Jon Worthy and the Bends are trying something new. The Nashville-based indie group shook up their old formula with their latest album, Something’s Gotta Give, out June 28, 2019. Atlas spoke to Worthy about the creative process, summer touring and working with Cage the Elephant.
Atlas Artist Group: Can you tell us how you got started in music?
Jon Worthy: I was 13 when I saw Behind the Music with Guns N’ Roses and I fell in love with Slash. Shortly after that, I started taking guitar lessons. I did that for about a year and a half and played through high school. Then when I got to college, I found myself with a lot more time on my hands and I started learning cover songs and then eventually taking those songs and putting my own spin on them. Eventually that turned into writing my own songs. Junior year, I started a band and we played all around- I went to Penn State- campus and played cover gigs and threw in our own originals.
Senior year, the singer of that band said he was moving to Nashville so I said ‘what the hell, I might as well go too’. We were in a band together in Nashville for about four years, and around that same time, I started Jon Worthy and the Bends so I was doing those together simultaneously for a couple years. Now, it’s just full steam ahead for this project.
Atlas: What artists do you draw on for inspiration when you’re creating music?
Jon Worthy: I think my all-time favorites are Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder with just his realism in his lyrics [and] the Beatles. I spent an entire summer only listening to the Beatles one year. Current bands I like a lot are Xavier Rudd out of Australia, The Districts out of Philly [and] a small, lofi indie-punk band called Current Joys.
Otherwise, most of the songs that I write are based on real-life experiences, just things that I encounter, relationships and stuff that I go through is pretty much what I write about.
Atlas: What’s the story behind the new album?
Jon Worthy: Basically, we did the 2018 album with the Cage the Elephant guys- pretty indie rock with different effects on the electric guitars and stuff. At the time that we were doing that album, I had been writing other songs that were more acoustic-based. The project was originally going to be three or four songs, maybe an EP, but I had 10 t0 12 songs that I really liked. So I just decided might as well record them and challenge ourselves- try a different style and see what happens. It’s actually been a great benefit because some of these venues that we play are pretty small and it’s better to play a lowkey acoustic set rather than blow everyone out of the room with loud electric guitars. We really want to translate the new music into a nice acoustic set that I think people can really enjoy.
We were able to add in different instruments that we’ve never really used like violin, cello [and] accordion and just get some cool different sounds and kind of get a cool indie-folk-Americana sound out of it.
Atlas: Have you made changes to your live show with the new sound?
Jon Worthy: Honestly, we still rock out pretty hard. We went on a five day run last weekend and we played a tiny venue in Chicago called the Elbo Room so we decided to play acoustic and that turned out really well, people really enjoyed it. We played a venue in Louisville that’s been getting some noise complaints. They didn’t want anyone playing a loud set so we played acoustic for that. It really just depends on the venue at this point. Obviously we love playing our new songs so if the venue’s more of an intimate setting, we’ll pull out the new songs and acoustic guitars. Otherwise, we’ve still been rocking out for the most part.
Atlas: What was it like being in the studio with the Cage the Elephant guys?
Jon Worthy: It was awesome. I’ve been a Cage the Elephant fan since the beginning, I love them, definitely drawn on some of their songs for inspiration. Just getting to see how he works as far as building guitar tones and switching up. He has like 40 guitars at his house, his home studio- I must have played 25 of them on the album. Just getting his input on what guitar he used for what sound- he actually played on about half the songs as well which was amazing to watch. It was really cool just getting to work on the overall sound of the album and hearing his mixes. Working with him was really cool.
Atlas: What are your summer touring plans and beyond?
Jon Worthy: We have 11 shows in 10 days at the end of July, early August, and we’re playing two sets at Musikfest outside of Philly. I think Paul McCartney is headlining one night, Incubus is headlining one night, I think the night we’re playing, Lady Antebellum is the headliner. We’re really looking forward to that one. My parents and my brothers are actually going to drive up from Pittsburgh to see that one so it’ll be cool to play in front of them on a festival stage and it’ll just be the ultimate ending to a 10 day run.
Atlas: What’s your master plan for this project?
Jon Worthy: We’re pretty much booked for the rest of the year- we have about 50 shows booked, which is pretty extensive since we all still have day jobs- that’s the only way we can afford to do this. We’ve already started planning out next year and we’re leaning towards just going all in- quitting our jobs and hitting the road full time because that’s all we want to do. We definitely understand the risk of doing that so that’s definitely what we’re discussing right now.
As far as music, we have our album coming out at the end of June and that’ll be our 3rd full length album so we’re probably going to ride that for a little bit and then see where the road takes us.
Stream Jon Worthy and the Bends’ new album now!
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos courtesy of Jon Worthy and the Bends