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When Boulder trio Rose Hill Drive released its first album, in 2006, the eponymous record’s bluesy rock was a welcome antidote to the floaty ballads and tired R&B hits (think: Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous”) that topped the Billboard charts. So welcome, in fact, that Rolling Stone named the local band one of its “10 New Artists to Watch” in April 2007.
In true music fairy-tale fashion, guitarist Daniel Sproul, vocalist-bassist Jacob Sproul, and drummer Nathan Barnes had risen from jamming in the Sproul brothers’ basement as high schoolers to being the opening act for the Who and the Stone Temple Pilots (the high-profile bands invited them on tour after hearing Rose Hill Drive’s music). But by 2011, the Boulder boys’ luck had unraveled. The group’s own poorly conceived tour—playing restaurant gigs in Colorado ski towns—was a letdown, triggering a rough breakup and six years of radio silence.
Now the rockers are staging a comeback. March marked the release of Rose Hill Drive’s latest album, Mania, a visceral record full of roaring guitars and rhythmic aggression. That same month, the outfit performed in the Fox Theatre’s 25th anniversary concert series, which highlighted some of the most famous bands that have played the Boulder venue.
This isn’t Rose Hill Drive’s first attempt to recapture its glory days; the band briefly got back together a few years ago, but re-creating the layered sound of its previous record, Americana, on stage proved to be too much of a hurdle. Daniel and Barnes ended up joining country singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham’s band, while Jake DJed electronic house music. The musical separation was difficult for the brothers but also helped the whole crew discover how much they missed the dynamics of Rose Hill Drive. “Playing with other people gave me a whole new appreciation of what we had as a group,” Barnes says. “I just had a hankering to play the music I grew up loving to play.”
All three members bring that passion to their new album—and a more thoughtful approach to their sound. They’ve studied the songs of artists like the Alabama Shakes to help streamline their melodies and hope that level of purity resonates with longtime fans as well as new listeners. “It’s the most honest thing we’ve ever done,” Daniel says. “It feels good, and it’s working, and that’s exciting to me.”
Where to See Them
Date July 8 at the Ride Festival in Telluride
Cost $135 for a one-day ticket; $234 for a general admission weekend pass
Because This is Rose Hill Drive’s first performance at a festival in six years.