Columbus is home to many bands who work to stand out to local music lovers. Different genres and sounds permeate through the capital city’s many venues, but up-and-coming indie rock band Personal Public aim to bring a new Revival to what music lovers tend to hear with their expansive debut.
Personal Public consists of Cody Contner (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Alex Kessis (bass), Jordan McVey (drums), Ben Canton (lead guitar) and Anthony Herrmann (piano/keyboard), although the band was originally formed by Herrmann, McVey and Contner.
“This started as a creative project between myself and Jordan. We joined together and for a solid two years we just sat in his basement and produced music,” Herrmann said.
Soon after, the two friends decided to respond to a Craigslist ad posted by Contner looking for band members … a few jam sessions later, Personal Public was born.
“We got together one night to write a song … it was the first song we ever released as Personal Public called “This Old House,” Hermann said. “We wrote a song in about three to four hours. We had that chemistry with writing, that’s how we knew it was going to work from that point on.”
Since then, the band has signed with Athens-based label Brick City Records and has been gearing up for the release of their debut Revival, a record that was developed at a time when the band was beginning to deteriorate.
“It was one of those things where we were like, ‘Aw man, this is way too fun. We shouldn’t give up on this so quickly.’” McVey said. “After that, we all started to mesh together really well … we kind of thought, ‘If we’re going to do something with this, we should really do something with this’ and that’s when me and Tony sat down in my basement and starting making the record.”
After adding guitarist Ben Canton, the band hunkered down and began work on Revival.
On the surface, Revival is a rock ‘n roll record with a kick, but when listened to on a deeper level, the listener is thrust into a narrative that illustrates a band’s rebirth.
“The record tells a story of what we’ve been through the past year and the way that we set-up all of the songs tells a story,” Herrmann said. “Outside” is a very dreary, lost song and then the interlude kicks in and it’s like, ‘We’re new now and we feel a revival.’ I think that was very important from the get-go.”
“We wanted it to be a great representation of what we’ve been through all the way up to this point as a band.”
Perfectionism when it came to writing songs for the album was something that stood out to me throughout our conversation. Every description of the songwriting process and the creation of the album as a whole was professional and well organized, so much so that the band would play songs over and over again prior to going into the studio to record.
“We would all get into a giant room and play the songs over and over until we figured out the exact way we wanted them to be played,” Contner said. “It has been a cycle of finishing the songs, testing them out and experimenting with a lot of stuff and then trying to dial them in as much as possible before we went into the studio. It went really smoothly … a lot easier than I thought it would be.”
Revival’s structure is one that faintly reflects the same concept used on last year’s grandiose I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it by The 1975, mainly because the band was a huge inspiration for Personal Public in studio.
“At least with the structure of the record … how there’s the intro then it comes back at the end, I think I was definitely influenced by The 1975 and their record and how there were moments where things came back in from the beginning. I just love that,” McVey said.
On the other hand, tracks like the ‘90s grunge throwback “Under the Rug” and the gospel-tinged “Revival” are reminiscent of Kings of Leon, according to Contner.
For the album’s closer “Revival,” Herrmann enlisted the help of a gospel choir to drive home the theme of redemption.
“I had the idea of getting the gospel involved with that because gospel is coming back into music. I thought it would be really cool to incorporate that again. We’ve never done anything as big as that,” Herrmann said. “We talked about releasing that as a single, but then we thought about wanting people to really dig into the record and hear that song.”
“It was a really big step for us. I don’t really know if any local bands in Columbus that have gospel on their record like that, so it was kind of a leap of faith for us.”
For the other members, songs like “Under the Rug,” stuck out as one to remember.
“Under the Rug” is probably my favorite. That song just has so much mood,” McVey said. “It makes me feel like I’m walking down the street, cigarette in my hand and a bloody fist or something…”
When it comes to the album, Personal Public aimed to appeal to the vast audiences they know are fans within Columbus’ and Ohio’s music scene, while also staying true to what they love: rock ‘n roll.
“I think we’ve approached this record in the sense that we wanted to appeal to a lot of people. I don’t think there’s one song on this record that sounds alike, but we’re definitely moving more toward a rock ‘n roll-esque direction because Columbus has … a really big pop music scene,” Herrmann said. “We do have a few songs that are on the pop-y end to appeal to that crowd, but we want to keep those rock ‘n roll roots in our music and do it in a way that’s really organic and fresh to people.”
As an up-and-coming band, Personal Public has to deal with an influx of groups that also call Columbus home, but they aim to provide listeners with something unique and different that allow them to stand out.
“This city inspires us in some ways musically, and then in other ways it kind of shows us what we don’t want to be,” McVey said. “Pop music is fun, it’s an inherently fun genre to listen to because it’s easy to digest, but at the same time we want to be true to ourselves.”
“We want to convey certain feelings in songs that pop music just doesn’t do. We kind of straddle that line.”
One would expect there to be a lot of competition between local bands in a saturated scene, but Personal Public looks at things through a different lens.
“We go in saying, ‘OK, we’re going to better musically, better technically and our energy is going to be larger than any other band in this building.’”
With the release of Revival on all platforms January 13, Personal Public is looking forward to a productive year with shows that exhibit the group’s energy, passion and commitment to their music.
“We have a new configuration in the band … I’m really happy with how everything is right now with our lineup and I’m really optimistic that we’re going to be able to push out some more new stuff this year, too,” Contner said. “Not necessarily recording it, but writing more music and playing some cool shows. I’m confident good things will happen this year.”
Personal Public may have been around for a while, but the record strikes listeners with a new appeal. They’ve reinvented their sound, and provided fans with a strong release that showcases their determination and dedication to what they love: their music.
You can listen to Revival below: