Birmingham-based Act of Congress has been gaining buzz for the last five years due to a combination of complex musical buildups and breakdowns, layered harmonies and energetic live shows, which feature the band’s compelling original arrangements as well as covers of Coldplay, Radiohead, The Beatles and The Postal Service.
Heavily influenced by a variety of bands and musicians (most prominently mandolinist Chris Thile), the group released two recordings, 2007’s Love Remains EP and 2008’s Declaration.
Five years of writing, recording, playing, and touring has garnered the band a number of accolades, including opening spots for John Mayer and Toby Keith, recognition from Paste Online, South by Southwest and Billboard as the 2008 winner of Disk Makers Independent Music World Series, and an XM radio session.
But a performance at Disney’s Epcot Center presented an even more unique opportunity for Act of Congress, according to bandmember Adam Wright.
“We got hired to play at the Epcot Center at Disney. The talent broker there took a liking to us and spent the day with us, and one of her good friends happened to be Chris Confessore, an Alabama Symphony conductor. He was there that day and we got to spend some time with him and said that it would be a lot a fun to play with ASO,” said Griffin.
A few months later, the band played a showcase in Nashville and met Don Hart, a Grammy-winning arranger, producer, and composer who had worked with such artists as Trey Anastasio of Phish.
“[Hart] called up one of his friends who conducts the Huntsville Youth Symphony, and they put together a deal where he wrote the charts and the youth symphony played them. So we did that show for free, but we got to keep the arrangements,” Griffin said.
Act of Congress proceeded to contact Chris Confessore and the two arranged a show with Act of Congress, Three on a String, and Alabama Symphony Orchestra in June 2010. This past July, ASO called the band to organize a Christmas show. The band agreed and began arranging covers of such timeless holiday classics as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Sleigh Ride” and “O Holy Night,” which composed the EP “Christmas, Vol. 1.”
“You’re just thrown into an environment where precision is astounding. These people have spent their lives mastering their instruments, and I think on that level, just being surrounded by greatness, I think that can be a little intimidating. But for us, we just go in and do what we do the best we can. When we got to play with them last June, it was one of the coolest experiences ever. I was in heaven,” Wright said of playing with ASO.
As far as the year 2012 is concerned, the first act of business is an album tentatively due out in March. Produced by Jason Elgin, Griffin says the record will be “radically different,” with half of the songs being similar to something heard on Declaration and the other half being more experimental.
“We brought in some A-list guys. We brought in a drummer who played on two of the John Mayer records and brought in some other interesting people to help us round the sound,” said Griffin.
The road to success in the music industry can be quite tedious, but Act of Congress has made some significant steps forward and recognize it’s the family-like atmosphere of the group that keeps them moving.
“We still love each other and have a lot of fun doing it. We’re still very unknown, small independent band, but we feel like we have something very unique and different to offer. At some point, it’s going to take the mainstream picking up something for us to break into it, but right now we’re just doing what we’re doing,” Griffin said.
For more information and to connect with the band, you can “like” them on Facebook, tweet at them via @act_of_congress, or visit their website, www.actofcongressmusic.com All albums and EPs, including the Christmas EP, are available via ITunes or at shows.
Act of Congress will be playing at the Alabama Theatre with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, December 10th, starting at 8 P.M. Tickets are $26-38 and can be purchased online (http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPur chase?orgid=2706&pid=7089781) or at the Alys Stephens Center box office.