Bully Pulpit, Charleston's favorite non-metal band to ever be voted as "best metal band" in the 2012 Charleston City Paper Music Awards, is leaving us for Atlanta this month. So far, they've played the whole it's-not-you-it's-me card, but we can't help but wonder what we did wrong. Is it because we suck at labeling genres? "We're not like 'Oh, we're sick of all you people. We're out of here,'" assures guitarist Rex Stickel. "It's more like, 'Aw, we're really gonna miss you people, but we gotta get out of here.'"
The rock 'n' roll band was caught up in a game of musical bandmates for a while, but they have pulled together for what's now a solid lineup. "We basically just took all of the award-winning bands in Charleston and combined them into one," boasts Stickel.
Bully Pulpit's ability to get along and play nice has been one of their biggest accomplishments. "We have a pretty good situation," vocalist Danny Kavanaugh testifies. "Like, we're all friends above everything."
They can appreciate that aspect because of their past experiences with other bands. "The band might be great, but if you can't get along with everybody, it's not gonna work," says drummer David Bair.
In addition to putting out the EP Gettin' the Truth recently, Bully Pulpit has toured the Southeast for a while, and they're tired of treading water in the Charleston scene. "Most bands are weekend warriors around here," says Stickel, "which is fine, which is cool, which is what we had been doing." But the band admits that playing the same five venues gets old after a while. They hope moving to Atlanta will change that. Bair says, "We can concentrate on the bigger picture."
Touring takes precedent over everything, including writing new music. Playing for new audiences makes it easier to move forward with the same music. "Writing new music hasn't been the No. 1 priority, because it's keeping your head above water that seems to supersede it," says Stickel. "Nobody's complaining in Albuquerque, 'Oh, you guys should write some new songs, although I've never heard this song before.'"
This doesn't mean that recording new music is off the table. In fact, the guys are playing around with a few newer pieces. "We're gonna go into the studio very soon," says Stickel. "Hopefully next month and hopefully at the Jam Room [in Columbia] with Jay Matheson."
According to bassist Tyler Davis, Matheson approached them first. "It kind of came about because we played out of town," Davis explains. "We went to Columbia. He was there, was impressed, liked us a lot, and asked us to come in and record."
The decision to move to Atlanta comes from a purely business perspective. The band praises Charleston's jam, Americana, folk, and singer-songwriter scenes, but they find themselves yearning for a place to belong. "Rock 'n' roll Charleston is not really happening right now," confesses Bair. "For rock 'n' roll, not even metal or hardcore, just straight rock n' roll, there's, like, us and Dumb Doctors." Stickel adds, "And the people we wish would come out of the woodwork and play music again."
The guys see a bright future for themselves in Georgia, though. "Our original music will probably go over a lot better there," chimes Kavanaugh. "There's more of our demographic. The kids like to drink beer and hang out."
And the punk scene is thriving and thrashing there too, which is part of what piqued Bully Pulpit's interest. They'll be more at home with Atlanta bands like The Joy Kills, and Swank Sinatra. "I'd rather be part of a passionate punk scene than a dead rock scene here," says Stickel. Plus, Atlanta will serve as a convenient headquarters while they map out their tour destinations.
But with big changes come bigger challenges. Money, space, and missing home seem to be among the top concerns. "There, all we really have is each other," Davis says, solemnly. But the bandmates are ultimately pragmatic about the need for a shift in scenery.
For Bully Pulpit, the end result is having the opportunity to do what they love while expanding their network of fans and contacts. "We would be pretty big assholes if we didn't play in a band," Kavanaugh puts it bluntly. "If we were just normal people, we would be fuckers."
Friday's Tin Roof show will serve as the band's going-away party.