Coming out of the Hereford Zone in Maryland, indie rock band Five Smooth Stones are familiar with playing shows for both large and small crowds. Whether it's a coffee shop or a semi-local festival, they've been there, done that. They put out a five-song EP in 2004, with their first official full-length releasing in early 2009. Still an independent band, this year saw their second full-length album, Beneath The Finite Sky. The fourpiece seems to take influence from all over the rock spectrum. You get bits of jam band and southern rock ("See You Again") incorporated into their songs, which range anywhere from an underproduced Audio Adrenaline ("Paper Mache") to a less indie/less intense As Cities Burn ("Beauty & Pain"). "Don't Give Up" almost sounds like a pop/alternative bands like Goo Goo Dolls. Those aren't definite, complete matches as far as sound goes, but they're the sort of vibes that the songs give off. With such a weird mixture of different types of rock music, it does give Five Smooth Stones some sort of originality. The mixtures do take away from the cohesiveness of the album, but the band is at least talented and able to take on musical diversity. I can see them garnering a devoted fanbase, but with their current sound I don't see them making any waves in the bigger music scene at this time. However, with further development of their talents, and some smoother production, I could be proven wrong.- Review date: 11/10/11, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Colvin: Andrew, Kathryn, and I grew up very close, and we've always shared a lot of the same taste in music. When we were in high school, Uncle Tom (Andrew and Kathryn's dad) bought Andrew a drum kit. Kathryn was already learning to play guitar, and I decided that if we were going to start a band, I'd learn to play the bass. The three of us began playing together in the garage, and as we developed on our instruments, we began writing some of our own songs. We invited Uncle Tom to join the band as a guitarist and vocalist, and Five Smooth Stones was born.
Andrew: We get this question *all* the time! (laughs) Well, the name actually comes from a story in the Bible that has always been one of my favorites, the story of David and Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:40 says "And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine." In the verse prior, David had just rejected the armor offered to him by the king, and in faith decided to challenge Goliath with what seems like a very underpowered weapon. This scripture came to mind when we were looking for a name, and I thought Five Smooth Stones had a ring to it; it just sounded like a band name to me. The rest of the band gave it a thumbs up and we've stuck with it! Since then, I've really begun to appreciate more the significance of letting go of the things we as men think are strong or important, and letting God win the battles for us. He's done so many amazing things in the short time we've been playing music! As for the fifth smooth stone, maybe it's the one that knocked down the giant at the end of that story.
Colvin: I think I make a conscious effort to be influenced by as much as possible. I kind of operate under the idea that a great song is a great song regardless of the genre it falls into. Musically, I think I definitely draw influence from bands like Switchfoot, Dave Matthews Band, Mae, Radiohead, and Death Cab For Cutie. I think part of what draws me to all those bands is the strength of their lyrics as well as their music. I've also lately been listening to people like Jakob Dylan and Joshua James and I think their more "folk" sound shows itself briefly on the album. (laughs)
Andrew: We're all music lovers in this band, and we really have music that we enjoy and are inspired by in every genre, from pop and rock to dance to blues, bluegrass to classic rock, swing to alternative. As a whole, some of our favorites include Jars of Clay, MuteMath, Switchfoot, Newsboys, and Audio Adrenaline. Of course, the list goes on and on if we let it!
Andrew: The art concept and the album title both come from the song "Escape," which is a song that talks about how our lives and our purpose are both bigger than ourselves, and something that we only find in real, Christ-like love. We also see the metaphor "Beneath The Finite Sky" as capturing the two sides of these songs, the day-to-day struggles of life here, and also the sure hope of heaven. We're all super pleased with the way my uncle David (Colvin's dad) was able to capture that in the cover art. We're very grateful for the talent he has, and for all the work he did to make this album look so good!
Andrew: That's a little bit of a tricky question for us, so far we're a do-it-yourself sort of recording artist. (laughs) Tom (my dad and singer/guitarist in the band) has accumulated a fair amount of recording equipment over the years. He recorded our first record at home a few years ago, and we took a similar approach for this album as well. We decided to rent a space that we thought would sound better than the basement here, so we spent a week in a vacation house recording the songs that would eventually end up on Beneath The Finite Sky. We layered on additional recordings, including most of the guitars and vocals, over the next couple of months, in various rooms in our homes and church. So technically, we've never been in a studio yet, everything was recorded on our own equipment!
Andrew: Most of the songs were written in the 18 months leading up to the release of the cd. There are a few on there that we've been toying with for a lot longer, "See You Again" is one that took us five years of reinvention to get it right. We also have a couple songs, such as "Picture," that popped up in the last month before we started recording.
Andrew: Colvin did a lot of the writing on this particular album, but we all get in on it at some point. (laughs) Generally we all write our own parts musically, and we all do write some lyrics as well. It's great, it gives us a lot of material to work with and we all get to contribute our voices and perspectives.
Andrew: I think 1 Samuel 17 goes without saying, but some other favorites are Psalms 150, Hosea 2:20, 1 John 1:1-6, and Ephesians 2:8.
Andrew: I mentioned one of the big things that I'm still learning is to be patient and let God take care of the details. Another thing God has given me recently is a new perspective on hope and heaven. We dedicated this record to our (Andrew & Kathryn's) grandfather, who passed away shortly before we finished mixing it. I'm blessed with many good memories of him, and I look forward to seeing him again in heaven.
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