South Hill Banks’ 21st-century take on bluegrass brings youthful energy to a centuries-old genre, and invigorates the Richmond music scene in the process.
Originating from the hills of Scotland and Ireland, bluegrass has come a long way since its introduction to mainstream music in the 1920s. Kentucky, the state that gave birth to its namesake plant, is the first to come to mind when considering the genre known as bluegrass. However, Virginia is staking their own claim to the genre, as young bluegrass bands have begun to pop up all across the state.
Center Cross, a small unincorporated town sitting on the banks of the Rappahannock River, is home to a small, tight-knit river community named the South Hill Banks. It was there that bluegrass band South Hill Banks got their start.
They began as brothers. Mandolin player Eric Horrocks and his brother Ryan, who sings and plays banjo, began playing around among their river community. Playing weddings and small events, slowly growing in recognition. Even today, they still love to perform in the area.
“When we’re there, it’s always a good time,” Ryan Horrocks said. “It’s funny, I think our dad is still our biggest fan.”
Four years later, the band has gained more members, from all different walks of life. Now, they are five members strong — the lineup is rounded out by lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist Lance Thomas, bassist Justin Doyle, and electric guitarist Dan Fiasconaro — and they have two full albums under their belt.
Their sound is far from the original Monroe Brothers bluegrass that started it all; South Hill Banks are blending psychedelic rock and jam-band influences with traditional string-band sounds, paving the way for a new generation of bluegrass.
“I think with our music, no one has heard anything like it,” Thomas said. “We are constantly pushing each other to take risks.”
South Hill Banks is a part of a collective resurgence of bluegrass. Taking on traditionalists who frown at their lack of a fiddle player and their use of electric guitar, the band is pushing the limits of traditional bluegrass, hitting new markets and reaching younger generations of listeners.
Their current fan base proves it. Now based in Richmond, South Hill Banks chose the river city as their home because of the strong support network they found within the local music scene, focused around venues like The Broadberry and The Camel.
2018 was a pivotal year for the band as they released their latest album, No Time for a Breakdown. Spending eight months assembling the collection of tunes and 13 days in the studio recording it, the album features 11 songs detailing the band’s adventures on the road and their growth as people and musicians in the scene.
“The album title comes from the first track,” Thomas said. “Essentially, it’s just about being carefree and letting it ride. It’s like, when things are going well, you just have to put your head down and keep moving forward.”
Since the album’s release, the band has been working on setting tour dates, building connections further west and stretching the genre.
They recently finished up their winter tour, on which they played cities from Johnson City, TN and Huntington, WV to Charlotte and Philadelphia, the band is keeping it rolling, playing Richmond’s The Broadberry this Saturday night, before heading back on tour to support their latest album throughout the month of March.
This summer will find them playing festivals like Ohio’s Duck Creek Log Jam and the 11th Annual Rooster Walk in Martinsville, VA. They’ll also be returning to their hometown of Richmond to perform at Dominion Riverrock on May 17th.
South Hill Banks promises to keep each show unique, with a set list that changes each performance.
“We play to the energy of the crowd,” Justin Doyle explained. “We’ll do our original songs and mix in covers; it makes us think on our feet.”
South Hill Banks will perform at the Broadberry on Saturday, March 2, with special guests James Justin & Co. For tickets and additional info, click here.