On the right path
Music Fest was group’s first taste of big time
The Band CAMINO had been together for less than a year when the group was asked to play at last spring’s Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival.
“It was surreal,” said drummer/backup vocalist Andrew Isbell, 19. They parked lead singer/guitarist Jeffery Jordan’s mom’s van “next to Bastille’s 18-wheeler.”
“I think that was the best show we ever played,” said bass player Graham Rowell, 20. “It felt right. It felt like we were supposed to be there.”
The band, which also includes guitarist, pianist, synth player and vocalist Spencer Stewart, 23, will headline “This is Memphis” on Sunday at the Levitt Shell. The festival is produced entirely by University of Memphis students through the music department’s record label, Blue Tom Records.
“Having had all four members of The Band CAMINO in my music business classes, their recent success comes at no surprise to me,” said U of M assistant professor of music Ben Yonas. “We finish class sometimes at 9 p.m. Most kids go home. They stay and rehearse for hours. They are 110 percent committed to pursuing excellence and have no intention of slowing down.”
Jordan, 21, who sang and played piano in church, began writing songs in elementary school. His self-titled first band was a country band. “I was raised with that lifestyle, I guess,” he said. “Both my grandparents owned farms.
“I came from a narrowminded perspective of music. I just listened to what I liked. I wasn’t really conscious of other kinds of music. I was just in my own bubble, really. And when I got to college, I was like, ‘All right! There’s a lot of other stuff happening.’”
Rowell, nephew of the late Stax bass player Donald “Duck” Dunn, was in Jordan’s first band. “When I was 14, I figured out how cool my uncle was, so I started playing bass,” Rowell said. But he wasn’t serious about it.
Dunn died when Rowell was 16. Remembering the funeral, he said, “I was sitting next to the singer from AC/DC — Brian Johnson. There were all these incredible musicians. I got a weird feeling like, ‘I have to do this.’ I was going to the University of Arkansas. I wanted to be in a fraternity and do sports management. That changed everything.”
Rowell then moved to Jordan’s next group, The Jeffery Jordan Band. The most popular song the singer-songwriter band performed was “Simple Life,” which Jordan described as “a traditional country song: rocking chair, a guitar, a tractor, a field, a truck.”
Said Isbell, who had joined the band: “I started playing drums because we’d go to church and there was a drum set there so I’d bang on it.”
He played a little bit of everything in high school, but, he said, “I loved playing percussion and orchestra stuff. But I’d get out of rehearsals and I’d just go straight back to the rock music.”
Stewart, who was in the choir and took piano lessons when he was in high school, also was in The Jeffery Jordan Band. Stewart was influenced by his brother, Jordan Stewart, who was in a Christian band, Monday@4: “He used to pick me up from school. We used to listen to everything from Outkast to Sean Paul to early ’80s rock and roll.”
He took three semesters at the University of Southern Mississippi. “I was a music education major,” Stewart said. “I thought that’s what I wanted to do. Then I realized I don’t have enough patience to be a teacher. I’m too passiveaggressive.”
The Jeffery Jordan Band changed after Jordan brought one of his new songs, “Young,” to a rehearsal. “We started jamming, and it just came together,” Jordan said.
The song, which he described as “a power ballad, but still midtempo rock” is “about letting other people down. Things not going how you thought they would. Looking back on the choices you made and the people you hurt.”
“Out of the middle of nowhere, it worked really, really well, and we were having a good time with it,” Isbell said. I think that was the most important part. We were just having a blast playing music together.”
The band’s name originally came from a car. “It’s nothing deep,” Rowell said. “We saw an El Camino: ‘That’s a cool name.’”
The other band members hated it until they discovered is the Spanish word for “path,” which fit perfectly. “We chose the band path,” Jordan said. “We’re going down the band road.”
Adding “The Band” to the name was “really a happy accident,” he said. “We’d made all the social media tags — because ‘Camino’ had already been taken — ‘@theband CAMINO’ on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.”
People began referring to the group as “The Band CAMINO.”
They began playing alternative rock-pop, Rowell said. “It’s like rock music with ’80s production.”
They played their first show as The Band CAMINO in September 2015 at the Delta Fair. Eight months later, they were on stage at the Beale Street Music Festival.
Mikey Glenn from the New Daisy Theatre was instrumental in getting them a slot after he heard the band perform, Jordan said.
“We didn’t even have enough songs,” he said. “We had to finish two songs and add a five-minute jam at the end of one.”
The Beale Street Music Festival was “the biggest mountaintop,” Rowell said.
“It was the most perfect day,” Stewart said. “There were barely any clouds. A perfect view of the river. The weather was perfect.”
“We had the set down,” Isbell said. “And we just killed it. We were the openers. The bottom of the totem pole. I was still 18. They were all kind of skeptical when we went on stage. We just did our thing. And when we got off, the stage manger was introducing himself to us, shaking our hands. We sort of proved ourselves, in a way.”
“It changed the game,” Stewart said. “It changed everything.”
The Band CAMINO: Andrew Isbell (left), Spencer Stewart, Graham Rowell and (seated) Jeffery Jordan.