The Floating Men
About The Floating Men
Formed in Nashville in 1990 by guitarist Jeff Holmes, bassist Scot Evans, and drummer Jeff Bishop, the Floating Men would become perennial draws on the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic touring circuit, playing well over 100 shows yearly. Holmes and Evans were veterans of popular Nashville rock band Little Saints, playing the late-'80s frat-house and party trail to enthusiastic crowds. When Little Saints broke up, Holmes and Evans began writing together, working on songs in an acoustic vein. The pair auditioned a number of drummers in an attempt to find one who would fit into their musical philosophy, discovering Jeff Bishop, a Berklee School of Music alumni. The trio began to play local and regional clubs, amazing audiences with their ability to pull off a rowdy rock & roll show with nothing but acoustic instruments.
The Floating Men recorded their debut album, Tall Shadows, on nights and weekends when schedules and jobs permitted. Several major labels showed interest, but also confusion over the band's unique acoustic sound. In the end, the three decided to release the album on their own, forming the Meridian label and releasing Tall Shadows in 1993. Constant touring followed, the band notching up 600 shows during the next two years. In answer to their growing fan base's cries for a live album, the Floating Men released Bootleg Snacks, Vol. 1 in 1994, the first in a series of authorized "bootleg" albums documenting the band's live performances. The band's second studio album, Invoking Michelangelo, was produced by the E Street Band's Garry Tallent and released in 1995, followed a year later by a double-live set, Bootleg Snacks, Vol. 2.
For the third studio album, The Song of the Wind in the Pines (1998), the band expanded its sound beyond its original acoustic mandate to include electric guitars, keyboards, and horns. At this time they also folded up their Meridian record label due to conflicts with another company, establishing Shade LLC to cover the band's interests and forming a deal with Nashville's Echomusic to handle future releases. The Floating Men celebrated their tenth anniversary in 2000, releasing Lemon Pie, their fourth studio album, and Bootleg Snacks, Vol. 3, a collection of live and studio outtakes, including material from Jeff Holmes' solo performances. Lemon Pie also included guest musicians such as Jerry Dale McFadden of the Mavericks and saxman Jeff Coffin (Béla Fleck & the Flecktones).
While most independent bands tend to slow down after a decade of hard work and touring, the Floating Men picked up the pace after the millennial celebration. The band's most ambitious studio album to date, Heroes Felons and Fiends, was released in 2001, along with Boot IV: Live at the Belcourt Theater, documenting a Nashville performance. Boot 5: Please Be Seated followed in 2002, recorded at a local Nashville club during the band's annual Labor Day Fan Fest, which draws Floating Men fans (called the "Floatilla") from across the country. The Floating Men released their sixth studio album (and 11th album overall), A Magnificent Man, in early 2003.
Although often pigeonholed in the Americana format, the Floating Men have always followed their own particular muse wherever it might lead. Mixing roots rock with elements of folk, country, bluegrass, and blues, the band has thrived independently of the corporate music world, depending on a strong relationship with fans to carry them through. In the early '90s, the band would gather addresses at shows to compile a mailing list of fans; later they collected e-mail addresses to send out news and show information to the Floatilla. Through their website, the Floating Men offered advance purchase of new albums and other merchandise to help fund their ongoing independence. ~ Rev. Keith A. Gordon