Brothers and sisters: The Vespers redefine what it means to be a family band
By Steve Wildsmith (email@example.com)
The first time Callie and Phoebe Cryar, the lead vocalists for the folk-rock quartet The Vespers, met bandmates Taylor and Bruno Jones, they weren’t impressed.
In fact, Phoebe Cryar remembered during a phone interview this week with The Daily Times, they were downright annoyed.
“We were spending the night with our friend Madeline, and we met them at her house,” she said with a giggle. “We were up late and tired and just wanted to go to sleep, but they wouldn’t leave! They just kept telling stories, and we actually thought they were kind of annoying.”
But interesting, too. The Cryar sisters grew up in a sheltered Christian household, she said, and there was something edgy about the two brothers with long hair, beards and mouths like sailors fresh off the boat.
“We were pretty clean and home-schooled and pretty naïve, and here these two guys come along, talking about living in the hood,” she said. “We weren’t used to that. We were shell-shocked by their whole culture.”
The girls were already performing together, and they discovered the Jones brothers were musicians as well. The aforementioned Madeline convinced the sisters to check out one of the guys’ shows, and over time, the four bonded over music.
“We went and saw them and saw they were really tight, and then they saw one of our shows,” Cryar said. “We asked if they wanted to get together and jam.”
Both sets of siblings were a bit leery of one another at first. The Jones brothers played rock ‘n’ roll; outside of Led Zeppelin, the sheltered Cryar sisters hadn’t given much time to some of their other influences, like the Allman Brothers Band. The girls, on the other hand, were fans of more atmospheric solo projects like Imogen Heap and Iron and Wine.
At the time, Phoebe was 15 and Callie was 17; upon meeting the Jones brothers, the sisters’ parents (who include Christian artist Morgan Cryar) were a little squeamish about letting their girls play music with the boys, but their raffish nature eventually won the Cryar elders over.
“They were a little tentative at first, but once they got to know them and saw they were two crazy ol’ good-natured boys, they were fine with it,” Phoebe said with a laugh.
The turning point for The Vespers came during the recording of “Tell Your Mama,” released in 2010. Although it’s credited as the band’s debut album, it began as a project for the Cryar sisters, who initially asked the Jones brothers to play on it as their studio musicians.
“That album brought us together, and it showed me and Callie how much we really need them,” Phoebe said. “They’re so smart about music and so strong-willed and business-minded, and I think we really needed someone to ground us.”
“Tell Your Mama” was the start of the band’s journey; in the two years since, the foursome has gelled as a performance unit, as musicians and more importantly, as a family.
“I definitely feel like we’ve changed a lot since we’ve been playing with them,” Phoebe said. “When we first started, Callie and I were so shy, and they helped us tap into rock ‘n’ roll a little bit more. And they’ve become believers since we met them. We’re all four believers now, and that’s part of our lives. God gave us breath and gave us the talent that we have, and if we’re writing about our lives and what we do, that’s part of it.”
Label them Christian or Americana; the fact is, labels don’t really matter, and on “The Fourth Wall,” the band’s most recent album that came out back in April, those lines get blurred anyway. The record is a bountiful collection of roots goodness, the audio equivalent of a summer garden bursting over wall and gate with full, ripe vegetables.
Live, the quartet works to arrange those ingredients into a sonic stew that breaks down those walls. The album’s title itself, Phoebe said, comes from the desire on the part of The Vespers to remove any sense of separation between fan and artist.
“We were looking around for a title, and when we saw what that phrase meant, we fell in love with it,” she said. “We were already playing shows with that concept in mind, because we just want to connect with people. We don’t want them to put us up on a pedestal, because we’re just human beings, and so are they. We want to break that pedestal down and that wall down.
“We want to be approachable, because that’s when you can really touch people’s lives. You can write a song and move them, but you really affect people when you build relationships.”