Don’t let the Reggae vibes, the long hair or the laid-back demeanor fool you. When it comes to music Below The Bassline is serious about its business.
After almost 5 years of staying mostly below the radar, the quartet of McKinley Devilbiss, Andrew “Panda” McDermott, Sam Goodwin and Wade McMillian are ready to make a run at emerging from the underground with hopes of taking their blend of harmonious, guitar-driven Reggae Rock to new heights.
“We feel like we’re at a good point with some of the things we’ve done recently to really begin pushing this and see what it can become,” said Devilbiss, the band’s amiable, dreadlocked frontman. “We just feel like if we bring a professional product, we’ll be accepted as a professional band and who knows where that could lead.”
Following a second place finish at this year’s Hard Rock Rising Battle of the Bands, BTB has picked up steam recently opening for Badfish at the House of Blues and focusing on writing new material for an upcoming album.
The band will continue its quest toward building a professional product with a back-to-back shows this weekend and next. Starting with an eight-band extravaganza Friday at Borgata Bar’s 420 Fest in Surfside, the band will continue with shows at the Pawleys Island Tavern (Saturday), Berni’s 501 (April 27) and Bubba’s Love Shack (April 28).
Myrtle Beach Music: Mckinley Devilbiss performs at Hard Rock Cafe.
Building a Bassline
Below the Bassline formed in 2008 shortly after Devilbiss and McDermott graduated from St. James High School. Enlisting friend Jeremy Deas on percussion, the trio quickly began writing music and playing live at now-defunct underground venues such as The Clubhouse, Drink! and The Basement.
Over the next year and a half the band built a small following with a string of shows that included a few regional appearances at places like The Music Farm in Charleston, Headliners in Columbia and local shows such as House of Blues Blues-A-Palooza series.
In 2010, the group’s setlist and original material came into focus a bit as they decided to improve on the early live recordings they had put together and professionally recorded a self-titled four song EP which released that fall. From this came tracks such as the peppy love tune “So I Smile” and rockin’ coming-of-age song “Remember Me” which have since become fan favorites and staples of BTB’s live show.
Also playing into the group’s favor over the past few years is a growing movement of fan and venue support for Reggae-influenced music along the Grand Strand. With fellow local acts Treehouse!, Jah Harvest, Humble Vibez, Downtribe and Fireshot all making names for themselves and a steady stream of top-notch regional and national acts occupying venues such as The Boathouse, Bourbon Street and Pirate’s Cove, these laid-back vibes have become a staple of the Myrtle Beach music scene.
A Brand New Band
Myrtle Beach Music: Sam Goodwin performs on percussion, one of the many extras he contributes to the band's new lineup.Though the added support for its style of music has surely helped, the group owes at least part of its revitalized focus is to the addition of two new members over the past year.
“I was doing some music with McKinley awhile back, but had left town for awhile. When I came back he asked me to play keys and I had never played keys before. Luckily I picked it up and did what I could with it,” says Goodwin, 22.
In addition to providing the added element of keyboards to the band’s mix, Goodwin also rotates between guitar, percussion and provides versatility with his vocals.
“It feels like a totally new band now. Having harmonies now with Sam on vocals just adds some extra flavor that we didn’t have before,” says Devilbiss.
After parting ways with original member Deas and going through another member in the meantime, BTB has once again found its rhythm with McMillian, a third-year Coastal Carolina music student.
“Having Wade, who goes to college for drumming, has been great. Having him be able to play through a metronome and really know his stuff has definitely brought us that much closer to professionalism,” said Devilbiss.
Managed and Moving forward
Myrtle Beach Music: Manager Guiseppe Maglione sports at Belo The Bassline t-shirt as he watches the band perform at Hard Rock Cafe.Even with the shakeup in the band’s lineup, perhaps the biggest boost to Below The Bassline’s potential for success has been the addition of manager Giuseppe Maglione.
“I’d known Giuseppe for about four years through church,” said Devilbiss. “He approached us about doing something and we were a bit hesitant at first, but the more we talked the more we realized the biggest thing he can offer us.”
Maglione a 33-year-old family man and student who’s studying management in hopes of someday running an Indie label, serves as a constant motivator for the young quartet.
“We’re 21 year olds and we get lazy. So when we do, he can keep us on our feet and going, going, going,” says Devilbiss.
By all accounts Maglione’s influence has been a positive one.
“We’ve got a killer set worked out, we’ve gotten bigger shows, we’re working on recording and we’re doing everything we can to get as professional as we can,” says Devilbiss.
One recent indicator of the band’s progress toward tightening up from top to bottom was a second-straight trip to the local finals of the Hard Rock Rising Battle of the Bands in March.
After breezing through the preliminaries with a performance that was clearly more polished than last year’s effort, BTB was narrowly defeated in the finals by Myrtle Beach’s Power Born Rebellion, who carried strong fan support and a what could be described as a “more Hard Rock-friendly” sound.
Though the band and its fans were visibly disappointed — having felt they had done enough to capture the title — BTB says every event of this type is a learning experience.
“Well, any Battle of the Bands-type event is always going to be biased because every judge has their own opinion of what good music is,” said Devilbiss. “So, I think if you lose there’s always that frame of mind of ‘I wonder what really happened...’ But really we just try and look at it as another opportunity for exposure. There was a lot of people there who saw us, so we’re happy.”
Expanding the repertoire
Myrtle Beach Music: From left, Andrew McDermott, Wade McMillian, McKinley Devilbiss and Sam Goodwin. Though added exposure plays into the ultimate goal of playing their own music for a living, BTB also plans to continue to work on developing its palette of cover songs and gigs, a move that speaks to the often backwards reality of being a band in Myrtle Beach.
“We were trying to do cover gigs and kinda almost lost the original idea for a little while. Mainly it’s just a money thing,” said Devilbiss. “It’s like if we can play three cover shows a week then we don’t have to have jobs and we can put more time into our actual music.”
But despite the demands of having to book regular gigs in tan ultra-competitive local cover scene, Devilbiss says learning other people’s music gives the band a greater perspective on creating its own music.
“It’s hard to make it in the music in general and if you’re playing original music around here you’re only going to get heard in about three places, so we figure playing all over the beach is just more exposure, more practice — four hour shows, instead of 40-minute shows — and there’s always room to throw an original song into a cover set,” he said.
But regardless of what type of gigs, crowds or venues the future holds for BTB, its members remain open-minded about the process of becoming a better band.
“We’re probably one of the hardest-working bands around here,” says McDermott, the band’s soft spoken bassist. “We’re going to do anything we can to get a show. We’re constantly playing and practicing and we’re all just focused on paying our dues to make it.”
Check out Below The Bassline live Friday at 420 Fest at 10 p.m. or Saturday night beginning at 9 p.m. at Pawleys Island Tavern. Also download their song “Remember Me” free on ListenUp’s “Featured Listens Vol. 1” compilation or find them on Reverbnation.