Every now and then, in these modern times; whilst we sift through the seemingly constant onslaught of pain, dismay and sorrow of foreign and domestic events…hope shines a light. Hope creates a melody, hope sings a song, hope changes a course, hope reminds us that we are never without. Once in awhile, thankfully, even hope goes viral…strangely (or not), mysteriously (or not), right about when we need it to the most. In this instance it came to us as a Youtube video posted by the band Cloverton, a chilling, heart-warming and beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s iconic “Hallelujah”.
Cloverton is a Christian rock band based in Manhattan. The band is made up of four members: Lance Stafford, Layne Stafford, Kirby LeMoine, and Josh Svorinic. The band achieved its initial success in 2011 when it won the ROCK THE CAMP contest, run by TobyMac and Camp Electric. After winning this competition, the band traveled around the world to play numerous shows.
After touring the world, Cloverton decided to get back into the studio to produce its first full-length album. The band teamed up with Joshua D. Niles in Tennesse to take on this big, exciting challenge. With support from fans, Cloverton was able to raise enough money to produce its first album, Patterns, in September of 2013. This first album is a beautiful blend of the band’s four members’ personalities and experiences. On November 25th of this year, Cloverton released their highly anticipated Christmas EP, We Sing Joy.
I’d like to thank Cloverton for playing a significant part in saving my Christmas and for guiding me to the beautiful.
A week ago, I had the honor and pleasure of sharing time with Lance to learn more:
Your success began with your ROCK THE CAMP win in 2011 and a successful tour (and hit single!) to follow. What was it like to be catapulted into the music industry like that?
Kind of surreal actually. Things were moving about 100 miles an hour during that stretch. Looking back, there was SO MUCH that happened all at once. We opened for TobyMac, got to play on a couple of Christian cruises, starting get text messages from our friends saying they just heard our song on the radio, etc. It was a crazy season for sure.
How does the Christian music scene differ from others? What are the unique challenges presented to you as artists and business people?
The Christian music scene is all that we’ve really known…so it’s hard to offer an alternative perspective. I think there is a challenge…especially as an independent band, to keep the balance between being an artist and being business-minded. So much of what drives the music scene is business-related. And we have to often think that way when determining where to tour, when to release new music, and how to find time to do it all. It’s likely that the ones who have discovered how to balance those two things well are the ones who have found longevity in their music careers.
You mention how overwhelming it was to see your fund raising goals exceed what you were hoping for in less time than you thought. What does that kind of support mean to the band?
We didn’t really want to think about what might happen if the funding didn’t come through, but you still always kind of wonder. I think it’s human nature. When we received that kind of overwhelming support, it really affirmed what we were doing and the direction we were heading as a band.
You describe Patterns as “a meeting of minds and personalities.” Tell us a little more about this, and why it is important to bring music through the everyday and allow people to open their hearts to songs and lyrics.
Music can be a giant melting pot. All cultures, eras, generations, etc. have embraced music and the influence has been great. A beautiful piece of music can stir something inside of each of us. People are drawn to beauty. If we are able to capture people with a sound or melody, then we have an even greater opportunity to say something meaningful. And so in a way, every song is an opportunity to do that. Our hope is that people from all walks of life would find truth and meaning in the songs that make up “Patterns” and that it would lead to more discovery and awakening in each person’s heart.
How did the name Cloverton come to be? What significance does it hold?
This is really a terrible story. Honestly, we couldn’t decide on a name and so when we were recording our first EP in Nashville, we were staying on a street named “Clovernook.” We dropped the “nook” and added “ton” and it stuck.
What does the future hold in store for Cloverton? Where do you hope to be as a band and as people in the next year? Five years? 10 years?
Our goal is always to progress and not regress. We hope that we’re writing more creative songs with even greater meaning. We hope that our reach as a band has increased a great deal. We hope to be making an impact on our generation through our approach to ministry and music. We hope to be better dads, husbands, brothers, mentors, musicians, etc.
How do you try to connect with fans in between albums? How do you define a meaningful fan relationship?
Touring is a big way to do that. Listening to a song through a set of headphones and watching it live are two completely different experiences. We hope that everyone who hears our music gets an opportunity to experience it in a live setting. That’s how relationships are formed…when you can look someone in the eye and connect with them while singing something over them that could potentially re-direct the course of their life.
Lance, you refer to the doubt that presented itself when it came time to transition from playing most of your music live and then getting into the recording studio. How did you break down that doubt and become comfortable recording such personal stories?
For me, it’s so important to capture that live performance connection or intimacy with a recorded version of a song. Some of these songs have so much back story and depth that there’s always a fear that people might not “get it.” You can’t explain it to someone. They have to experience it on their own and pull meaning from it in their own way. As an artist, sometimes it can be hard to surrender that away, but that’s the beauty of music. One song can mean so many different things to so many people. In writing this record, we wanted to be honest. We didn’t want a sugary record…or something shallow. We wanted it to be real and poetic and thought provoking. The closer the time came to get into the studio, the more obvious it was to all of us that these were the songs that we needed to record.
What is it like to work with your twin brother? Do you tend to have similar creative influences? Different?
Ha…this might be a better question to ask another band member! My brother and I are very similar in some ways, and vastly different in other ways. I would say that our approach to music is quite different, but our influences are fairly similar. We shared a room growing up, so we would often end up listening to the same music. And we’ll often go to shows together now. Communicating ideas to one another is pretty simple because we’re often already on the same page. Plus, we get along pretty well…for being twins.
Being the frontman (or woman) of any band carries a lot of pressures. How do you overcome both creative and personal challenges as a lead vocalist?
It’s a battle. I have a great wife and a good support system. I also have to keep a close eye on my personal tank. If I get closer and closer to empty, then I’m not the version of myself that I need to be. The stage and spotlight can be demanding, but I also know that there is great responsibility and privilege in that role. The things that influence me may be the very things that I use to influence others. So having that awareness is important….as well as knowing that I’m constantly learning and growing as I go.