“We want to make honest music – songs about real life, which can be beautiful or messy or both. And we want to connect with people. Whether it’s in person or through our music, we want our music to mean something to people.”
Cereus Bright was born out of a blind love of playing music. Meeting each other on a porch in Knoxville, TN, founding members Tyler Anthony and Evan Ford connected over a shared passion–connecting with people by writing and performing meaningful, melodic songs.
“We didn’t know what we were doing at the beginning,” recalls Tyler Anthony (acoustic guitar, vocals). “Evan and I wanted to play music and were ready to work hard. So we made a couple EPs and started travelling around the South playing for whoever would listen. We were learning as we went.”
They quickly found kindred spirits in Luke Bowers (drums), Matt Nelson (bass), and Jake Smith (electric guitar). Jazz performers by trade, the trio’s musicality complemented the raw energy of Anthony and Ford, and Cereus Bright soon became a five-piece.
“We knew right away that we wanted these guys in the band,” says Evan Ford (mandolin, electric guitar, vocals). “Every song felt better with them playing it; we could do more with the arrangements and sound. It made us even more excited to get out there and play.”
So that’s what they did. In the coming year, Cereus Bright played over a hundred tour dates across the country, opening for acts like Sturgill Simpson, The Oh Hellos, Philip Philips and The Lone Bellow. They released videos racking up over 200,000 views and gained over a million plays.
“We figured out what kind of band we want to be,” Ford explains. “We want to write songs about real life, which can be beautiful or messy or both. We want to play them in a way that’s melodic and catchy, but is still musical and real. And we want to connect with people–whether it’s in person or through our music, we want our music to mean something to people.”
Excuses, released July 29, reflects these values. The debut album is a step forward, showing newfound complexity in songwriting, arrangements and sound. The full band’s musicality and cohesion shines, at times dipping into folk influences of Bob Dylan and Damien Rice and growing to rock-and-roll heights inspired by Wilco and The Band.
In early 2015, when it was time to tackle their first full-length project, the band decided to retreat to a cabin on a farm outside of Knoxville. With Evan as producer and engineer, they recorded Excuses over the course of the year. Ford recalls, “We decided to evaluate everything we had done in the past and see if it belonged in the future. It was a process of figuring out who we are as a band. What we ended up with is an album that’s more mature, sonically diverse, and has more to say than anything we’ve put out. ”
Turning to Tom Schick (Wilco, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Beck) to mix the album at the legendary Wilco Loft in Chicago, the result is an honest album from its content to its sound. “A lot of the songs on Excuses are upbeat songs about hard subjects–selfishness, loneliness, fear” Anthony says. “That’s on purpose. Life is full of good times and bad. Things are rarely what you thought they would be. People can let you down. But to stay hopeful and positive, you have to find the lighter side in the reality of life.”
The album is now available for pre-order through pledgemusic.com, with the first single “River Run” available for immediate download. “River Run” is an anthemic reminder that it’s better to try and fail, than to never try. “We wrote the song four years ago, but never quite felt it was ready,” Tyler rememberers. “It wasn’t until now, with the band and growth we’ve had that we were able to get the song to where it deserved to be.” The song bridges the gap between older Cereus Bright songs and the new sounds and themes of Excuses.
This summer, the band will be sharing the album live with fans and new listeners, through a CloseUp tour. Leading up to its release, they have found unique spaces in over three dozen cities across the country to host private concerts playing all the new songs and older ones in a more intimate setting.
“We want people to hear this music the way we made it, which was together as a band in a room like these.” Ford says “We think if we can introduce our fans to Excuses in a way that they’ve never heard or seen before, they’re going to walk away loving it.”