Long championed as one of Columbia’s most talented and engaging guitarists, Josh Roberts and his reliable backers, the Hinges, have garnered rave reviews throughout the Southeast for their riveting live show. Splitting the difference between polyglot jam bands like Gov’t Mule and straight-up roots-rock a la Neil Young & Crazy Horse or Creedence Clearwater Revival, they have long sat on the kind of broad appeal that could grab them fans around this region and beyond.
And yet, it hasn’t really happened that way. First, there was the five-year recording drought that following their sprawling, 73-minute sophomore LP, 2007’s My War Cry Is Amor. Things looked like they might turn around when the long-gestating follow-up, Might Long Distance and Murky Old Time, appeared in 2012 and saw the band exploring studio tricks and layered instrumentation in exciting new ways. But sadly, its marketing suffered from a botched rollout by the fledgling imprint CIA Records and failed to maximize on the band’s gains.
Despite these setbacks, Free Times caught up with Roberts recently in the midst of a multi-week tour, one that took his Hinges to places like Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Missouri, all of which they had never visited before. The past few years haven’t gone perfectly, but they haven’t quelled this crew’s ambition.
“We just figured it was time to expand,” he says, offering what sounds like an apology. “We had been so conservative in our touring up this point. We just figured we should seek out some places that might work out for us.”
What: Josh Roberts & the Hinges
Where: Conundrum Music Hall,
626 Meeting St. (West Columbia)
When: Friday, Feb. 28, 8:30 p.m.
With: Royal Tinfoil
Price: $12 ($10 advance)
More info: 250-1295 or conundrum.us
The venture is working pretty well so far. Roberts says the Hinges have run into a lot of Southeast ex-pats on the tour (“So many people,” Roberts says. “More than you would think.”), and a booking company formed by ex-Asheville friends now settled in Denver called Rocky Mountain Artists set them up with a slew of dates playing ski towns during peak tourist season. It’s been a good run.
“It’s been spectacular every day,” he says, high on both the beauty of the snow-covered landscape in and how good the tour is going. “We keep getting tighter and tighter, better and better. This is our longest tour yet, and it’s been great.”
While the band traveled a bit in 2013, it spent the bulk of the year writing a slew of new songs and practicing in preparation for a more whirlwind effort this year. Given its rough experience with CIA, the band is a bit wary about how it is going to handle the next release. Instead of teaming with a label, it plans to take a more DIY approach, funding its new record with a campaign on Kickstarter or some other crowd-funding website before getting back into the studio.
“There’s no bad blood there, a lot of people tried to get [CIA] going,” Roberts says. “It just never got off the ground.”
Of course, part of the blame for the Hinges’ inconsistent momentum rests with the group. Taking five years to follow up an album isn’t likely to energize your fan base. But Roberts assures that the outfit will keep rolling this time out, making noise on the road and in the studio as they seek to make 2014 their most successful year yet. And while that new record won’t arrive tomorrow or next month, you can rest assured that the Hinges will deliver it as soon as possible.
“I think we just need to create a bunch more content,” Roberts explains. “We have tons of new material, enough for three records if we wanted. [It’s] been a pretty natural evolution. It’s a little funkier, a little more soul in the mix. But it’s still us.”
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