For nearly half a decade, The National Reserve has spent its Friday nights lighting it up at a Brooklyn bar, winning over boozers and barflies with epic sets and a remarkable breadth of songcraft and showmanship. Now, after so much time honing their craft, the band is gearing up to release their debut album, Motel La Grange, which is out May 11 on Ramseur Records and manages to capture every bit of that energy, emotion, and entertainment for all to hear.
Founded and fronted by singer-guitarist Sean Walsh, The National Reserve mine an archetypal musical seam, marrying gutbucket R&B, Laurel Canyon lyricism, New Orleans funk workouts, late night soul, and bluesy, boozy rock ‘n’ roll to create their own timeless brand of American music. The New Jersey-born Walsh began his musical journey amongst New Brunswick’s all-ages house show punk scene, a formative experience that instilled his standing belief in the power of music to create community. New inspiration came in the form of classic American artists like The Band and Bob Dylan, whose rebellious, revolutionary spirit proved especially mind-blowing.
With Motel La Grange, Walsh and The National Reserve have crafted a rich and raucous collection that instantly places them among Americana’s finest – its force, directness, and performance not unlike some lost recording unearthed from the golden age of 70s rock ‘n’ roll. Justifiably proud of what he’s accomplished, Walsh is now planning to bring all the fun and fire of The National Reserve’s fiery Friday night sets to the rest of the world, eager to pack as many folks into his band’s late night scene as possible.
Today Glide is excited to offer up a premiere of “I’ll Go Blind”, one of the standout tracks on the album. The song is laid back and catchy as hell. The band successfully fuses together elements of acts like Bruce Springsteen, Deer Tick and Natural Child while putting their own distinctive stamp on it. Their sound can’t be pigeonholed as alt-country, Americana or rock and roll, as it seems to grab pieces of all those genres and toss them into the pot. With plenty of twang, infectious choruses, and a solid groove – not to mention some damn find guitar soloing – “I’ll Go Blind” manages to simultaneously capture what makes The National Deserve such a perfect bar band and what makes them so much more than that.
Listen to the tune and read our chat with Sean Walsh below…
You got your start playing a regular gig at a local bar in Brooklyn. There is some sort of nostalgia to that kind of grit and grind. Talk about that a little bit and how it has impacted your musical journey.
Well, we actually started long before that, and after years of trying to be an “indie band” whatever that may be; I read Levon Helm’s book “This Wheel’s on Fire.” What struck me the most (being a huge fan of their music) was the eloquent musical language they spoke with each other and the fact they had forged that relationship with one another playing bar gigs. The more and more I read about bands that I loved and respected, the more I noticed this trend among them as well. This was just the tried and true way of learning how to be an entertainer. After that realization we were lucky enough to land a regular Friday bar gig at Skinny Dennis, which would become our home base and “lab” so to speak. We’ve been doing that now nearly every Friday night when we’re not on the road for the last five years. It has been incredibly formative and inspirational for us. There is something about playing to a room of people trying to party every week. To me it has taught me how to step out of the “artist” role as a songwriter and into the “entertainer” role. As for the band as a whole, I feel it has really taught us how to handle any curve ball we’re thrown and how to react musically on a dime to each other’s playing. I’ve never been as lucky as I am now to play with musicians who listen so intently and play for each other’s expression. That is something we have absolutely learned to do in the corner of that bar.
What can people expect from Motel La Grange?
Personally I feel like any new fan that takes the time to listen to our new record will hear a band that truly loves playing music together. We spent a lot of time in different studios recording and re-recording these tracks. We did this until we thought we found the right performance of every song that represented us, and how we saw ourselves. About 80% of it was tracked live all in a room together, and after trial and error we realized that this way captured us the best. It is our homage to all the rock-n-roll we have grown to love over the years from The Heartbreakers to Leon Russell.
Tell us a little bit about your songwriting process, specifically for “I’ll Go Blind”, and then what the transition was like bringing it into the studio. Any big revelations or changes during the entire process?
To me the songwriting process always seems to vary from song to song. With “I’ll Go Blind” I recall driving from Minneapolis to NYC after playing a three-week solo tour. I was eager to get home and see a woman who I was VERY fond of at the time. I stopped at a truck stop along the way and slept the night on the loft in the van. I woke up early the following morning, took a shower in the Flying J truck stop and made some breakfast in the van. I remember taking out my guitar to play a bit before I took off on the long drive of the day, and the song kind of just smacked me in the face. This is one of the only songs on the record that didn’t get chopped apart and re-worked throughout the shows leading up to the recording process. It appears on this record almost exactly how I imagined it would in the back of my E350 van.
Beyond the album dropping this May, you have several tour dates booked including some notable festival appearances. It looks like 2018 is shaping up to be a good year for TNR. Any comments to that end? Or anything else you would like to share with us?
2018 has been very good to us so far; I can’t explain to you how grateful I feel to be doing what we are doing. Just recently we had the opportunity to play an incredibly inspiring show with the Tedeschi Trucks Band in PA. I had this amazing moment when we were in the middle of a song and just thought to myself “wow, this is incredible, I can’t believe I get to do THIS.” All I can hope is that my life continues to be full of those moments, and that I get to share that joy with people who come along for the ride with us. Music is magical.
Motel La Grange is out on May 11th. Check out tour dates below and visit for more info thenationalreserve.com.
5.9.18 – Cambridge, MA – State Park Bar
5.10.18 – Philadelphia, PA – Milkboy (XPN Welcomes)
5.11.18 – Brooklyn, NY – Union Pool
5.18.18 – Burlington,VT – ArtsRiot
6.2.18 – Athens, NY – Happy Jake’s at The Stewart House
6.8.18 – Washington, DC – Hill Country Live
6.9.18 – Wilmington, DE – Bromberg’s Big Noise Music Festival
7.6-7.18 – Nescopeck, PA – Briggs Farm Blues Festival
7.25-26.18 – Floyd, VA – Floyd Fest
8.4-5.18 – Bethlehem, PA – Musikfest
9.20.18 – Charlotte, NC – Whitewater Center
9.21-22.18 – Bristol, TN – Bristol R&R Reunion