Centred around brothers Bo and Bear Rineheart, American rockers NEEDTOBREATHE have been building their reputation on the American circuit since 2000. Having grown in popularity and critical acclaim with each release, the troupe have set their hearts on conquering Europe with their fourth studio album, “The Reckoning”. A fusion of Kings Of Leon, John Mellencamp, John Mayer, Ray LaMontagne and most bizarrely Coldplay, NEEDTOBREATRE present country tinged stadium rock, without pretension and with clear relish and enjoyment.

“The Reckoning” is far from the most original record to date, but then it doesn’t appear as if it is intended as such. Full to the brim with radio friendly fodder, NEEDTOBREATHE have crafted an album that will take them further into the realms of commercial success. “Drive All Night” has Train written all over it, while the hum-along “Wanted Man” and lighter-in-the-air “The Reckoning” are clear singles. There is no doubt, NEEDTOBREATHE are assured of another notch on their bedpost.

However, it is when NEEDTOBREATHE step off the well-beaten track that they really stand out. The soul-drenched vocal of the gospel-driven “Able” and haunting “A Place Only You Can Go” demonstrates a depth to NEEDTOBREATHE that leaves the listener wanting so much more from “The Reckoning”. While without “Able”, “The Reckoning” would make for amazing driving music, it slots so neatly among so many already established artists, that NEEDTOBREATHE could easily be overlooked. But “Able” takes NEEDTOBREATHE into a league of their own. Heartfelt, mournful, uplifting, spine tingling, Bear Rineheart proves himself to be one of the music industry’s defining vocal artists.

NEEDTOBREATHE are guaranteed mainstream success if they continue to release records of this ilk, however, they could be so easily be so much more than just another Train or Kings Of Leon. Bear and Bo Rineheart make a distinctive writing duo, and Bear’s vocal trumps his contemporaries. If the Rinehart’s had turned off the radio and simply poured more soul-soaked emotion into “The Reckoning”, it  would have easily been the finest album of 2012. As it stands, it is enjoyable with stand out moments.

Rating: 3.55/5
Reviewer: Jeremy Williams


The Kaje talks dynamics to The Ex-Senators

The Ex-Senators first came to The Kaje‘s attention with their politically charged romp “Start A Fight”, but really won our hearts when he heard their sincere and diverse eponymous album. Having hung out with D-Mac and Van in Central London for an acoustic session in the park, we decided to use the opportunity to also find out a little bit more about what makes The Ex-Senators tick, and how they source inspiration for their songs. BE WARNED: The Ex-Senators are far more than just a riotous political act! Exciting!

First things first-how have you pieced together the record?

D-Mac: Some of the songs on the record are started with Van, who is really my writing partner, he will throw down an idea. Several songs on the album start with him writing something.

Van: I will send D-Mac my demo and if he likes it, he will get back to me right away with an idea. If he doesn’t like it, then I show up to rehearsal with my head hung low. They will just act as if I am not there.

D-Mac: Generally I like what he sends me, so the songs that work like that are always the same. They start with what he sent me, usually a guitar loop and a drum part, then I write the verse, the chorus and together we come up with a bridge. I often write a lyric in my car. I write a lot in my car. When you are driving, you are thinking about the road, then your mind gets loose and all of a sudden lyrics just start to flow. That is one way that I write.

Some of the other songs, like “Start A Fight”, they just appear. I wrote one of the songs, “Disappear”, the last song on the record, I wrote that the day after my best friend past away. I wrote it in a hotel room. The demo I did on my phone is almost exactly the song that is on the record. We just re-recorded it and added bits in.

Some songs come to us in five minutes, others we are constantly working on and reworking as a group.

There is no defined method. Would you say it is more a reactive process?

D-Mac: There are a couple of songs on the album where I would say that happened. They are very immediate reactions to things. Consciously sitting down and being pissed off at something I saw or read, then writing my response. I try to find a solution. Those songs come out very quickly.

The interesting thing is that those songs tend to be the most open to interpretation. What I am saying is not always what people are hearing. They interpret what I say in terms of they feel. That is one of the most interesting and exciting things about music.

You have all worked in the industry in various forms over the years, what prompted you to get together on The Ex-Senators?

D-Mac: Va and I have played together in various things and we did an acoustic thing together, which we recorded in a hotel in LA and toured for a while. But the impetus for this band came in 2008, we were writing some songs and he had just moved back from LA to Chicago. A mutual friend of ours, my best friend, Kyle, had passed away unexpectedly, he committed suicide. So we had an Irish Wake, Kyle had a hell of resume from playing with people, everyone from John Mellencamp to Dinah Carter and George Jones, and everyone showed up in this club. So the core four guys in the band-all knew this drummer so we got up and jammed.

A few months later Fabulous called me and said let’s do this. So we were all in, then Brian came along a little later on. We went through a couple of guys playing bass, and Brian just fitted in. We had already recorded half of the record, then he came along and we went back in to re-record and made a huge difference. It was an organic thing. It all rose out of a tragic situation.

It is very easy for us doing this together, and it is nice that everyone already has a career outside of the band. We are not all competing.

Van: We all come from different musical places. We are not going to approach it all in the same way. We are not bloodhounds playing for attention.

Does the friendship at the core ensure there is no room for ego?

D-Mac: There is no one wanting to write all the songs. What I love about “Angel” is that it is the first song that everyone wrote together. It was just a matter of throwing things around and it locked in.

Van: With the other players in the group you have to have respect for where the others are coming from.

D-Mac: What I love about being in this band is that in rehearsal everyone will do something that makes me laugh as it is just so good. I am just a basher, I can do things with my voice, but not with the guitar. I just look to the others to make things good.

With the album finally released, will you be heading over here again for some live shows?

D-Mac: We will be over again in October for a full tour with the whole band. We want to do most of the UK and try to figure out Ireland as well. We are talking about Dublin and Cork.

“Ex  Senators” is out now.

Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams

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