Provided Quinn Cicala (front left) wrote songs inspired by emo and folk for the band’s 2021 album

A Little Bit Country

Myrtle Beach isn’t normally associated with forests. The city conjures images of weekend trips, miniature golf and kitschy beach towels. Yet, Myrtle Beach-native Quinn Cicala just released one of the woodsiest albums you’ll hear in the coming year. It sounds like fog rolling off of the mountains during a weekend rendezvous with friends. It’s a deeply personal album, full of specific anecdotes that could only happen to one person.

The self-titled project had been simmering for a while, as Cicala and his band (also known as Cicala) finished recording it almost a year ago.
“There was a lot of back and forth about the mixing, but I had been sitting on these songs for a couple of years,” Cicala said. “We started practicing and rehearsing for about two weeks and then we went out to a cabin in the Poconos in Pennsylvania and recorded just really smoothly within a week.”

Cicala album cover

A lot of credit for the quality of the work belongs to producer Matteo Debenedetti, as the LP has a professional sound to it. But, the engine of Cicala runs on lyrics, which draw heavily from the deep personal elements of emo songwriting. While folk-oriented emo and indie rock have existed for decades, Cicala strikes a balance between the qualities of contemporary folk and emo that’s going to quench thirsts for fans of both.

“Interstate” has the heartbroken, yearning chorus of Modern Baseball, and songs like “Red Rocks” carry oddly specific details. “Today, I saw this kid break his ankle on pavement/and I didn’t call the ambulance,” Cicala sings. Meanwhile “Truck Stop” is just as much a southern road number as any classic country song you can name.

Vocally, Cicala puts on a light southern inflection that borders on country, but never quite goes off the deep end. Instrumentally, the LP has an earthen, piney sound with the brightness of folk rock outfits like Dawes. Cicala’s songwriting is strong enough to work on its own, but there’s a full, clean, folk rock sound pumped into this project.
Jackson May, the band’s lead guitarist, was important to the LP’s country touches. “We’re big fans of Jason Isbell and artists who can do that kind of Southern charm thing, and Jackson and I both love anything with those country licks,” Cicala said.

While the influences of country music and emo are clearly present, Cicala didn’t intend the new release to be a fusion of the two sounds. “I think it all just came naturally,” he said. “Something that I learned a couple of years ago is that when you’re writing and recording songs, it works best to not try and think of a sound. Just go with it, and let everyone involved have their own influence on it.”

The band has released music since 2014, including Post Country and Talkin to Breathe, both released in 2019. Cicala intended to go on tour in 2020, but naturally, that changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The way I approach things musically is very show-based,” Cicala says. “It’s all performance based, and being productive meant playing as many shows as I could. But now, we’ve only practiced as a band about twice this year.”

We’re hoping that some time soon we’re able to see Cicala play these songs live. They would translate beautifully to a club setting someday, and we can’t wait for that day to come.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.