Nashville Sunday Night Presents: Neulore plus Justin Kalk Orchestra

NeuloreAnimal Evolve, NEULORE’s Chop Shop/Island Records debut, is the soundtrack for an epic action movie that doesn’t exist.

“Cinema has always affected the way we think,” says Adam Agin, one half of the modern folk duo. “We have songs that sound like battlefield scenes. We have songs that sound like you’re running wild in an open field. We’re huge fans of movies, so it’s natural for us to dream up some sort of visual scene… and then figure out how that scene would sound.”

Don’t let the ‘folk’ tag fool you. Anchored by tribal drums and electric guitars, NEULORE’s songs are better suited for the arena than the campfire. The music swells and swoons, with tense verses that break into epic, open-armed choruses. It’s a sound that tells a story, much like classic folk music… but it does so with gang vocals, synthesizers and the anthemic sweep of rock & roll.

The band formed in 2009, when Agin crossed paths with guitarist William T. Cook in Nashville. Surrounded by the rootsy twang of country singers and Americana bands, the two began whipping up a different sound, one that relied heavily on mood, melody and motion pictures. They didn’t just write songs. They created complex backstories for each tune, digging deep into their collective imagination and conjuring up fictional characters, plot lines and landscapes. Those backstories helped inspire the band’s symbolic clothing and stage setup, too, transforming Neulore’s concerts from routine gigs into actual experiences.

When it came time to record a full-length album, Agin and Cook turned to Konrad Snyder, the Nashville-based producer behind albums by Kopecky Family Band and Feather & Belle. They wanted the record to revolve around a central theme: man’s struggle between human decency and animalistic savagery. It’s a classic struggle, often illustrated with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Agin and Cook visualized it as an all-out war, though, with both sides dueling to death.

“The whole record is a quest for humanity,” says Cook. “We’d take a song and say, ‘What scene is this song in? What are the visuals?’ Then we’d decide how aggressive the guitar needed to sound, or what the rhythm should be, just to get the emotion in that scene across. We would create these alternate realities, and then we’d make them real.”

With “Shadow of a Man,” the album’s lead single, receiving airplay on nationwide radio stations (as well as TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, which premiered the song in 2013), NEULORE is getting ready to take the battlefield. The band’s name — a combination of the German prefix “neu,” meaning “new,” and the latter half of “folklore” — says it all. This is a new story, a new tradition… and Animal Evolve is the first chapter.

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