Say Hello To Goodbye June

The guys from Goodbye June chat with Pollstar about how the music scene in Nashville strengthened the band, touring with ZZ Top, and putting on a “classic rock ’n’ roll show.”

The band is made up of three cousins: Landon Milbourn on lead vocals, Tyler Baker on lead guitar, and Brandon Qualkenbush on rhythm guitar. We got all three of them on the phone ahead of last month’s release of their debut full-length album, Magic Valley, on Cotton Valley Music / Interscope.

The album includes a few songs from the group’s 2016 EP, Danger in the Morning, and the project’s bonus track, “Liberty Mother,” was recently featured in a Budweiser commercial.

Metal Sucks’ Axl Rosenberg describes Milbourn’s vocals as the “genetic amalgamation of Robert Plant and Bon Scott” and adds, “This band makes good, old fashioned, hand clappin’, foot stompin’, Southern-tinged hard rock.”

The cousins talked about how the band’s sound has been refined since forming 12 year ago as they moved away from their roots in the church and how they were inspired by a relocation from west Tennessee and southern Indiana to Nashville in 2009.  

Qualkenbush notes that although the band has been around for more than a decade, he feels like they’re just getting started and finally “putting out 100 percent honest music.”

Goodbye June only has a few confirmed gigs left on its summer schedule, but stay tuned because more dates will be added later this year.

Goodbye June
Courtesy Big Hassle PR
– Goodbye June

Can you talk about how the band came together? 

Tyler: Well, we’ve always kind of played music in church, different churches and stuff, and Landon and Brandon actually had a band before Goodbye June but in 2005 my brother passed and brought us all together at my family’s house in southern Indiana. In the weeks following we started writing music together, we always knew we kind of wanted to be in a band together. We’d actually jammed a little bit together from time to time, any time we could but I think that event was a very formative event of Goodbye June. … We tried to make something positive out of a terrible thing. 

You came from a religious background. Did you start off playing Christian music or was Goodbye June always going to be a secular group?

Landon: When we first got started, we all still were in the church, that was years and years ago, but we were kind of on our way out the door as we started the band. I mean, we tried to do that for a small period of time but then we just realized that it just didn’t make any sense. I think ultimately we knew that we were going to do secular music anyway. We had grown up in the church and grown up doing gospel music our whole lives. I think we were all ready to venture out and do something different, you know. … At first I think some of the family didn’t like it but once we kind of got going and they started liking the music and saw the progress we were making, they kind of started believing in us and now they’re fully onboard.

They must be so proud of how far you’ve come with your career and where you are today.

Landon: For sure, yeah.

Speaking of that, do you remember what your first show was like? How did you get from there to signing with Interscope and touring with ZZ Top?

Brandon: (laughs) Well, you just asked about a 12-year question. I’ll try to sum that up. Well, shoot. So 2005, obviously the idea started for the band and like we said, when we were younger in that period of time we were trying to do the whole Christian music thing and like Landon said, we kind of always knew we were going to move away from that. I think it was about 2009 once we all decided to move to Nashville and kind of leave the church market behind.

Because before that we were booking our own shows at youth conferences events and things like that, you know, playing around the country as well as we could on our own dime. So after that we moved to Nashville in 2009 and started getting serious about our music. So we started writing a bunch of songs. We played our first show in Nashville around 2010 and it was at a venue called Fulton Quarter. … We played an acoustic set, just us three. Fast forward to 2012 and we got our first indie record label deal and we kept pursuing and we got as far as we could and we signed with Interscope last year. (laughs) There’s a lot of stories in between there.

You mentioned you were booking your own shows in the beginning of your career. Do you have your own agent now?

Brandon: Oh, absolutely. But you know, when you’re a little no-name nothing you gotta do your own thing. Our agent now is Mario Tirado from CAA.

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You decided to move to Nashville — aka Music City. Has the city influenced the band’s sound at all?

Tyler: Yeah, I think, absolutely. Nashville is full of incredible musicians so I think just going out and seeing live music when we first moved to town I think it made us realized that we really had to hone our own craft and focus on our instruments and songwriting. It was a little intimidating at first, just seeing great band after great band. But I think competition is good. We dug in and worked really hard for years. We’re still working really hard and trying to hone our skills. I think musicianship and the live show and the songwriting, it’s all encompassing. I think Nashville helped strengthen us.

What is it like being with a major label as opposed to when you were with an indie label?

Landon: We still kinda are with our indie label. It’s a co-deal, I guess you could say. But the differences are obviously Interscope is a very-well connected, very well-accomplished label so having some of the resources that they have as opposed to a small indie label are very different. You have a complete radio department with Interscope, whereas with our indie label we only have a few people to go to. It’s a lot different, a lot more resources has really been the biggest thing, I think, and has helped us open doors to avenues like Brandon was talking about with our new booking agent. All of that stuff kind of fell in place around the same time really.

It seems like having a label can definitely be an asset with those connections and the support.

Landon: Totally. You know, some bands take certain ways. We took this way. We’re pretty happy with our results so far. We’re looking to have a killer year this year putting out our first full-length album. We’re definitely excited to be with Interscope. This is our first real shot at that so it will be cool.  

What’s the songwriting process like in the band? Do you all contribute to songwriting?

Brandon: Yeah, we do. Me, Landon and Tyler. Typically we all get in a room together and jump on instruments and start riffing out a little bit. Landon might be on the drum kit. I might be on the drum kit. Luckily we can all play more than one instrument, so that helps with the songwriting process.

When we start feeling something out, if it feels good we explore that option. If not we shut it down and go with a new idea. Or one of us might come in with a more completed idea and show the other two guys and say, “Hey, what do you think about this?” If we’re jiving on it, then we follow that road. 

But yeah, at the end of the day we all come together and collectively decide what’s going to happen. We do do some co-writing, we have a couple guys that we trust a lot. Paul Moak, our producer, is one of those guys and then Scott Stevens, he’s a great guy. He was in a band called The Exies back in the day. He’s a great writer, as well, and we trust him.

So we do some co-writing but mainly it’s us three typically get in a room together and then we find a lot of the special songs, I think.

Goodbye June
– Goodbye June

As far as the three of you working together, when you started the band did you have similar influences or do you bring different influences to form the sound you have today?

Landon: I mean, I think we all have different tastes, you know, personally, but ultimately i think they’re all round and about the same —

Brandon: It’s rock n’ roll.

Landon: It’s rock n’ roll, really. Yeah, just straight up rock n roll. We’re all huge Zeppelin fans. We’re all huge Creedence Clearwater Revival fans. We’re all big Leon Russell fans … we love all the old classics. The ‘60s and ‘70s are kind of our wheelhouse. Usually anything if we like it from today it’s going to sound like it’s from there, a modern version of that. It’s kind of our wheelhouse.

What was it like touring with ZZ Top last year? Did you get to hang out with the band?

Brandon: Playing with them was really a dream come true, honestly, when we first found out about it we really couldn’t believe it because we’ve listened to their records since we were kids, teenagers whatever. And you know, they’re obviously icons and people you look up to. Yeah, playing with them was really awesome and we did get to meet the guys. They’re super nice dudes, very accommodating, awesome crew to work with. And apparently Billy Gibbons likes our music (laughs) so that’s pretty freaking cool.

Basically, a dream come true. Yep!

Do you have a different approach to the live show when you’re supporting another artist or playing a festival as opposed to headlining?

Landon: I mean, it can change a little bit and obviously the length can affect that but pretty much we do the same show give or take a song or two here or there … no matter whether we’re opening or headlining. We try to be pretty consistent, besides, the setlist changing or whatnot.

Do you have any favorite places to eat on the road? Do you try to eat local?

Well, we do. Usually where we’re playing we’re going to be in a bar area so we’re always like, “What’s the cool bar? Or cool bite to eat around here that’s famous locally?” If not then we always lean toward Mexican, for sure.

Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

Tyler: Obviously these are all our children, so to speak, so we love them all. But I think “Oh no” is always a blast to play live. I mean it’s one of the crowd favorites. It seems like everybody always responds to the energy of the song. And sometimes it gets pretty rowdy. …. “Daisy” is [also] great.  

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Anything else you’d like to add about your live show?

Landon: It’s very energetic, obviously. We prefer people to say that our live show is better than our album, but [with] our albums we try to portray the live show, so really we want you to feel the same thing no matter what. It’s a lot of energy, a lot of foot stomping, a lot of in-your-face vocals and screaming guitars and just rowdy music, a rowdy time. When you leave [the show] you’llfeel like you’re worn out, in the best way possible. A lot of tambourine throwing, a lot of hair flopping from Brandon. Tyler likes to kick things a lot and trip over his pedal board.

Tyler: I try to give you a classic rock ’n’ roll show, you know. Think of the Ramones back in the day or the Sex Pistols. Just crazy.

Landon: If we could afford it, we’d probably break a drumset every night but we can’t afford it.

What’s it like to have been a band for so long and to look back on how far you’ve come in that time?

Brandon: You know, the idea started 12 years but honestly it really feels like we’re just getting started just because we’ve changed genres and there’s been members come and go. So honestly, it really feels like we’ve only been going for about four years. Something like that.

Tyler: Yeah, five, six years. When we moved to Nashville.

Brandon: Yeah, basically when we made the move to Nashville is when it really feels like it started.

It must be nice to still have that fresh feeling like you’re just getting started.

Brandon: It is. Well, this album [and] this EP cycle, we’re actually doing what we wanted to do, basically since we started. You know, we put out an independent album in 2012 and it was just us trying to figure out who we are. So it really wasn’t a true representation of who we wanted to be. And now we’re saying the things we want to say [with our] lyrical content, musically. There’s nothing holding us back anymore. I think we’re finally putting out 100 percent honest music, whereas there was a veil over it before because of our upbringing. But now we’ve outgrown that and realized we can be honest and say the things we want to say.