With a 17-percent approval rating, the U.S. Congress needs all the help it can get redeeming its once sacred name, and Denver-based, Virginia-bred The Congress – like kindred spirits These United States – are infusing the words with renewed vigor and genuine freedom loving moxie. Their full-length debut Whatever You Want offers a sound and spirit to make one actually believe the future is ours and that it might be worth following one’s passions regardless of the many reasons not to. It’s bold statement etched in pure rock ‘n’ roll terms, no adjectives like ‘modern’ or ‘classic’ needed to pen them into a single category, filled with air guitar ready riffage, a crushing low end roll, and broadly charming tunes that leap ably from Tom Petty to Radiohead to Muscle Shoals soul to lightly skippin’ lovers laments, the boys twirling confidently each and every step.
Lead singer-bassist Jonathan Meadows belts ‘em out in a voice kin to JJ Grey, Chris Robinson and Ronnie Van Zandt in his fighting prime – everything slathered with un-fake-able passion, intuitive phrasing and shit tons of raw power. In fact, The Congress in their oomph and sinewy togetherness on this debut remind one of the Lynyrd Skynrd that caught ol’ Al Kooper’s eye and made him want to show them off to the world. Some cuts on Whatever You Want like “Distance” have just enough southern drawl to potentially slip in next to the better parts of Nashville these days like the Zac Brown Band and Blackberry Smoke, and the Otis Redding-like simmer of “Impatiently” would make them a primo opener for Sharon Jones and other classic soul revivalists. There’s even a hot jazz interlude (“Domestic”) that seems shot in cool black and white, and one moment (“Oh Babe”) that feels like a lost 10cc or Queen b-side. Closer “Echoes” suggests they’ve got a well-worn copy of Graceland in the tour van, and they’ve done Paul Simon proud here.
At the bottom, Meadows (nickname = “Schmeadows”), Scott “Scotty” Lane (guitar) and Mark “Goose” Levy (drums) are following the mandate of their album’s title and playing whatever they want in a most rockin’ way. It’s a guiding force that shines out of them live whenever this potent young band hits town, and it’s quite a feat that they’ve distilled this feeling in the studio. Grammy/Ace/Emmy award winning engineer for these sessions John Macy (Los Lobos, Richie Furay) offers, “The thing I like the most about this (besides the awesome songs, playing and people) is that it’s a record of commitment – no click tracks, no editing, no Auto-Tune with 3 mic mono drums, mixed in three days with no recalls, etc. Period. It’s kinda like analog grabbed digital by the throat and told it, ‘You’re doing things our way today!’ It’s the closest I’ve gotten to a live record in a studio environment in a long time – reminds why I got in this business.”
Whatever You Want oozes conviction, the core of this growing thing strong and itching to get in the fight, or maybe just grab an eager but scared wallflower onto the dance floor as they raise a glass to coming home or maybe just to being alive another day, free to wrestle with all the shit coming down instead of just being buried alive by it.
Here’s what the band had to say to our inquiries.
- 1. Great music rarely happens without…
- Jonathan: Proper working ears
Mark: Great musicians
- 2. The first album I bought was…
- Jonathan: Aerosmith’s Get a Grip is the first I remember “buying”. The pastor at my parent’s Southern Baptist church outside of Richmond, VA gave me my first Dead tapes in the 7th grade. He was not your typical pastor. I think that’s pretty fuckin’ cool.
Scott: Pearl Jam’s Ten and Led Zeppelin IV at the same time, at Peaches in Richmond, VA in 1991.
Mark: Led Zeppelin IV
- 3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was…
- Jonathan: There’s been so much good stuff coming out recently with Dr. Dog and Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys. I’m really just waiting for Wyclef to make music that can hang with the original Carnival. That record was on another level.
Scott: Dr. Dog’s Be The Void
Mark: Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”
- 4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be…
- Jonathan: a soccer player until the music thing bit me.
Scott: a secret agent
Mark: a professional musician. Go figure.
- 5. My favorite sort of gig is…
- Jonathan: Any gig that isn’t shitty.
Scott: Tiny, packed, grimy little rooms that feel good.
Mark: Big festivals or theater shows
- 6. One thing I wish people knew about me is…
- Jonathan: …that I’m almost always ready to party.
Scott: …I appreciate them very much.
Mark: …I’m very approachable and always appreciate a good conversation.
- 7. I love the sound of…
- Jonathan: The ocean. Colorado is lacking in that department.
Mark: Thunder and heavy rain
- 8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as…
- Jonathan: Dark Side of The Moon? And Exile….
Scott: Exile On Main Street
Mark: Exile On Main Street
- 9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at…
- Jonathan: Anytime we’re back home in the south.
Scott: Jonathan’s sister-in-law in the Outer Banks fixed us the biggest piece of fresh tuna I’ve ever seen in my life. Her friend had just caught it.
Mark: Scott’s brother’s house in Charleston, SC. Fresh seafood galore, wine, beer, and great company.
- 10. I always find the coolest audiences in…
- Jonathan: The places we least expect. Although sometimes we DO expect a cool audience and they end up being cool…got it?
Scott: Virginia and Colorado are obvious because they’re home turf, so to speak, but besides those I love Oxford, Mississippi and Lake Tahoe.
Mark: COLORADO! There’s no place like home…
- 11. The worst habit I’ve picked up being on the road all the time is…
- Jonathan: More cigarettes.
Scott: Being fed fried food and pizza every night at clubs, although it has turned me into a healthier eater when I get home.
Mark: Candy at gas stations?
- 12. Led Zeppelin or Radiohead, which flips your switch the most and why?
- Jonathan: Probably Radiohead. I might get a tomato thrown at me for this but Zeppelin never really made the magic happen for me. I appreciate all the great tunes and Bonham and Pages playing, but I never got the bug. Radiohead are on another level creatively and musically as far as I’m concerned.
Scott: Zeppelin. I don’t know that any band influenced me more when I started playing music. I listen to Radiohead much more these days though.
Mark: Zeppelin because Bonham is such a monster. But I have to say Radiohead has been a constant inspiration for me.
- 13. The craziest thing I ever saw was…
- Jonathan: …probably just a hallucination.
Scott: Wolves circling my tent for 5 hours while on a camping trip.
Mark: a semi-truck in Glenwood Canyon flipping over and dropping giant concrete tubes from the upper highway onto the lower highway, crushing an SUV but hurting no one.