Roman Candle Keeps It In The Family

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The sex, drugs and a rock'n'roll lifestyle couldn't be less representative of Nashville alt-country trio Roman Candle if it tried. The band's tours are a family affair, with married bandmates Skip and Timshel Matheny's two kids - ages two and four - joining Roman Candle on the road.

"Right now, my kids are thrilled to be on the road with us just because it means they can go to hotels across America and jump on the beds," guitarist and vocalist Skip Matheny says.

But it hasn't always been child's play for the band, which formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1997. Label issues continually plagued the members of Roman Candle, who inked a Hollywood Records deal in 2003 before the label became, as Skip Matheny calls it, a "money-making machine of Miley Cyrus." After recording "The Wee Hours Revue," the band's second album and first release on Hollywood, the label shelved the album for more than two years.

"I think Hollywood was secretly hoping we'd break in like Norway or somewhere in Europe so they could put our record out without having to work on it, but unfortunately the Norwegians never caught on," Skip Matheny says.

As the band, comprised of brothers Skip and Logan Matheny and Skip's wife Timshel, remained in limbo with Hollywood, members put their skills to test as Chapel Hill studio musicians. Although the momentum the band had first set into motion with its 2001 debut was halted by label issues, Skip Matheny says the delay "influenced the music Roman Candle makes music now - for the better, hopefully."

"The Wee Hours Revue" finally saw the light of day, when V2 Records purchased the album from Hollywood and released it in 2006. The album of soulful, Southern-tinged pop narratives made modest waves among roots-rock enthusiasts, affording the ever-touring band a small taste of success. But more label shake-ups were on the way for the band, as V2 was sold in late 2006. After a "long courtship," according to Skip Matheny, Roman Candle made Nashville's Carnival Music its home, where the band remains signed.

"Carnival's roster was mostly Texan songwriters when we first started talking with them, but it just felt like a real family-oriented home. I think that's the environment we need after dealing with Hollywood," Skip Matheny says.

Roman Candle is happy to report that there's no label drama these days, as the band tours in support of its May 2009 release, titled "Oh Tall Tree in the Ear." Three extended single EPs, all of which are available for free via the band's web site, both preceded and followed the album's release, with one more to be released later this fall.

"Oh Tall Tree in the Ear" and its extended singles explore instrumentation beyond the expected, with organ and piano taking the reins. Skip's vocal twang and lyrical tales of wanderlust, however, remain the same, proving Roman Candle is a band that pulls off introspective earnestness without taking themselves too seriously.