Analogue Music | Judah & The Lion

Judah & The Lion

By Matt Conner

For Judah Akers and Brian Macdonald, it is a time of literal revival.

For the members of Judah & The Lion, the forced changes and pauses from a global pandemic thrust upon them a season of change. For Akers and Macdonald, it brought about solo projects and new musical interests, and as they returned together, even the band's lineup changed with the departure of Nate Zuercher.

Judah & The Lion's newest album, Revival, is the jubilant sound(s) of a duo emerging from their own sonic cocoons. While the creative methods involved between Akers and Macdonald remain quite different, the time away from one another and experiences gained have added a new level of respect and excitement to the idea of making music together.

Macdonald was already in our sights in our recent conversation about his solo project, Victor Mucho, but we came back to him a few weeks later to hear more about the new Judah album and the most exciting aspect of this new Revival.

Analogue: I know we already talked about your solo project, Victor Mucho, but what was it like then coming back to the States and making a new album with Judah & The Lion?

Brian Macdonald: Well, at that time, Nate [Zuercher] was still in the band and we hadn’t been together in such a long time that it was rough getting back into the studio. We just weren’t on the same page. It was a long process creatively, and within that process, Nate decided to leave the band. Judah and I had always been the primary songwriters. Nate was a part of it in some ways, but there was always a head butting going on. So in that sense, when Nate decided to leave, it gave us an opportunity to really dive in with just the two of us.

I’d changed a lot as a person and gained a lot of confidence as a songwriter, so when I came back to hang out with Judah, it was a new dynamic. The same was true for him. He had a whole year or more of exploring his own projects being at home and going through life, so we almost had to reconvene and figure out how it would work to make this record now that it was just the two of us.

"I’d changed a lot as a person and gained a lot of confidence as a songwriter, so when I came back to hang out with Judah, it was a new dynamic. The same was true for him."

Analogue: Can you dial that in a bit? What did you gain from being apart?

Brian: There’s a mutual respect that each of us gained for the other in this process—a respect of other’s creative process within songwriting and making a record. More than before I think we achieved a sort of balance where we were being a band in that way. We make music in very opposite ways. Judah is incredible at coming up with an idea for a whole record in one day and then executing it and making it come together very quickly. I tend to take a lot more time and let the process play out as I go.

It’s hard to marry those two worlds. I compare it to famous painters, like Picasso is someone who got very famous within his lifetime. He creates a ton of work and does it very quickly. Leonardo da Vinci never gained any fame or had money and did things more slowly and created something over the course of his whole life. That’s just an example of how we create as individuals.

It enables a little bit more collaboration. Figuring that out with three people in a band is one thing, but with two of us, we could go a little further into our record-making process.

Analogue: Revival is the new album title, so is that a reference to these changes?

Brian: Yeah, it definitely relates to the band’s sense of renewal and revival and change. I think it also relates to Judah’s personal life, which I’d need to let him speak into that a bit more. But I think when it relates to the band, it’s definitely been that type of season. The two of us in our separate worlds were going through intense change in our personal lives. When we came back together, that informed the record that we were going to make.

Analogue: Is it easy to alternate between Victor Mucho and Judah?

Brian: It’s this ebb and flow where you’re creating one thing and then it shifts into another thing—a tour or a less creative season. This was difficult change for me because we moved home from Sweden a year ago and went right into the studio. It really didn’t go well at all.

Analogue: The reentry?

Brian: Yeah

Analogue: What makes you say that?

Brian: A handful of things. There was a lot of tension in the studio and songwriting space. But also when you haven’t spent time for someone in a year, you just have to figure out how your relationship works after coming back together. I think it just took time for me to figure out our niche.

As I said, I do things much more slowly and I like to take my time with things. The stark change of moving home and going right into the next project was harder for me to transition through. But I will say because of my nature of doing things slowly, I have a tendency to not get something finished at all. So it was good for me to have the deadline to be done with one thing and transition into the next. When I don’t have that deadline, I could easily spend another year on it.

"We’re both in a spot that we’ve been off for so long, so this is going to be a lot of fun."

Analogue: As I look at the calendar, you have festivals and videos and all kinds of activity, which is great, but it made me wonder, given our conversation, if you’re still adjusting?

Brian: I definitely have days where I feel I’m still catching up but overall I have a strong feeling of gratitude that I got to have that space and that time. The reality is that a lot of people just don’t get those opportunities to go reflect and be isolated in that way. So I’m thankful for it and I know my life will bring seasons of that again.

I actually feel that I became more of an extroverted person after that experience, so I’m actually looking forward to tour, which hasn’t always been true for me. I’m excited to go hang out and meet a bunch of people. We’re both in a spot that we’ve been off for so long, so this is going to be a lot of fun.

Analogue: What excites you the most about the new album then?

Brian: What excites me is the title track, Revival, which sums it up. We have matured in the making of the record, and I think that we have a higher level of production and we took our time with this project, which was a first for us. We took more than we have in the past. I think this one has a level of rock that I’m just really excited about. There’s nothing like hearing the fans sing the songs live, so getting back to that moment is key for Judah & The Lion as a band. I think these songs will take those moments to another level.

VISIT: Judah & The Lion