On Wednesday, November 3, high vibrations and youthful spirits filled Emo’s Austin when The Backseat Lovers took center stage. The indoor venue is spacious, but fans clustered towards the front to best witness Josh Harmon on lead vocals and guitar, Jonas Swanson on lead guitar and vocals, KJ Ward on bass guitar and Juice Welch on the drums. Not only did the Utah band woo its fans with 12 moving songs -- a collection of their singles, unreleased songs, and tracks from their 2019 EP When We Were Friends -- but also by chiming in jokes and interacting with its listeners between songs.
With Camp Howard opening for them, it seemed as though all of Austin’s young vinyl fanatics, coffeeshop consociers, and thrift-store regulars merged to develop the ultimate indie-scene. Though they are not signed to a major label, The Backseat Lovers have amassed over 3 million monthly listeners. At Emo’s it was clear that their fanbase is not only large, but it is devoted. The venue was filled with people who knew the lines word-for-word.
The first track on set was “Pool House.” The song’s transition to smooth, bass-heavy sounds set the tone for the show’s laid-back yet upbeat atmosphere. Next, the band performed a simple, romantic tune “Pictures,” plucked from its 2018 EP Elevator Days. The soft, romantic energy continued during their performance of “Just a Boy,” that starts solely with acoustic instrumentals but adds on percussion and electric sounds halfway into the song. The next two songs they performed were slower, but “Heavy” was more passionate than the melancholy “Dugout.”
Just as things seemed to be mellowing out in Emo’s, The Backseat Lovers began plucking guitar chords familiar to any indie-rock lover. As the audience sang along with the band “Kilby Girl,” Harmon’s crooked smile spread across his face and his fans alike. With spirits high, the band performed two incredible unreleased songs (I will not explore them in any further detail because you will just have to wait!), followed by the narrative and emotional first track of their studio album, “Watch Your Mouth.” With fans now excited with their familiarity with the music, The Backseat Lovers followed with two of their older songs -- “Maple Syrup” and “Still a Friend” -- that shift from reserved to loud. The band then teased fans with a taste of their new music one more time, before closing off the show with the catchy, fan-favorite “Sinking Ship.”
Beyond their stack setlist, The Backseat Lovers were animated and seeked to connect with their listeners, cracking jokes and humorous dialogue between their highly impactful songs. Just as the band is able to create nostalgic and energetic music, they were able to create a light-hearted but moving atmosphere in Emo’s last weekend.
Cover photo by Lili Esparza