It was a little more than 25 years ago when a bunch of friends in Gainesville, Fla., joined up to start the band Sister Hazel, never dreaming that it would score a No. 1 alternative hit with “All For You” and still be playing live all these years later.
Comprised of Ken Block (lead vocals and guitar), Jett Beres (bass and vocals), Andrew Copeland (guitar and vocals), Ryan Newell (guitar and vocals) and Mark Trojanowski (drums)—all original members -- Sister Hazel will be playing The State Theatre on Sept. 7.
“We’ve been incorporating more and more new stuff in the show, but there are certain staples we always play because if we don’t, people are going to throw things at us,” Copeland said. “We still enjoy those, but we like to sprinkle in some of the new music and that’s been going well. We also have been throwing in more and more covers.”
Throughout the year, Sister Hazel does a number of fan-driven events, such as the Rock Boat and the Hazelnut Hang, where the band plays an alter ego set of someone else’s music, and that led to an increase in cover songs during this tour.
“We were sitting around one day and someone said, ‘Hey, we learned all these songs from AC/DC and Van Halen and the Eagles, and we never play them again.’ So, we decided to cherry-pick some of those we really love playing and play them throughout the show,” Copeland said. “It’s been fun for us and I think the crowd enjoys it as well.”
While Sister Hazel’s music has been called everything from southern rock to pop to simply alternative, the one thing that’s constant in almost all of its songs is the group’s optimistic melodic tunes and prominent harmonies.
This week, Sister Hazel released “Earth,” the fourth EP in a compilation series entitled “Elements” that the band has been working on for more than two years. The others in the series, appropriately titled “Water,” “Wind” and “Fire,” have all done well on the charts and brought plenty of great tunes to the band’s fans, affectionately known as the “Hazelnuts.”
For those with all four recordings, the end of each features a snippet of a song. Copeland explains they are one-minute musical lyrical pieces and when all four are put together, they morph into one song.
“As time has continued to move forward, we’ve enjoyed the traditional album release, but music buyers and listeners haven’t gone about the same way as they always have, and thankfully there are a few guys in the band who are forward thinking enough to have us start looking at it from a different direction,” Copeland said. “So, we came up with the idea of trying EPs and doing a linked series. We looked for a common theme and came up with the birthplace of ‘Elements’.”
While Sister Hazel would love to repeat the mainstream success of “All For You,” Copeland realistically doesn’t think it’s very possible, and that’s OK with him and the band.
“It would definitely have to happen in a different way than ‘All For You’ connected with people; the song would have to be picked up for an ad campaign or a movie or popular TV show,” he said. “There is only so much space on the conglomerate radio station that are force-fed songs you have to play and much less room for artists who have been around for 27 years to come back with something.”
And while he admitted that they all still dream about that happening again and reliving some of that excitement and fun, Copeland said he would probably navigate it differently.
“But we’re not holding our breath,” he said. “Still, we love what we’re doing and don’t have any plans of slowing down anytime soon. Our fans appreciate our new music and that’s enough.”
With the quartet of “Elements” recordings now complete, Sister Hazel is already hard at work on what’s next.
“We are kicking around ideas,” Copeland said. “We already have a batch of songs that I think need to be heard. I feel really fortunate. Everything is clicking well.”
Copeland is as surprised as anyone that all these years later, the band is still going strong.
“A lot of guys in the band would have wished for us to be where we are, but I don’t think that anyone would have thought 27 years later, we’d be with the same group of guys making music and making a living,” he said. “I like it when we play live and we laugh a lot. There was a portion of the day yesterday where I was laughing so hard, my side was hurting. Everybody has wicked senses of humor. For a bunch of guys, getting up onstage, it’s almost like a boy’s camp.”