The myth of Knox Hamilton – the man, not the band – began in a small Arkansas thrift shop where founding members and brothers Boots and Cobo Copeland volunteered during their summer breaks, getting lost in the sky-high piles of dusty, forgotten mementos. Already at work on their danceable brand of indie-rock anthems, they stumbled onto an old 1970s yearbook one day. “In it was a picture of one of the most rock ‘n’ roll dudes I have ever seen,” says Boots, lead vocalist, laughing. “And his name was Knox Hamilton. We were searching for what to call ourselves, and it was a no-brainer.’” The foursome adopted the quirky title as an emblematic way to capture their idiosyncratic sound – songs with modest southern roots that soar to modern, ethereal heights free of boundaries or borders. And in that moment, Knox Hamilton went from man to myth, and from myth to music.
Raised as pastor’s sons in Texas and Arkansas, Boots and Cobo discovered music through the timeless, harmony-driven devotionals that filled their father's church. It was there they became entranced by the palpable power of song to change a mood, lift people up or inspire them – and soon, as they dove into the music of classic bands like Beatles and Hall & Oates, a world beyond the pews unfolded. Rock & roll became religion.
“It always struck me how a song or a melody could impact your state of mind,” says Boots. “And as we began to write music, I realized I never wanted to feed a bad moment, but rather foster a good one. I’d rather make people dance than cry. Life is filled with problems and rainy days – I’d rather Knox Hamilton ease that dreariness than indulge in it.”
Boots and Cobo penned their first song at age twelve on the meager instruments their family was able to afford – nothing glamorous, but enough to learn the basics. It was then they realized a kind of brotherly synchronicity that allowed them to unleash a powerful songwriting force, where finishing each other's sentences – and measures – proved a natural, easy task. Boots would take to the guitar with his smooth vocals reaching across an astounding range, Cobo shuffling out electric percussion that rooted it all into something danceable, catchy and endlessly imaginative. “We’re always trying to pick up where our favorite bands have left off,” Boots says. “But with our own spin, of course.”
This electric energy manifested into Knox Hamilton five years ago with the addition of friends Brad Pierce (keys) and Drew Buffington (guitar). Along with a producer who happens to be a cop by day, the band began to grow an organic following around Little Rock. In a climate enamored with the south and Americana sounds, Knox Hamilton were anything but – they used synth beats, not banjos; the pillars of their music imported from across the country and the globe. Here they were, southern boys making sidewalk music.
“We love Arkansas and the south. But our music doesn’t sound like it's from the south. It’s a balance of trying to appreciate where we are from, but also escape it,” says Boots. “We’ll always know where our roots lie…but we’ll also try to snap those ties, too, in our music.”
The band released three EPs, “primarily for our friends,” including the most recent The Great Hall EP. “Every record we made was out in the sticks in a little studio in Ward, Arkansas,” says Boots. Their locomotive, melodic tunes full of synth breaks and booming choruses would echo out into the rural town – in true Knox Hamilton fashion, it was a meeting of both their roots and their far-reaching artistry.
Though each of the four members had graduated college and began “very adult, full time jobs,” the lure of music proved too enticing to ignore – each member quit, sacrificing stability for a life on the road. Their nationwide tour will have the band crisscrossing the country, playing everywhere from Seattle to Boston with stops at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York and Los Angeles along the way. The inspiration? The sweeping success of their song, “Work It Out,” which seemed to climb out of nowhere to the top of SiriusXM’s Alt18 charts and has been streamed over 400,000 times on Spotify. There's something about the electric, restless rhythm and the shimmery beat that capture a true timely ethos – never too self-conscious to be catchy, never too pop to forgo serious attention to lyricism.
At the time they wrote “Work It Out,” Boots was working as a locksmith – and he knew instantaneously, listening back to a digital file of the “I know/I know” echo, that this could be a breakout moment. “I was working at a Kroger store in Little Rock listening to it on my iPhone,” he said, “and I just knew instantly.” Others took notice, too – they signed with Prospect Park Records this summer and will release their debut full-length LP later this year.
At the core of the group is the dynamic between Boots and Cobo that informs everything from their writing to their stage dynamic. “There’s a brotherly connection there, knowing what the person is going to do next, it’s easier to play with someone who is like another version of yourself.” There’s a degree of intuition to it, a genetic thread. “My mom is one of the best singer’s I’ve ever heard,” Boots adds. “She even sings on one of our records.”
And Knox Hamilton is about melodies – this isn’t music that plays with skittish vocals, avant-garde notes, dissonant rhythms just for the sake of it. This is a band that embraces light and life; that looks to create a mood and drive a feeling, a motion, a moment. To last in your mind, in your gut. “The melodies are what people take with them from the live show and from the recordings. The melodies stay with people for days” says Boots. One listen to “Work It Out,” and one could argue they’ve achieved this goal.
Knox Hamilton – the man or the myth – would certainly approve.
For more information, please contact Asha Goodman 615.320.7753, Holly Smith 615.320.7753 or Carla Sacks 212.741.1000 at Sacks & Co.