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The Oconee Leader

Feb 01st
Oconee band signs with national recording label Print E-mail
Written by Mary Anne Carroll   
Thursday, 27 February 2014

ImageRock. Pop. Country. Bluegrass. Hip Hop.


Most bands easily fall into one of these categories. Saint Francis is not one of those bands.


“Our band has elements of blues, rock, country, and rhythm and blues. One song we do is straight-up reggae,” said Mark van Allen. “You really can’t identify our band by any one genre.”


“I tend to say we are a cross-over band,” said Scott Baston, who founded the band. “We pull from several genres and styles.”


While The Saint Francis Band doesn’t fit into any one musical niche, there is one category that fits the band just perfectly. It is truly a hometown musical group.


“I live in Bishop, and my guitar player lives two doors down from me,” Baston said. “Mark lives in Oconee County too, about three miles down the road. A couple of guys live outside of Oconee County, but they are looking to move here.”


While Oconee County provides a solid base for the band, The Saint Francis Band is perched to expand far beyond our community’s borders. The band has signed a deal with Famous Records, is already getting airplay in some parts of the world, and will release an album this spring.


If it sounds like Saint Francis got a random lucky break into a business that is notoriously punishing, that is hardly the case. The band’s history is more a story of working hard for years, suffering numerous disappointments, and paying its dues 10 times over.


“We haven’t had an easy road to get to this point,” Baston said, in an epic understatement.


The band began in Macon, a city rich in musical history but home to a musical scene that has virtually dried up in recent years.



“The scene in Macon is not what it used to be,” is how Baston summed up the central Georgia city.


The band has had members come and go through the years, but the band that is now Saint Francis ended up based in this neck of the woods thanks to a move Baston made several years ago. Baston moved to our community to take a job at Trader Joe’s, returning to an area he was familiar with from his earlier college years.


“I went to UGA in 1993 and 1994,” Baston said. “Then I took my leave to travel and be a rock star.”


Baston didn’t become a rock star, but he honed his musical talents over the years. That is also the case for other members of The Saint Francis Band.


“All of us came from other bands and other projects,” Baston said. “There is tons of history behind all of these guys. We are all musicians who have worked job after job.”


Even when the band had Athens as a base, and a roster of talented, seasoned musicians, there were obstacles along the way. There was a disappointing and bad record deal with another company. And, the band was striving for success in a world where the music people enjoyed and the way people enjoyed that music had drastically changed.


“The internet has changed the way people access music,” van Allen said. “Another thing that has changed is that, because so much music is available for free, people are much less willing to shell out money for a live performance.”


They certainly had obstacles. At this point in their story, Saint Francis was down, but not out. It was at this point that Baston decided to take matters in his own hands.


“I started to promote us any way I could,” he explained. “I went on LinkedIn and started putting out feelers and telling our story.”


It was a long shot, for sure, but it was a long shot that worked.


“I had this guy call me out of the clear blue,” Baston said.


That guy was no ordinary guy. He was Jeffrey Collins, an Englishman who has been in the music business for decades and who is the founder of Famous Records. Even though Collins had some serious street cred, Baston and van Allen admitted they proceeded cautiously.


“We were skeptical at first because of what we had been through in the past,” Baston said.


Luckily, Collins was the real deal, and signed Saint Francis. And, the band’s songs are already getting airplay in parts of our country and around the world.


“We are getting airplay in the Northeast, and in Australia and Belgium,” van Allen said.

The band will also release an album soon. It is a collection of music the band already had ready, after recording the material several years ago.


“We made this incredible record that has sat for two years,” Baston said.


“Now we have the opportunity to rescue those tracks,” van Allen added. “And, those tracks should be heard.”


The album, titled Cassidy’s Sky, may be the key to making The Saint Francis Band a household name.


“This will be the one that puts us on the map,” Baston said, smiling.


The hope is that the album gets picked up by an even bigger record label, which often happens with musicians who sign with Famous Records.


“Our hope is that we get picked up by a major distributor so this album can be available to everyone,” van Allen said. “I would like to see us working and touring, and people having access to all of these songs.”


Baston expressed similar hopes for the future.


“I know this album is good and it deserves to be heard,” Baston said. “My dream is that, after this album, we can all do what we love, which is playing music. I want us to be able to do what we love without worrying about where our next meal is coming from. That is a big dream.”


Baston and van Allen know what they expect for the future, but what do they say the public can expect from the album? They certainly can’t expect the fluffy, frivolous, cookie-cutter music that emanates from many of today’s musical groups.


“This is not a puff piece,” van Allen said. “There is meat and thought and soul and heart to this music.”


The lyrics may be thoughtful and deep, but they are hardly depressing.


“Our music is considerably upbeat and uplifting,” van Allen said.


“I like to say our music is like being in a garden,” Baston added.


Baston writes many of the band’s lyrics, and van Allen said his bandmate is a gifted composer.


“The best writers write about what they know, and Scott does that,” van Allen said.

Baston quickly deflected any praise for himself, saying his band’s music is a cooperative effort between every member of Saint Francis.


“Yes, I write a good bit of our lyrics, but the music would not come to life without the musicians we have,” he said.


The end result of their lyrics, their music and their band is a cooperative effort that thankfully falls into no succinct musical category.


“I don’t see us as a niche band,” Baston said. “I see us as being timeless.”


Timeless is how Saint Francis’ founder defines his band, and fans also have ways of describing the music. They may not be able to neatly file The Saint Francis Band into a single genre, but they always have kind words for the music.


“We have kids who like our music and we have 90-year-olds,” Van Allen said. “When I ask them how they describe our music, they always use superlatives. They use about 10 or 15 superlatives.”


For more information on The Saint Francis Band, visit www.thesaintfrancisband.com . Information is also available on Facebook at www.facebook.com/scottbaston and at www.facebook.com/thesaintfrancisband.


To hear and download music from The Saint Francis Band, visit www.reverbnation.com/thesaintfrancisband.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 28 February 2014 )
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