By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Anthony Davis had served for the Nashville City Council for eight years by the time COVID began to emerge and flipped a seemingly optimistic 2020 upside down.
Constant human loss, an uncertain future and political differences proved too much for Davis to process and it wasn’t long before he put words to paper, which would soon become song lyrics.
Alongside guitarist Bobby Holland, drummer/bassist Adam Bokesch and keyboardist/vocalist Mitch Crain, Davis became the lead vocalist/guitarist of alt-rock outfit X-ennials.
Described as “Pearl Jam meets Gin Blossoms,” the band uses nostalgia to their advantage, which results in a sound that appeals to both the modern rocker and the 90’s alternative fanatic.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with Davis about their pandemic-themed double album ‘Senseless American Tragedy’ and more, which you can check out below.
Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to become a musician?
Anthony Davis – I’ve been into playing music since middle/high school and took guitar lessons through high school and college. I poked around in bands, but nothing really serious at that time. I always wanted to sing and perform, so I started writing and performing in the early 2000’s after college. Then, I decided to get a 90’s cover band going in 2011, which I did for seven years before really wanting to write and record original music again after we disbanded the 90’s cover gig.
Music Bugle – How did you decide the name “X-ennials”?
Anthony Davis – The concept of this band is to sound like rock from the 1990’s, but built for the 2020’s. While Gen Z is now getting into 90’s music and culture – which is really awesome – the idea was to make music for people “my age.” “X-ennial” is a micro generation of Gen X and Millenials typically thought of as people born from 1977-1984. A “straddler generation” of kids that grew up without the internet or cell phones and thus, know how to talk to people, but then became tech-savvy in college or thereafter. Where has all the great rock from that era gone? Why don’t any rock records sound like that anymore? Good question, let’s bring it back!
Music Bugle – How would you describe Nashville to someone who has never been there before?
Anthony Davis – Nashville is an amazing city — growing, thriving, booming. I have lived here my whole life and have seen it grow and change so much. Mostly for the good, but some things certainly with growth become challenges – traffic, the whole current mess of things in Downtown Nashville, etc., but I have described Nashville to many new residents over the years and usually say, “It’s a big small town.” When you live here for a couple years, you often can be just a connection away from just about everyone, but meanwhile, we’ve grown so much. I usually like to characterize us as just an ideal, mid-size American city.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together ‘Senseless American Tragedy’?
Anthony Davis – I had been writing riffs and chord progressions, working up songs for maybe a year and really got deeper into it during 2020. We all had a little more time, of course, on our hands in 2020, but the timing worked out where I was really ready to put lyrics to the songs. I was incredibly moved by everything that was going on, in many different directions. The biggest thing was the obscene loss of life during the worst days and how the tragic mismanagement of the pandemic here in America cost so much to so many. Those songs became “The Horror.” Then, I had some things going later in the year for the direction of, “How do we come to terms with this? How do we pull it together and move on?” Especially for all those that lost someone special to them – their partner, mom, dad, sister, brother, close friend. It all came together that this should be the second half of the record, “The Aftermath.”
Music Bugle – What was your goal for your single “Don’t Go It Alone”?
Anthony Davis – With “Don’t Go It Alone,” I originally thought I would do it acoustic, honestly. It does have a really nice bright chord progression that was — to me — seeming very pop-rock like a Gin Blossoms song, or like Pearl Jam’s “Last Kiss.” Bobby and Adam wanted to work it up real bright and 90’s pop-rock-sounding. The idea lyrically was to be the first song on Side 2, which is “The Aftermath.” The song is basically the moment right after you have lost your partner or someone very special to you during the pandemic. You have to move on, but you don’t have to go it alone, many are going through the same things you are.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Anthony Davis – I love that — in my humble opinion — we really nailed the 90’s rock sound. It’s not a record that “sounds just like Pearl Jam” or “sounds just like Nirvana,” which when searching, you get a lot of Spotify playlists like “Smells Like Stream Spirit” that is meant to be new bands sounding like the 90’s, that just all end up sounding like Nirvana. This record has heavy influence from those bands, Stone Temple Pilots, etc. from grunge on the bangers, but also a lot of U2, Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla, 4 Non-Blondes, Matthew Sweet, Soul Asylum, lots of different pieces of that era I could point to. Certainly some before and after the 1990’s influences as well, but the goal was to make a record like I would have made back in 1996 if I had the means. We used all 90’s-era instruments and gear and my producers Bobby Holland and Adam Bokesch – also musicians from the band, The Daybreaks – really went all in with me and helped me figure out how to pull this concept off.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Anthony Davis – Lot of old and fair amount of new on Spotify. Older stuff, I’m always rocking 90’s on the dial and I also happen to love 80’s pop-rock. I have been looking for a lot of similar – to X-ennials – bands, of course, out there that are doing the 90’s sound, but for now, I’ve been digging the bands yeah, sure, False Advertising, Attendant and Dead Sara. Another artist, totally unknown guy I absolutely love from The Netherlands, is TrapdoorMan. Be sure to check him out.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Anthony Davis – Social media certainly helps. It’s another outlet you can get your music and brand out to fans. Spotify, in my opinion, is fantastic for a brand new artist to get out there without some big record label deal. It’s all very different than what I remember back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, where I had no idea how to even dream of getting a label deal. With Spotify and streaming, you can get on playlists and grow your audience at least that way.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Anthony Davis – “Weightless” was a very emotional song as I was trying to write the very moment of loss through the lens of losing your partner to COVID-19. It was heavy and I tried to pour it all out there in the form of a ballad. I also would say the final track, “Live All Our Lives” was tough. I was working hard to do something to tie the record together and sum it all up, but not feel forced. I hope that ended up being the case, as it’s a song that is meant to say, “We’ve suffered so much, but those that are lucky enough to still be here, we owe it to the ones we’ve lost to live out our lives as best we can.”
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Anthony Davis – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” from Martin Luther King Jr..