The landscape keeps looking better and brighter through the window of Asylum Suite.
Coming together in 1994, the band was the brainchild of singer Buddy Capps and guitarist Terry McCoy. The two met as members of different bands, touring the Eastern Seaboard. Capps was from Conway, South Carolina; McCoy was raised in Kingsport.
Capps recalls, “We wanted to be different. Most of the time, you see a band, they have a singer; maybe one guy will sing back up. We wanted to have everybody in the band sing. So, we had to find somebody who knew how to play bass and sing, somebody that could play drums and sing. We ended up with people from Knoxville and Morristown. That was the first rendition of the band.”
The new personnel were Howie Owenby playing bass and Randy Nash on drums. The group toured the East Coast tirelessly. Then in 1998, the band’s manager, music industry veteran Paul Cochran, introduced them to legendary Atlanta music publisher Bill Lowery, who signed Asylum Suite to his Southern Tracks label.
The band entered Atlanta’s “Tree Studios” in October, 1998, to begin work on a self titled album with producer Rodney Mills. The music luminary had been producing records for decades, earning over 50 gold and platinum albums, working with James Brown, The Atlanta Rhythm Section, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, The Doobie Brothers, Journey, Collective Soul, and REM.
Co-producing was Fred Coury, former drummer for Cinderella. The album led to tours with Cheap Trick, Kansas, Great White and other rock radio favorites. Their unique sound led to critical acclaim. Cheap Trick bassist Tom Peterson exclaimed, “I haven’t heard harmonies like these since Queen!”
Capps explains, “That’s when music started changing. We were basically an 80s hair band. That started dying down, and the grunge scene started coming around. The record company didn’t know what to do with us. Nirvana and that whole movement was catching on. So, we decided to take a break.”
That “break” lasted several years, “Then, the music we had been doing started coming back. People in the industry said, ‘You need to get it back together.’” By then, some of the original members had moved away, so we started looking for new members. But, we had to find the right chemistry; we couldn’t put it back together without four part harmony. People would say, ‘They’re not as good as they used to be.’ It took Terry and me a while to find the right people.”
That right chemistry came with the addition of Mark Spivey on bass, “It was a charity event at the Farmers Market. I talked to Buddy. I was a guitar player, but I said ‘I’ll start playing bass, and I would be glad to play with Terry’. I started taking lessons from Terry, when I was 16. I was one of his very first students.
Looking back, if I had thought that 30 or 40 years later, we were going to be in a band together….I just couldn’t see it. I said I’d like to try out, and if it doesn’t work, there’d be no hard feelings. I knew what they were trying to build, and if I didn’t fit, I didn’t fit.”
He did, and so did drummer Mark White. The four-part harmony was now back.
Constant live gigs helped create the bands polished presentation. Now, time for the next plateau: a new Asylum Suite album.
McCoy recounts, “In the last two months, we’ve come up with so many songs and song ideas. Sometimes it’s a simple melody and you just focus on it. It builds from there, and you got a song. We may have some lyrics, and we just sort of add some music randomly, and it builds from there. If it’s going to happen, it happens quickly, ironically.”
The album’s in pre-production. Capps says, “We’ll probably start recording pretty soon. We have our own recording studio, so we’ve got an advantage. We go up there about every two weeks, start rolling the tape, and see what happens. Lots of times, if we don’t record it, we forget it. We’re producing pre-production demos and talking about going with our last producer, Rodney Mills.”
Fred Coury, has invited the band to Los Angeles to produce the album in his studio. “If we go, we’ll probably do the rhythm tracks there, then do all the vocals and leads in Atlanta with Rodney.”
McCoy describes the band’s creative process, “Sometimes when it goes into the studio, it can go in a totally different direction. We try to hash it out, before we go in. Some things are going to change, like guitar solos, vocal harmonies, or bridge sections. We usually get along pretty well (with the producer), when it comes to basic ideas. We come up with basic demos, hash them out as a band, fill in the blanks.
Spivey adds, “It’s almost like making a painting, just a dab here a dab there.”
McCoy sums up the bands history, “Sometimes you don’t see it coming. Things just unfold.”
Asylum Suite is opening for Mothers Finest, along with Rock and Roll Freak Show, and Ali Randolph and the Outta Luck Band at WQUT’s QStock Music Festival on Saturday, May 27th, Kingsport Speedway. Tickets available at www.wqut.com.