Leon III share their uninhibited new song “Rumors of Water,” which premiered exclusively via Glide Magazine earlier this week. Glide Magazine goes into great detail on the track with a careful dissection of the layers that make up the song: “Traversing an expansive sonic landscape, the band skillfully layers twangy 70s rock guitars, psychedelic solos, and suspense-building drum fills to create a sound that feels rooted in the arena-filling rock of Pink Floyd as well as jammy spaceouts of My Morning Jacket. We also hear a touch of fellow Austinite Israel Nash’s desert folklore. All of this combines to make for a track that feels like a compelling musical journey with peaks and valleys that comes to an enlightening conclusion. In listening to the track, you get the sense that Leon III is more focused on a big and cohesive album-oriented rock sound than they are on cranking out Spotify one-hitters. You can tell that these guys are having fun in the studio, experimenting with different sounds and building their songs piece by piece.”
Leon III is Andy Stepanian (vocal, guitar, keyboard, piano, omnichord) and Mason Brent (guitar, bass, vocal, banjo) who were both members of Wrinkle Neck Mules, a long running Virginia based band with a significant cult following, and founders of the popular Austin apparel brand Howler Brothers.
Leon III, sounds like a relic from another age. In a time when so much of today’s music seems as disposable and temporal as a tweet, Leon III is standing athwart the tide; and here, the band conjures the spirit and ambition of Pink Floyd and Grateful Dead. Make no mistake, this is an album with the potential for a serious shelf life – and one that begs for an immersive listening experience. So sit down, pour a whiskey, let the needle find the groove, and prepare to float downstream.
Even though this is only the second effort from Leon III, the project can trace its roots to the late ’90s when Andy Stepanian (vocals, guitar, songwriter) and Mason Brent (guitar, bass, banjo) started a band in Charlottesville, Virginia called Wrinkle Neck Mules, a honky-tonk outfit that made six albums, had a song featured in a GEICO commercial, and built up a dedicated and far-ranging fan base. Stepanian and Brent also collaborate in the form of Howler Brothers, a popular outdoor clothing line based in Austin, Texas, which they operate and which bears their artistic imprimatur.
Stepanian and Brent grew up in Richmond, Virginia, where country and roots music informed much of their musical development. But the two have always been drawn to the progressive, exploratory ethos of the psychedelic masters, as well as left-of-center folk artists like Vic Chesnutt and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. This new record is the consummation of that vision.
The advent of Covid-19 and the “safer at home” mantra has disrupted the supercharged tempo of 21st – century life. As difficult as it’s been, the period has also been a time for reflection, for patience, for a new way of looking at things. With that in mind, Leon III’s forthcoming record, Antlers in Velvet is the perfect album for an imperfect time – a song cycle that allows for a deeper dive into some of the darker and more complex corners of American music that speaks coherently to the very strange times in which we find ourselves.