Oxford rock band MADRIQ releases strong debut album

Published 6:45 am Wednesday, August 9, 2023

It’s nice to be there at the beginning.

One of the most unique and hopeful bands to come out of North Mississippi in the past few years has been Oxford-based, six-piece progressive and freeform rock, soul and funk group, MADRIQ. They are six close friends from various musical backgrounds who began playing local live shows in early-2019 – and immediately created something different, but with a shared purpose of representing contemporary Mississippi music.

The unusual band name MADRIQ came about when founding member and percussionist Bradley Gordon’s young daughter went through a
phase of being very excited by displays of magic, and would repeat the word ‘mad-rick’ around the house.

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High standards were there from the get-go for the regional supergroup, with a personnel large enough to fill an entire stage with instruments and gear. All members also having grown up in the Magnolia State – an historical hotbed for music – also raised the bar for expectations.

The band designated off-Square music venue Proud Larry’s as a homebase. The popular, decades-old, restaurant/bar on S. Lamar Boulevard is where much of their most experimental material was road-tested.

MADRIQ consists of seasoned players who have all had multiple musical ventures, some working together and collaborating for well over a
decade. Veteran musicians and co-founders Nathan Robbins (bass) and Eric Carlton (keyboards) have played in the local-favorite rock band
Rocket 88 since 2005, as well as in numerous others.

Also, Gordon’s longtime friend Tom Queyja – who ran The Lip studio in Oxford for about 20 years before relocating it to L.A. – recorded and
engineered “Feelin’ Right” (2023), MADRIQ’s strong debut album. He’s affectionately regarded as a seventh member.

While performing to diverse, capacity crowds at a number of popular venues and annual festivals, the band has maintained a slow and steady
recording schedule – mainly at Gordon’s home studio/practice space in Water Valley. Engineering tasks were shared by bassist Robbins, who utilized his full-service home studio in Oxford during the album’s post-production.

Writing credit on this 43-minute, nine-track debut is given to all of the members. This is a nod to solidarity as well as equally shared
contributions – which is the straw that stirs the drink for MADRIQ, since songs were conceived spontaneously during rehearsals.

Lead singer Austin Smith delivers loose, personalized but relatable, catchy lyrics with a direct approach that draws a connection to the common listener. Particularly infectious are Smith’s vocals on the album’s upbeat and driving second track “Siren,” which fires on all cylinders.

Essential to the fabric of the band’s groove and funk element, is the crisp and tasteful, sometimes chicken-pickin’ and arpeggiated guitar of Chris Steiner. One nice showcase of his skills is the title track, although his playing is thoroughly superb.

Another driving force is drummer Johnny Lott, who can conjure beats that are not only liable to make anyone’s body move, but also hypnotic at times – such as in “Syzygy,” and “I Was Wrong.”

Keyboardist Carlton’s atmospheric organ and piano pads cement the mix, and can be haunting, and bring to life mysterious visual aspects of the North Mississippi landscape. It adds a rustic quality to the overall modern and edgy sound of the band. Particularly in songs like, “Do It Again,” and “Ain’t Got Time” – although he also shows versatility and takes a ‘new age’ approach on the album closer, “New Cabana.”

Robbins, who is also the IT manager at Northeast Power and has a natural savvy for technology, is always trying to make the large group more efficient, making him hands-on in many aspects. “I’m always looking at it from a production standpoint,” said Robbins, whose goal is to help his bandmates focus on the music more than be distracted by technical elements – “in order to make the experience better.”

MADRIQ’s appeal is broad. It’s for young and old, and guys and gals alike. The up-and-coming band has been filling up venues with supporters from their home state for several years now, and will surely continue to see their audiences grow.

“Feelin’ Right” is available for streaming on all major services, including Spotify, Apple and Amazon.