The Orange Constant portrait

The Orange Constant poses for a portrait in their rehearsal space on July 17, 2019 outside of Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

A student-led band continues to make its mark on a growing fan base. The Orange Constant has recently been experimenting with extended instrumentals and solo spotlights in its music. The group has experience performing at venues and festivals in Athens, most recently co-headlining the second day of this year’s AthFest Music and Arts Festival, and has been touring other parts of the country this summer.

Statesboro to Athens

Formed in 2012, the now five-member group was started by Nickalous Benson and Andrew Brantley in Statesboro, where the two met in a music class at Georgia Southern University and started playing guitar together outside of class. Bassist Tyler Walker and keyboardist Chris Freiberg joined the band along the way and drummer Sam Groveman is the most recent addition, having joined two years ago.

Describing their sound as vintage and experimental, the group relocated to Athens in 2015 to branch out. Once here, they reached out to producer John Keane and worked with him on their first album, “Time to Go.”

Keane was impressed with the band’s preparation before entering the studio.

“They already figure out what everybody is going to do and they practice a lot, so when they come in the studio it goes pretty fast,” Keane said.

A specific sound

One frequent description of the band, from the way they play to the group itself, is “tight.”

Daniel Robertson, co-owner of Live Wire Athens, has known the band for about four years and has seen almost every show they have played in town. Several members of the band worked for him in the past and they sometimes play private events at Live Wire.

“They have a lot of well-written and well-performed original songs, they entertain the crowd without a doubt and ... they’re definitely tight on stage and it shows,” Robertson said.

Keane describes their work ethic in the studio in a similar way.

“They’re very dedicated to their music and they work really hard on it,” Keane said. “It shows because they’re really tight and have a cohesive sound.”

Even with five instruments, each person plays an integral role in creating the band’s specific sound.

“One thing I really enjoy about their music is that they have two really good guitar players, and each of them is capable of playing lead guitar,” Keane said.

Each guitarist is able to shift in and out of the lead role, which allows both artists to put his own personal spin on certain songs.

Shane Nelson is a friend of the band who went to Georgia Southern with Benson and Brantley. Having seen The Orange Constant since its early days, Nelson enjoys seeing the growth of the group over time with the addition of more members.

“The addition of Sam and Tyler on bass and drums is kind of like that ebb and flow of the harmony,” Nelson said. “They keep everything going strong and really rhythmic, and everything comes together in one really great, full sound package.”

Through his production company, Guilty Peach, Nelson co-produced a documentary about last year’s Sigh in July called “Homegrown.” The documentary followed The Orange Constant, Universal Sigh and Partials. Nelson cites The Orange Constant’s performance at last year’s festival as one of their most memorable because of the high energy the band brought to the stage.

“When they came out for their encore, you couldn’t come down from that,” Nelson said. “It just kept going higher and higher to where the whole place was in a ruckus by the time they left.”

Festivals and beyond

The Orange Constant played AthFest last month, a long-time goal of theirs, and considered it the best show of the tour. Part of the reason for the show’s success is the fan base the band has acquired in Athens.

“The audience in Athens knows us better, so they recognize the songs,” Benson said. “When you’re playing things and doing transitions — things we put so much thought into — we know the crowd in Athens who are familiar with our material are going to appreciate that.”

The group recorded their second album, “Point of Reference,” in 2017 with producer Drew Vandenberg, and now they are back in the studio with Keane. While it is difficult for the band to write music while on its tour, they have started writing more this month and like to experiment with their songs when playing in Athens.

After Sigh in July, the band hopes to continue growing its audience and playing at more festivals and venues.

“We want to keep our Georgia Theatre crowd growing, we want the people here to keep showing up for us and we want our Atlanta crowd to grow,” Walker said.

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