Aug 7, 2013 08:30 AM WV Sound
Keeping a beat in the Mountain State
Option 22’s The Change
Even through a stereo system, earthy djembe rhythms and soulful vocals have the children dancing and the adults foot-tapping to Option 22’s music. Each year, these four West Virginian musicians expose hundreds of people in the Mountain State to an entirely new kind of musical experience. The band’s newest original songs are now available for even more listeners to enjoy as part of the recently released album The Change.
Although Option 22 vocalist and Mercer County native Lori McKinney’s love for music started with choir when she was in elementary school, it wasn’t until she spent a college semester abroad in London that she realized she wanted to create her own live music shows. In 2000, she left the world of auditions, established LLynium entertainment, and began producing change-inspiring multimedia shows. In 2004, Lori organized an open-mic night where she met Robert Blankenship, the photographer for the event. Robert and Lori connected both musically and romantically. The two formed Option 22 and were joined by Brandon Dunn (bass) in 2011 and Jordan Furrow (lead guitar, percussion) in 2012 to form the current four-person band.
Listen to just two songs from Option 22’s The Change and you’ll agree Option 22’s sound is unique. “The best way that I can describe it is eclectic—eclectic, positive, and all original,” Lori says. The Change offers an impressive array of musical styles—everything from folk to pop to new wave. “We can play an Americana show or a rock set, but we have world influences as well,” she says.
Option 22 loves to improvise. The majority of songs on The Change were a result of unstructured jam sessions. “We get together and improv for hours. We record the sessions, then recreate what we came up with in those moments,” Lori says. “We call it being ‘in the flow.’ You know when the moment strikes, because some sort of magic fills the room.” Lyrics rarely come to Lori in that moment; often she is tasked with writing words to go with the new melodies. But no two songs were created in the same way on The Change. While songs like “Some Say” have words that were themselves a result of improvisation, “No Fences” didn’t start out as improvisation at all—members crafted it like a poem, building it layer by layer.
New songs pour effortlessly out of the members of Option 22. The group has another album ready to be printed as soon as they raise the funds. “We have been prolific ever since the four-person combo got together. If we had the funding we could produce a new album every six months,” Lori says.
Option 22 wrote and produced The Change at the RiffRaff Arts Collective—an artist haven that includes a recording studio, fine art gallery, performance venue, and artist studios in downtown Princeton. “We live and work in a depressed area of downtown Princeton. Our music spills into the streets and inspires the people in our neighborhood,” Lori says.
With lyrics like, “No strings. No fences. We’re all dancing,” “No Fences” paints a picture of a dream world, imagining life without boundaries. “What We Came Here For” is a call for people to shine their light for the world—“Have you ever felt like there was something you were destined for? We’re all awakening.” Option 22’s whimsical ballads and powerful anthems shout the members’ philosophy of music—the idea that music can bring about change. “Our music connects with people deep inside,” Lori says. “Everything we do is about bringing about positive change.”
Option 22’s The Change is available for download on iTunes, and can be purchased at option22.net.
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