releasing singles each month has allowed you to have a checklist in order to see what worked and what didn’t. What have you learned as a result of the process so far?
Brendon: It’s definitely a challenge. Pursuing a sound and mix for each song that fits together within a body of work takes a lot of conscious effort. Having a good mastering guy is crucial (cue shout-out to Dave Downham at Gradwell House.) Then there is the artwork, music video, press release, and preparing everything for the next song while still promoting the current single. Thankfully we have a kick-ass team that holds us to deadlines and keeps the machine humming along. A few bits of advice: upload your song well before the release date to ensure you’ll land on Spotify release radar and discover playlists. Share a pre-save link with your fans. These things will serve to please the Gods of streaming algorithms, haha. And be sure to work with a PR company that believes in you. Ours (River) is the best in the biz.
James- You have mentioned that you are learning more classical sounding piano pieces, but it hasn’t worked its way into the songwriting you do in a rock band setting. What is your ultimate goal with regards to your classical piano pieces? Do you hope to incorporate those sounds into the band’s music in the future?
James: Learning classical piano has been a quiet dream of mind for a lot of years but it always seemed out of reach. Growing up as punk/harcore/metal kid without formal training (other than playing alto sax in public school concert band) it just didn’t seem possible. Now that I’m older, I feel totally confident that I can achieve a long term goal and this one has been on the list for a long time. There’s something about the sound of piano – it hits me hard. As for how I’d like to incorporate it in TEOA’s sound, I’d love to bring what I’ll learn about chord changes and inversions into our writing. Ultimately, my goal is to write simple songs in a beautiful and unique way.
What can you tell me about your Facebook Live show and what inspired it? You have featured several bands as guests, some that you know well and some that you don’t know as well and have said that everyone has an important message but are coming at it from a different angle. What have you learned from the bands you’ve featured on the show?
James: The Facebook Live show has been a great way for us to connect with the people who we haven’t been able to see at shows because of COVID. The inspiration came from a need to still have these people in our lives and to continue to share music. If you’ve been to a TEOA show, you know that there can be a good amount of banter between songs from time to time. We love talking with each other and the audience on stage. We feel like it helps foster a sense of community. We’re grateful for that community and we wanted the live stream to be a way to continue to connect with it. And yes, our live stream guests have been such a blast. We learn so much from these groups. For example, our time with Heather Mae showed us the power of stage presence and having a clear message to everything you do. The Accidentals inspired us with their tireless work ethic and dedication to being savvy business people and genuine artists at the same time. So many more, but those are just a few examples.
The three of you were reading On The Road when you formed the band, which discussed traveling to the end of the continent for inspiration and arriving at the end and realizing there’s no place to go but back, which you guys saw as a simile for self-exploration. In what ways have you pushed your boundaries and what have you learned about yourselves by looking inside and growing over the years?
James: Nice question. In the early years of touring, pushing boundaries meant seeing how long you could tour for, how far away you could go, what strange adventures could you be a part of. We’ve spent a lot of nights in strange towns in shady places. We’ve laughed until we passed out, broken down on the side of the highway. We’ve slept in rest stop bathrooms to keep from freezing in the tour van overnight. That was phase one. Phase two, where you reach the end and realize the next frontier is inward started a few years back for me. I was starting to realize that happiness doesn’t come from running as fast as you can away from home. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. I spent a lot of years reflecting on why I was the way I was, what and who was most important to me. A lot of this exploration was on my own, some of it with a therapist, and a lot of it along side my bandmates. We essentially grew up together.
You mentioned last year that you were trying to break out of traditional folk formats and use new technology to add an exciting new energy to your music. You also released your first album Steep Bay 10 years ago! In what ways do you feel your music has evolved over the years and especially in the past year with your goal of expanding into new sounds?
James: Our music has changed in the sense that we’re willing to explore new sounds with confidence that, in the end, it’ll still be TEOA. Our first album, Steep Bay, was recorded with two mics, live in a cabin. No electricity (other than the battery powered recorder), this was a completely acoustic effort. Since then, we’ve evolved into a full band with electric guitars, keys, and a rhythm section. In addition to folk, we listen to a broad range of music and a lot of it ends up finding its way into the songs. For example, we love the ambience and ethereal textures of Pink Floyd and we also love the driving looping pulse of The War on Drugs. We love the rhythmic dance of WuTang and we love the melodic darkness of Deftones. I can safely say that we won’t be rapping in a song or have distorted seven string Ibanez guitars, but there’s a spirit that comes through these other bands that we hope to honor in our music.
What can you tell me about your thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and how the protests and general environment have/has been in your respective cities? How have you tried to use your platform as artists to make your voices heard and raise awareness?
Trevor: We feel that the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests are extremely important and incredibly necessary. Their voices need to be heard and real change has to happen now. In Philly and NYC we’ve witnessed a lot of positive and peaceful protests that are really helping get the message across that Black lives matter and until there is justice there can’t be peace. As for us, we paused our TMI with TEOA Facebook Live show for the month of June to let the voices of the movement be heard. We’re donating all our June digital bandcamp sales to Color of Change. We’re listening and learning, sharing information on our platforms and signing petitions to help effect real change.
What inspired your recent Work Day playlist on Spotify? It sounds like you’ve had a good response!
Trevor: We thought the playlist would be a great way to share the bands and songs we love and help listeners get through the work day with good music. We also want to be in the company of these incredible bands so we took matters into our own hands haha. But really we just want to curate rad mixtapes for people.
You will be releasing your new single “A Million Miles Of Low Road” this month. What can you tell me about the upcoming single? What can you tell me about the artwork for your singles and the ideas behind the different covers?
Trevor: Yes! “A Million Miles Of Low Road” will be out everywhere you listen to music on 7/16 and we’re stoked and proud of this one, like all our tunes. This is one that James wrote and Brendon and I added our flourishes of ambience, guitars, light percussion and harmonies. It’s a song that we all relate to and I think our fans and new listeners will all relate to the theme as well. It’s about being kind to yourself and remembering that how we speak to ourselves internally reflects outward. We can learn to influence our mental positivity, even though it’s not easy and we need help. Recognizing what we tell ourselves is a first step of healing. James has been designing all the artwork for our 2020 singles and he’s nailing it, right!? The connecting concept was to create simple line drawings that depict specific images from each individual song. A pill vial, plastic water bottle and TV for “Not The End.” A big moon over the Red Rocks cliff for “Canyon.” Telephone power lines, a long road and us dudes trekking for “A Million Miles of Low Road.” Our love of nature and traveling is always a common thread.
What’s next for TEOA?
Trevor: We’re going to continue writing, recording and releasing songs each month. We’re also working on doing a few very limited capacity shows and live stream performances in August and September. We’re keeping our feet on the gas.