Louisiana-based England in 1819 carry their roots wherever they go
Published: June 6, 2012
"England in 1819," the sonnet written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, is an angry poem that describes an "old, mad, blind, despised, and dying" King George III and all nobility as "leeches."
England in 1819, the rock group, is the antithesis. The Baton Rouge band — father Liam Callaway on guitar and trombone, sons Andrew Callaway on keyboards and vocals and Dan Callaway on bass and French horn, and Sean Barna on drums — has released a charming 2009 debut (Three Cheers for Bertie) and a gorgeous follow-up (Alma) that's filled with sweetness even when it gets loud.
"We just liked the ring to it," Andrew Callaway told the Current on the phone about the band's name. "But it also gives you a sense of distance and yet closeness. We're in America now, but we kind of idolize our time in England. We only have fond memories of it."
Liam's father, William, was a travelling musician in Georgia in the '40s and '50s, and Liam followed suit as a New Wave artist in Athens in the late '70s, when he relocated to England to teach Air Force bands. Andrew and Dan grew up in the British countryside and started playing in rock bands until the family returned to different cities of America in 1995, though they all reunited in Louisiana in 2007.
"We followed dad for most of our lives, learning music from him and playing with him when we were younger," said Andrew. "After I started writing and composing more on the piano, and then moved back to Baton Rouge, we started the band with the intention of playing the songs I was writing — just bigger and louder."
The Callaways are classically trained and the band's music has an epic, symphonic quality to it, but England in 1819 likes to keep it simple. With them, it's all about well-crafted songs filled with equal parts moving melodies and hooks you can play hard with, without going crazy about it. And now, after two records produced and promoted pretty much under the radar, the band is going all out with no distractions.
"No jobs, no houses," said Callaway. "We've got a lot of free time now that we are only on the road, so hopefully we'll spend some of that time working through some new stuff. I have always been writing new material, but it hasn't yet made the transition to the band. The crowds haven't come knocking down our doors yet for more new songs, so we're not too rushed just yet."
Besides the two albums, the band has two ambitious videos ("Trophy Sixty One" and "Waterfall") made for them (pro-bono) by New Orleans videographer Stephen Kinigopoulos, who gives the songs the type of larger-than-life beauty found in Terrence Malick films. "He is a huge fan of our music," said a grateful Callaway. "He is a ridiculously talented individual, and it's incredible that he is not famous yet."
Just as ridiculous as the fact that England in 1819 is not famous yet, either. In their bio, their unusual sound is accurately described as "a magnificent amalgamation of classical emotion, indie perspective, and post-rock intensity." But when you actually ask Callaway if he thinks anyone "got" their sound in their first SA show (April 27 at Moses Rose's Hideout), he basically says their stuff is not that big of a deal.
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