Two years ago, Charlotte folk-rock foursome Matrimony were readying for the release of their debut full-length album, “Montibello Memories.” It was released in May 2014 on Columbia Records with a national rollout that included nods in Rolling Stone, USA Today and Billboard, national tours, and appearances at South By Southwest and on NPR’s “Mountain Stage.”
To outsiders, it might have looked like Matrimony came out of nowhere. But for Charlotteans who had been following along for years, the national attention seemed a long time coming.
Today there is little mention of Matrimony aside from Housingfest, a benefit it’s playing with Josh Ritter and Lindi Ortega at the Fillmore in May. They are no longer working with Columbia.
Instead, Jimmy Brown – a transplant from Northern Ireland who started the band with his Charlotte-raised wife, Ashley Hardee Brown – reteams with Matrimony bandmate and brother-in-law CJ Hardee in a new duo called Bassh. The pair plays its first hometown headlining gig at Visulite Friday.
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Co-leads Brown and Hardee Brown moved to Nashville, Tenn., and are expecting their first child. CJ Hardee and brother Jordan (the other piece of Matrimony) remain in Charlotte.
“Me and Jimmy were writing songs with Matrimony in mind, I guess. We just kind of developed the sound, which was outside of what Matrimony’s doing and what Ashley is doing,” explains CJ Hardee. “Ashley and James both personally wanted to pursue different avenues in music. She’s been writing her own songs, which are more poppy.”
Produced by Band of Horses’ Bill Reynolds, Bassh doesn’t sound like Matrimony. Brown’s voice still resonates as does that modern take on Fleetwood Mac-style melodies. But the down-home acoustic instrumentation and roots-feel is gone in favor of a moodier, electronic, but not sterile, contemporary alt-rock sound. It certainly won’t pit the duo against or lump it in with bands like Mumford, which flooded radio as “Montibello Memories” was hitting.
It wasn’t a conscious effort to move toward a different sound.
“If anything we’re more prone to actively try to not sound like something. How do we (mess) this up a bit? How do we make it not sound like Tom Petty?” says Hardee, who was happy to hang up the banjo and rock out on electric instruments.
Bassh released its first single (“Body”) online in October, recently signed with Antler Records and played SXSW. An EP or full-length is in the cards, Hardee adds. Not that Matrimony is over, but simply on hiatus.
So what does Bassh mean? The name being less obvious than a reference to family.
“I always like to say it’s like a party and a fight,” he says. “We just liked the word. Our whole lives have been a party and fight.”
When: 9 p.m. Friday.
Where: Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave.
DetailS: 704-358-9200; www.visulite.com.