There’s a shift going on in music. An undercurrent of bands that are fueled by a passion for what they are doing coupled with a cathartic quality in their writing that embraces the listener and pulls them in. Kent’s Bethesda is no exception.
This band draws you in with the angelic vocals of Shanna Delaney and wraps you in its delicate folk rock instrumentation by fellow band members Eric Ling (guitar/vocals), Jesse Scaggs (banjo/guitar), Chris Black (violin/viola), Dan Corby (bass) and Justin Rife (drums). The result is an uplifting sound that breathes a breath of fresh air into the mundanity of life.
We had the opportunity to meet up with Shanna Delaney and Eric Ling—the couple that fronts the band—prior to their performance at Cleveland’s Brite Winter Fest. Get to know a band that is trying to build a community of musicians who can inspire one another to create together.
Where did the name come from?
Ling: In Jewish-Christian tradition, bethesda is a pool of healing, and we liked the idea. We sing about a lot of hurt, a lot of pain, just reality, life; we try to be really honest in our songs and what we’re experiencing in life. We really liked the idea of just bringing hope to all of that. We write dark songs filled with hopeful melodies. We like the idea of going into a place and making it brighter than it was when we got there.
What kind of music inspires your sound?
Delaney: That’s a difficult question! When we first started out, Eric was really into Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, that sort of thing, and I was coming from an opera/musical theatre background, and kind of a country and ’80s background, too. We were coming from that. I would say as we grew together and started checking out more music, became adults and kind of grew into our own, we were inspired by bands like Sufjan Stevens, Anathallo. I think that’s where our big band noise comes from, and that’s why we wanted more members. Now, we’re very much influenced by bands like Mumford & Sons, Eisley, The Decemberists… Mates of State was a really big one for us when we were coming together and dating. We’re all over the map.
And you guys are playing SXSW this year?
Delaney: We have two shows down there; we’re doing a Red Gorilla showcase that we’re playing two shows for.
Ling: That’s the dream, to play SXSW. We’re going to be surrounded by all of our favorite bands. A year ago, before Dreamtiger was released, none of this was happening. I feel like we’ve worked really hard, we’ve been really blessed, now we’re going to SXSW and not playing just one show, but playing two shows at SXSW. It’s going to be so fun. We get to go to all of our favorite labels’ parties, too.
What advice would you give other bands that want to be able to play something like SXSW one day?
Delaney: Work hard. We work so hard. I think you have to be talented, but the other part of it is that you have to work for it. So many people don’t want to work for it. We’re workaholics. I mean, we get up at 5 in the morning, we work all day as teachers, and then we come home, and all we can think about is Bethesda. We’ll spend all night working on Bethesda, from 3:30 to when we have to go to bed at like 9. It doesn’t even feel like work because you want to be doing it.
Ling: If you really love what you’re doing and believe in what you’re doing, just work hard at it and have integrity. Don’t just slack off or get discouraged because other people don’t believe in it. Work hard and believe in it. Surround yourself with people that care about you and support you.
Let’s talk about this new album. You guys are doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund it, and you’re at around 90%.
Ling: We’re really excited! I guess as a band, you’re always excited about the next album. I feel like our new songs are a step in a new direction that we’re super proud of. This will be our second full-length album. We’re really excited about having a second full-length since we feel like we’ve really matured as a band.
Delaney: The first song we wrote for that album was “Reunion,” and it has a folk feel. Eric wrote it about his grandpa. His grandpa asked him to write a song right before he passed away, and he never got to before he passed, so it came to him one day, and Eric wrote that. The very next song after that is about my brother, who passed away when I was in college in a motorcycle accident, and I’ve been wanting to write this song since I could remember. I think there was a song in me for him, and I just couldn’t write it. We’re thinking about calling the album The Reunion; there seems to be a theme of a reunion, just reuniting and experiencing that feeling that comes with a reunion and coming together.
Ling: Some of the songs we’ve written so far are some of the most amazing songs that we’ve written, and performing them live has been a blast. We are also ridiculously humbled by the amount of money people have donated.
Delaney: We don’t take it lightly. There are times when we’ve got in a pledge, and we’ve wept when people we know have no money to give, gave to us. We want to hope that our music is more than just music, that we are helping people achieve some sort of healing, or emotion, and that we are more than just musicians.
If you loved what you heard and read, hop over to Kickstarter and help Bethesda reach the $8000 mark so that you can own a copy of their album on vinyl.