Before there was The Band CAMINO, there was The Jeffrey Jordan Band. The eponymous creative outlet connected lead singer and guitarist Jeffrey Jordan, 22, and bassist Graham Rowell, 20, with a crew that would change the game.
A mix of alternative rock and Americana, the OG six-piece group also included drummer Andrew Isbell, 19, and fellow lead singer and guitarist Spencer Stewart, 23.
“We ended up writing ‘Young’ at one rehearsal when it was just us four there,” Jordan says. “We [knew] we needed to do something with this song.”
The indie rock ballad was unlike anything The Jeffrey Jordan Band had pulled together before. But something clicked, and it was too good to ignore.
“We felt like we had a responsibility to the song,” Jordan says. “[We figured] if we could make music like this, then we should.”
Unsure of this new sound, the other two members of The Jeffrey Jordan Band decided to mutually part ways. Although no one knew it at the time, this was the start of a new era for the band.
“We sat on ‘Young’ for like a month,” Jordan says. “We were trying to think of a band name. Then Graham saw an El Camino and basically convinced us all that Camino was a good name.”
“Jeffrey didn’t like it at first,” Rowell says with a chuckle. “Andrew and I decided that we were going to keep saying it until he liked it. It took about a week.”
With a new name in tow, the guys re-introduced themselves to the Memphis music scene and started booking shows.
Their first official gig as The Band CAMINO was at the 2015 Delta Fair. “We were supposed to play 45 minutes, but we only had three or four originals at that point,” Jordan says.
“I remember that being such a big issue for the first like couple of months,” Isbell says. “We have these three songs, and that’s close to 12 minutes. We’ve only got 30 more minutes to fill!”
Just six months later, CAMINO was on the bill for 2016’s Beale Street Music Festival.“Somehow we got booked for a major festival before we had any music out,” Stewart says, still in shock by the band’s good fortune.
He was with Jordan when they found out. “We were on campus, getting out of my car in the central parking lot,” Jordan says. “My jaw just dropped. When I got off the phone, I was like, ‘You’re not going to believe what we just got asked to do.’”
After sorting out the details, the only thing left to do was sign the contract. A week went by with no paperwork in sight when the band got the bad news: Their time slot fell through.
Shortly after, the official line-up came up and the CAMINO crew had to face the facts. They weren’t on it, so it just wasn’t meant to be. Or so they thought. The band was in the crowd at a Bluff City Soul Collective show when Jordan received a call from Jim Holt, president and CEO of Memphis in May. A spot had opened up for the last day of the fest, and they wanted CAMINO — for real this time. They sent over the contract almost immediately after the call, Jordan says.
“We practiced every day leading up to it,” Jordan says. “We ran the exact set so many times that we knew it like the back of our hands.”
This time around the band had a full set list of originals, fresh off of their debut EP, My Thoughts on You.
“I feel like we killed it,” Jordan says. “We just got up there and it felt awesome. The weather was awesome, the crowd was awesome; it was perfect.”CAMINO was one of the first bands to play, so they were able to hang out in their trailer and enjoy the rest of the fest after getting off stage.
“I waved at Bastille, [but] they didn’t really wave back,” Stewart says. “I probably looked like an idiot running around, wide-eyed. I just couldn’t believe that I was there with all of those people.”
“We felt like we shouldn’t have been there,” Jordan adds. “It was pretty crazy.”In the year since, the band has matured beyond their original musical influences.
“When we were starting a band, it was in my peak phase of being obsessed with the 1975 and what they were doing at the time,” Jordan says, acknowledging the band’s impact on My Thoughts on You. “We were just really hype about them, [and] we wanted to do that.”
Stewart says that although they nod to their debut — they’ll be releasing a single of the same name on May 12 — their second EP has more of a varied influence.
Instead of trying to incorporate the same production elements their idols employ, they’re building their own sound from scratch.
“We still draw influence from a ton of bands, but we’re drawing more from our own creativity,” Stewart says. “We’ve come to a point where we’re creative enough to think of them on our own.”
“[They have a] great combination of talent and work ethic,” says Ben Yonas, a producer, artist manager, and music business professor at the University of Memphis. “They practice more than any other band I know.”
Over the past two years, Yonas has taught all four of the CAMINO guys at one point or another. He was also around when they decided to form the band.
“These guys have a strong music business foundation to start from,” he says, reflecting on their time at U of M. “They won’t be signing any stupid deals like so many bands often do. They know what a good deal looks like, and they know what to ask for.”
Beyond that, Yonas says, “they realize the importance of putting on an epic live show and they continue to write great music, which, of course, is the key.”
CAMINO’s second EP, Heaven, is set to release on June 2.
Cruisin’ with CAMINO
Turn up the tunes and take the next exit; The Band CAMINOis here to take you on a drive
Story by Tess Catlett