Kendallville. Home of the Apple Festival, East Noble High School and former NBA star Brad Miller. A city of just under 10,000 residents, Kendallville isn’t usually thought of as a hotbed of musical activity. Aside from the occasional show at one of the town’s drinking establishments and, of course, the twice-a-year Tri-State Bluegrass Festival, there isn’t a lot of live music being played in front of people. But things are looking up for Kendallville, at least in the hard rock department. With a great showing at this year’s whatzup/Wooden Nickel Battle of the Bands, Blood from a Stone have served notice that they are on top of their game and ready to take the area by storm. Once a quintet, the band has pared itself down to a four-piece music machine, one in which every moving part is necessary and crucial. Band members Dave Bren, Nate Trowbridge, Travis Prater and Jordan O’Neal apparently come about their love of music naturally, as three of the members’ fathers play bass.
“We always had music in our lives as a result,” says Bren. “Jordan got his first drum kit at the age of four but didn’t start playing seriously until he was around 11 years old. I got a later start but started picking guitar around the age of 16 and was inspired by growing up watching a Guitar Institute of Technology graduate shred Van Halen to Led Zeppelin. Travis was inspired by his musician friends to give it a try and began learning piano. Nate picked up the acoustic guitar around the age of 10 and never looked back.”
This year was the third time Blood from a Stone entered the Battle of the Bands. After garnering huge amounts of praise from the local community and growing their fanbase exponentially from 2010 to 2011, the band took some time off and went underground for about a year to sort out membership and musical direction. Rising from the ashes as a trimmed-down quartet with a new singer, the band once again pummeled competition on their way to the finals, proving that though the band may be a bit different, some things never change.
Over the years Blood from a Stone have built a reputation as a must-see live act, but their high-energy stage show is something you really need to experience to appreciate. The band has stage presence, but the power of Blood from a Stone comes from their knack for writing complex yet accessible songs that seem ripe for radio yet make an extraordinary impact when played live.
Though the band may be remembered as a guitar-oriented band, the new version of Blood from a Stone focuses more on the singing.
“Our sound has become more vocal-based rather than the guitar-driven music you may have heard in the past,” said Bren. “Due to the lineup changes we’ve had to make, we decided to add more vocal harmonies, and it has helped us sound a lot more professional.”
Professional enough to catch the eye of Jeb Bartley of Crush House Entertainment. Crush House Entertainment is a Fort Wayne-based record label and management and promotions company that has booked acts for IPFW’s annual RiverFest at IPFW and several national concerts.
“At Crush House, we pride ourselves on only signing, promoting, managing and producing good, raw talent in the Fort Wayne area,” Bartley told whatzup. “We could tell the guys in Blood from a Stone were all good and talented musicians and that they were in it for all the right reasons. What we saw in them was that they were not just another loud rock band, but that they actually had talent we could help develop. We started watching how they handled themselves at shows and started talking about signing them at the Alien Ant Farm show (in April 2013),” a show Blood from a Stone opened.
“We kept the signing kind of low profile during Battle of the Bands,” Bartley continued, “because we didn’t want to take the focus off the music.” But now that the Battle is over, Blood from a Stone and Crush House are moving forward. The band is currently recording its first single for Crush House and is making a music video to go with it. A full album, and possibly a tour, will likely follow in the near future.
Though they didn’t win Battle of the Bands, Blood from a Stone approached the contest with the right attitude. It’s not about the winning; it’s about creating new fans and networking with other area bands to create a stronger local music scene.
“We entered the battle to put our name out there again with the new lineup behind us,” said Bren. “We wanted to get our fans excited about Blood from a Stone again and see what people would think.”
With a finals night appearance and their strongest-ever finish in the contest, it’s safe to say the people liked what they heard.