How’s this for a band’s “meet cute” story: Tripp Howell and Brandon Lancaster – two of the founding members of the country group LANco (which stands for Lancaster & Co.) – met when Howell was one of the only audience members for Lancaster’s performance at a music festival in Tennessee.
“He was in The Writ, kind of a folk-rock band, and I was in a dance-pop band with my brother called Oaklynn,” Howell explains over the phone during a break in LANco’s winter tour. “We were playing this festival in Cleveland, Tenn., called Thetapalooza, and I swear there weren’t more than thirty people there. . . . After I saw him play for the five people paying attention I thought, ‘That guy right there has passion for music.’ ”
Howell says the two started hanging out in Nashville and became good friends, but didn’t perform together right away. “We had been hanging out for about six months before he broke out some songs he had recently written, and at that point I couldn’t help but say, ‘Man, these are incredible. Why don’t we start playing these onstage?’”
While both had been in touring bands before moving to Nashville, they quickly learned they’d need day jobs while trying to break into the music scene. Howell’s side gig played a pivotal part in paving the way for LANco: the carpet warehouse where he worked was perfect for late night rehearsals.
“I was working so late into the evenings at my job that my boss would just let me close the building down for the evening when I was finished,” says Howell. “So I just called Brandon one night and said, ‘We should just bring our instruments up here and play, since I’m the only one here. We can just load them back up in the morning, and no one will know a thing.’ We did that for about six months, realized we hadn’t gotten caught, so we started hiding the instruments behind piles of carpet remnants on the second floor of this warehouse. After a year of doing that, we eventually got to the point where we started just leaving everything setup out in the open.”
LANco, opening for country duo Brothers Osborne at The Ritz in Raleigh Thursday, are now touring with the marketing strength of powerhouse Sony Music Nashville behind them. And with label mates Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as examples of how far the group could climb in country music, and Brothers Osborne showing that you don’t have to be an overnight success to make it, the men behind LANco realize they are lucky to have gotten this far – and they aren’t taking any of it for granted.
“We love music, and it’s probably the only thing that we could actually do for a living, so all of this isn’t about becoming famous so much as just getting out there and giving the crowds our songs,” says Howell. “We love watching people play music, and we love playing music to people, so all of this is just built into our psyches. Being given the opportunity to live in a town where we are surrounded by this much talent to learn from, I guarantee that each and every member of the band picks up four or five things that we could do better each night we watch someone like the Osbornes play.”
Who: The Brothers Osborne “Dirt Rich Tour” featuring LANco
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Dr., Raleigh
Info: 919-424-1400 or ritzraleigh.com