I’m not necessarily one to wax poetic at the drop of a hat.
OK, that’s a lie. I start waxing poetic before the hat even hits the ground. But this month I’m going to suggest that if there was ever something the wax poetic about, the homecoming of one of our very own—St. Paul & the Broken Bones—is worthy indeed.
I doubt I need to introduce any of you to Paul Janeway, who puts the “Paul” in “St. Paul” or even any of his bones. We’ve all watched in awe as the Birmingham band with a big sound climbed to the top. I, for one, have enjoyed the ride. I listened when Birmingham Mountain Radio first began to play St. Paul & the Broken Bones, with its soul reverberating through the car. I thought they were on to something. I wasn’t the only one.
Their first LP, Half the City, hit No. 62 on Billboard charts during its first week of sales. People took note of the little band from Birmingham. Paste magazine, Garden & Gun, and Rolling Stone noticed. Jimmy Kimmel called. NPR called. The Rolling Stones called (St. Paul & the Broken Bones opened for them). And the boys from Birmingham took their sound all around the world. “There [have been] a few surprises, but just the fact that I am making a living singing music and writing music is just a shock,” Janeway says. “I love it. We rag on each other pretty hard. It all comes from a good place, but it can be pretty ruthless. When you spend so much time together, the politeness goes away. We all get along really well. I love those guys very much and love being around them 90 percent of the time.”
And though they spend whole months playing their music out in the world (Janeway’s secrets for surviving the road: “Plenty of rest and not staying out too late. Always trying to find things that occupy my mind to get a breath from the all-consuming daily grind of touring.”), every now and then, they come home. In March of 2015, they filmed their first music video here. They played to thousands under a Birmingham sunset at the inaugural Sloss Fest. They’ve played numerous sold-out hometown shows. “That first sellout at Bottletree was very special,” Janeway says. “I actually found the sold out sign from that show a couple of weeks ago. That is still a really special memory.” And on Dec. 28 and 29, they’re coming back (yep, two shows, which will likely both sell out) to the Alabama Theatre. “It’s always nice coming home. I love spending time with my wife, family, and dog,” Janeway says. “Birmingham will always hold a special place in my heart because it shaped me as a person, good or bad. Playing shows here will always be special and that will never go away.”
The band—which, alongside Janeway, includes Jesse Phillips, Al Gamble, Browan Lollar, Andrew Lee, Ben Griner, and Allen Branstetter—is touring for their second full-length album, Sea of Noise, which was released in September. “Sea of Noise is not quite a full-blown concept record. It is focused in terms of subject matter—finding redemption and salvation and hope,” Janeway explains. “‘Crumbling Light Posts’ comes from an old Winston Churchill quote, in which he said England was a crumbling lighthouse in a sea of darkness. I always thought that was a really interesting concept—that we’re falling anyway. In this day and age, it is the noise that has defined so many things. We’re going to fall to it eventually, but for now we feel like our heads are above water. It felt anthemic.”
Janeway says that from here, they keep going forward. Right now, he’s getting his thoughts together for another album, and of course, they’re always honing their sound, spectacular as it is. “I am doing some things out of my comfort zone, but I think that can be good,” Janeway says. “Always challenging yourself to go further with your craft is difficult. I don’t like standing still, so I enjoy that I can change things up as well.”
If you want to spend the last days of 2016 with Paul and the Bones, run, don’t walk, to get your tickets. I won’t be at this show, but tell them I said hello.
2/3: Angel Olsen at Saturn.
For fans of Sharon Van Etten and Woods.
2/13: Blind Pilot at Saturn.
For fans of Sea Wolf and Horse Feathers.
2/24: Twenty One Pilots at The BJCC.
For fans of Panic! At The Disco and X Ambassadors.