With the release of their sophomore album, The Game (due September 9, 2016 on American Paradox), The Congress progresses further along a career path that’s taken them from Denver, CO, where they first formed, back to their hometown of Richmond, VA. They’ve followed a circuitous route, one that’s found them touring with high profile bands like Lake Street Dive, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Hard Working Americans, while still remaining focused on their singular sound, a dynamic mix of riveting rock ‘n’ roll, old school soul, classic country, and searing psychedelia.
Ultimately, The Congress is a band that shows reverence for their roots through both cohesion and creativity. “It’s hard to pigeonhole us one way or the other,” says guitarist/vocalist Scott Lane. “We do what comes naturally, with a lot of focus on song and arrangement, and very little on genre. We’re not great at putting ourselves in one box.” That’s borne out on The Game, even on an initial listen. From the mournful sway of “Home Again” and “Farewell,” to the jazzy, soulful sound evident in “When I Got the Time,” it’s clear The Congress is as versatile as it is unpredictable. The slow, steady glide of “Poison and Antidote” and “This Ain’t Livin’” finds a perfect mesh with spry rockers like “Ain’t It Easy,” “September” and the title track, ensuring a subtle change in tone and tempo throughout.
The Game follows the band’s two EPs (one self-titled, the other dubbed The Loft Tapes) and a full-length debut (aptly titled Whatever You Want). The new record was recorded primarily at Denver’s Macy Sound Studio with occasional sessions at Montrose Studios in Richmond. Bassist/vocalist Jonathan Meadows remembers, “‘This Ain’t Livin‘ came really quickly. We ran through it in 20 minutes and the first take turned out to be the best. It felt very spontaneous.” To keep that fresh feeling throughout The Game, the band stripped down their sound, relying only on the basics — guitar, bass, piano and drums — the latter courtesy of band members Chris Speasmaker and Mark Levy, respectively. (The newest member of the fold, drummer Raphael Katchinoff replaced Levy earlier this year.)
Although the band produced the album themselves (“Scott has really learned his way around the studio,” Meadows mentions. “He’s really nailed it.”), they opted to turn the mixing chores over to engineer Adrian Olsen. “This was the first time we didn’t do it ourselves,” Meadows continues. “I think that was a more mature decision on our part. It was really exciting to hear the results coming from the hands of somebody else.” In the end, The Game is an accurate representation of the band’s versatility. “We’re obsessive about music,” Lane insists. “We love old R&B. We’re fans of classic country. It’s all rock and roll.