Rock & roll triumphs are rare. But by nicking choice elements from the genre’s checkered past and fusing it with raw power and sexual energy, Ligion’s invigorating Maple Jam/Bellum Records debut is just that. Spitting out a vital, dexterous eleven-song cycle that runs the gamut from infectious, rock radio gems to pensive, Zippo lighter-ready epics, Ligion has the potential to gather the masses. Crafted with the help of iconic rock producer Greg Ladanyi, this Nashville-based five piece fills a void as it resets expectations of what a modern rock album can be with 2007’s fiery entry External Affairs.
“In an age when your best two songs from a record can be downloaded for a buck, we wanted to keep some of that integrity with an album that you’d want to listen to from track one to track eleven,” says guitarist June, who co-wrote the record with frontman and band namesake Ligion. And it’s that approach, evident on the pulsing, contagious and hopeful anthem “On The Way” and the reflective “Pins And Needles” alike, that helps the quintet – which also counts inventive guitarist Seth and its rhythm axis of drummer Johannes and bassist Levi – shimmer like stardust as it kicks and screams for your attention.
Equally dazzling are Ligion’s live gigs, which are full on contagious animation. “We work hard for our money every night,” June chuckles. “People usually have no idea who we are, and the first half of our set we get a mixed reaction. Like, ‘What am I watching?’ By the third song, they’re screaming and yelling and punching their fists in the air. That’s how we measure success.”
Joking aside, there is an intensity to Ligion, especially front man Ligion himself. Contorting and literally throwing himself into every word to each song as if it’s his last takes its toll. “Most nights we have to rush Ligion off the stage to catch him just before he pukes,” explains June. “He just doesn’t have any limits when he is up on stage.”
With that in mind, if the notion of five guys and equipment crammed in a van in search of rock & roll glory out on the open road sounds like a recipe for chaos, the group wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It can be a little hairy,” June laughs. “Recently, our van died and we had to cram three of the guys into the back box of a U-Haul truck to travel from Nashville to California. The mischief you can get into after being cooped up like that is no joke. But it was Cali; we made the most of it!” Lig interjects, “The five of us are pretty much best friends, and with everything we do, we just have a good time. We live for playing live. That 60 minutes onstage – that’s always been our thing.”
Although Ligion’s roots are from Cleveland, it was Nashville’s happening rock scene that drew the band out of its hometown comfort zone. Soon after relocating to Music City, while living on the floor of an office above a bar, the yet-to-be-signed outfit found itself added to the playlist of local rock radio outlet WBUZ “The Buzz.” Quickly becoming one of the most requested acts on the station, the exposure helped the group land on the same stages as Nickelback, Velvet Revolver, Puddle of Mudd, Staind, and Three Days Grace.
Despite the tendency to get lumped in with more meat and potatoes rock artists, there is an artful poise to Ligion on External Affairs. The memorable, guitar-steeped neon-glow of “Lost My Car” rivals The Killers and their glitter rock game, while the hard charging spirit of “Come On” is equal parts Interpol, Bloc Party, Oasis and Stone Temple Pilots.
Counting three part harmonies – a rare commodity in modern music – Ligion’s strength is its collaborative songwriting approach. “These songs all relate to each other,” the singer explains. “ When life is painful, instead of bottling things up, we get to put them out there and externalize them.” – Thus the title of their debut release, External Affairs. Ligion, poised for their debut release this spring, are already touring in advance of the album release, seeking to recruit a few good new rock and roll fans.
“Well pull into a town like San Antonio, where we’ve never played before and wind up getting an encore,” June enthuses. To which Lig counters in full rock mode, “That’s because we have really sweet asses.”
While that final point is subject to debate, few fortunate enough to find their ears around External Affairs will argue with the lure of its musical nectar. On the way, indeed.