Florida natives, Copeland, have been sharing their brand of soothing piano rock for nearly two decades. While the band recently came off of an extensive hiatus and released their latest album, Ixora, in 2014, there hasn’t been much in the way of touring for the band. Until now.
On December 5, the band makes its headlining return to Boston to play the Middle East upstairs. The tour is called the NOW/THEN tour, and shows the band accompanied by a three-piece string section, performing 27 songs from its five-album, and 15-year career.
“This is the most ambitious set we’ve ever done,” said guitarist, Bryan Laurenson, “also probably the longest we’ve ever done.” Laurenson explained that the drive to make a return to touring came out of the process of working on “Ixora,” when the band had a bit of a reawakening.
Copeland spent the majority of its career signed to Tooth & Nail Records, but when its contract was due to expire, the band decided to call it a day and break up. For Laurenson, this was the end of the band.
“When we broke up, it was a real break up,” Laurenson said. “It was amicable, but we had no plans to do anything together again.”
Laurenson explains that after his new project, States, found great success with a crowdfunding effort in 2013, he realized there might be interest in a new Copeland album. So Laurenson approached the rest of the band, which consists of Aaron Marsh on vocals and piano, his brother, Stephen Laurenson, on guitars, Bobby Walker on bass, and Jonathan Bucklew on drums.
Arguably, the trademark of Copeland’s sound is Aaron Marsh’s calming and beautiful vocals. Marsh always finds a way to meet the chaos and corruption of the world with his unique sense of positivity and repose. This came through perfectly on Ixora, which was Copeland’s first album in six years. The album was also announced on April Fool’s Day in 2014, much to the bewilderment of many fans, but fans who were simply excited to heat their favorite band had reformed.
“It may be the coolest thing about being in a band—knowing that something we create is making an emotional connection with its listeners,” Laurenson said. “Aaron is a man of hope, so that’s a major constant in our music.”
Ixora is a flower found in some Asian cultures and Marsh, who took to horticulture a great deal during the band’s hiatus, became enamored with the flower and it soon became the genesis for the band’s rebirth.
“Coming back from the dead, there were no expectations,” Laurenson said, “we just wanted to make the music we wanted to make.” Laurenson explained how the band took two months to write and record Ixora, and then took two weeks to make a companion piece called, Twin.
Twin, when played alongside Ixora creates a quadrophonic listening experience for the album. The two listens are possible independently, yet, this dual experience makes for one of the most dynamic ways to experience Copeland.
“It was liberating,” Laurenson said of the marathon-like experience of creating both Ixora and Twin. “It was the smoothest record we ever made, no restrictions, and lots of freedom—it changed our mindset on how to make a record.”
But even with the record, the band had no other plans beyond self-releasing “Ixora.”
“We weren’t going to be a band,” Laurenson said, “we were just going to make an album. But we were slowly thinking of shows, and then Anberlin asked us to their last two shows. So we did them and it was a lot of fun.”
Copeland was back—to a degree.
And then the band received an offer that was too good to turn down—open for Paramore’s 2015 spring tour. Laurenson explained that Paramore’s first-ever gig was opening for Copeland back in 2003 at a dive bar in Florida, while Haley Williams was still only 13 years old. This tour was a way for Copeland to reach a different audience and to play more seated venues, which perfectly fits their vibe.
“Slowly we realized that this was snowballing into something we weren’t anticipating,” Laurenson said, as the band eventually had to have the relationship talk of ‘so, what is this?’ Copeland has already started the writing process for a new album, and Laurenson assured that the band plans on moving forward together as a creative unit.
“We’ve talked about 2017 being more intentional and having more of a game plan, having goals, forecasting the future more than just rolling down a hill.”
For the NOW/THEN tour, Copeland has chosen a number of tracks from their entire catalogue, which includes 2003’s Beneath Medicine Tree, 2005’s In Motion, 2006’s Eat, Sleep, Repeat, 2008’s You are my Sunshine, and 2014’s “Ixora.”
“This is as nostalgic as we’ll get,” Laurenson said, “it’s a tip of the hat to our history as a band. We wanted to celebrate each record as a whole and do a tour that was more progressive and expansive.”
“We didn’t want to do a money-grab and just play an old record.”
Laurenson gave the caveat that this might be the last time for many fans to hear some songs because the band plans on retiring a number of the older tracks as the band moves into the future.
Make sure to check out Copeland on Monday, December 5 at The Middle East. Tickets are $20 in advance and at the door. And check out Ixora, as well as the rest of the band’s catalogue on Spotify, and through the band’s website, thecopelandsite.com.