A new band in Calhoun County is staking its claim on the Anniston music scene with hopes to branch out to area cities and eventually the greater Southeast region. Birkenhëd is made up of six multi-talented musicians: Steven Henderson on lead vocals, Logan Magouirk on guitar/vocals, Caleb Burt on guitar/vocals, Matt Neighbors on bass/vocals, Eric Battles on guitar, and Dallas Bedford on drums. Though their first official gig was just this past November 12 at the Darkhorse Saloon on Noble Street, the band immediately caused a stir with its tight Southern rock groove, covering hits by bands like Lynrd Skynrd, Metallica, Dire Straits, Black Sabbath, Marshall Tucker Band, Alice in Chains, Aerosmith, Molly Hatchet, and Stone Temple Pilots.
The band formed amid a mash-up of interrelationships–some were lifelong friendships, some were formed during their high school years, and others developed more recently. The separate tributaries finally flowed into one group in the last year, when they came together as a single unit with a common vision–to make great music and succeed as a band. Since their first gig, they’ve been invited back to the Darkhorse Saloon, and have also played The Peerless Saloon and Southern Roots Bar N Grill. They have an upcoming show on Friday, January 18 at The Parlormint, Saturday, February 3rd at Rack and Roll Billiards & Sports Bar, and Saturday, March 30 at the Dark Horse Saloon.
An immediate attention-grabber where the Birkenhëd band is concerned is obvious–its name. When asked, they shared that they were initially moved by the scene in the epic movie “Titanic” where the band kept playing while the ship went down. The true-life band was loosely compared to military musicians aboard another ship that sank in 1852–the HMS Birkenhead. That tragic event made a mark in history as it was the first time that men stepped aside to allow women and children to board the lifeboats first. Tragically, 643 people perished on that ship, including troops from ten different regiments of the Royal Navy, many of whom were military musicians.
The interesting name barely scrapes the surface of this multi-faceted band. One of the early connections occurred between Matt, Logan, and Eric, who knew each other many years previous to attending Wellborn High School together. Two other members of the band–Caleb and Dallas–went to Weaver High School. Many of these guys jammed together at various stages in their musical development and some were even in bands together. For example, Steven, whose connection with some of the others doesn’t go as far back, was in a band with Dallas in 2020 with three other men. While that band eventually dissolved, Steven and Dallas remained friends.
Steven shared that he came to “hang out one day” at the house–a split-level home in Saks where they’ve created a tech-friendly practice and recording space in the basement. He related, “I was over here talking, especially to Eric, and we determined that we like every bit of the same type of music. I said, ‘Oh, by the way, I write songs,’ and he was like, ‘Oh, you do?!’” He and Eric decided to start a side band dubbed Steven Henderson and the Welfare Department. Matt was also in this alternative Americana project as bassist.
Alongside that group, five of the six musicians (Steven excluded) had formed Birkenhëd and were working on that. Matt shared, “Running both bands parallel was wreaking havoc with our schedules, and booking shows for both bands and potentially having to play shows for both on the same weekend, it was just too much.” The solution–Birkenhëd decided to invite Steven in as their official frontman, thus cementing their unity. They liked the Southern rock edge that he brought to the mix with his soulful voice, as well as his talent for songwriting.
Steven went on to add that they are passionate about true Southern rock, which in recent years has been drowned out. “Now it’s either really country or really metal. There is no Southern rock and roll. It’s all drop tunings, walls of sound type thing, or really country like Blackberry Smoke.”
While their band covers a mix of Southern rock, grunge, and metal, Matt said they are phasing out some of their previous material (left over from the earlier version of the band made up of himself, Logan, and Eric) that’s heavier or simpler in favor of material that represents their developing sound.
On the particular sound they are striving for, Eric said, “Logan, Caleb, and myself, we all have different playing styles, and you can just hear the influence of what everybody grew up on in their playing. That also adds a layer to the diversity that we have with the sound.”
“But our lyric writing is not as steeped in Southern country themes–it’s more emotionally honest,” Steven interjected.
“And the more songs you write about that, the more people can relate to it. The most fun part about writing music is that a thousand people sing it back to you for a thousand different reasons,” added Logan.
The band is getting more and more comfortable writing with Steven at the helm, who shared that he can deliver a lyric to the others and they’ll usually be able to create a song from it. They’ve got roughly 15 songs in the works, 3 to 5 that they are performing in their gigs and another one or two they’ll be adding to their set.
We took a moment to talk about their individual musical backgrounds and influences. Logan, one of the three band guitarists, picked up the guitar 15 years ago. He has patterned his sound off of favorites like Jimi Hendrix, James Hetfield (who has also inspired his vocal style), Kirk Hammett, and David Gilmore. He shared, “This is the first time I’ve been with a group of dudes that are as serious about this as I am, and we all are wanting the same thing out of this.”
Caleb, who plays guitar and also does some lead vocals, named among his influences Tony Iommi, Joe Perry, Steve Vai, “and absolutely Van Halen. Nobody’s taken that throne from him.” He’s been playing for 20 years, while his singing is more recent (the past 6 years), inspired by the singing of Layne Staley.
Steven plays some guitar but mostly uses it to aid in his songwriting. He sings and writes regularly, claiming inspiration from blues singers and vocalists like Rober Plant, Stephen Tyler, and David Coverdale. Whereas, he’s a fan of songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, and Bernie Taupin. But he also likes lyrics that aren’t so deep. “I’m influenced by everything from Cannibal Corpse to Ke$ha and all points in between.”
Matt started with guitar 19 years ago, but he feels bass fits his personality more. Bass players he’s studied include Leland Sklar, Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler, and John Paul Jones. And on his singing, Eric interjected, “Matt has the voice of an angel.” Matt describes his sound as more mellow than the other vocalists.
Eric comes from a musical family and was shaped by learning from his father and grandfather, who both helped him learn guitar. One of his father’s friends named Brandon was a seasoned lead guitarist and passed on skills to Eric like scales, tapping, and more. His “pro” influences are Allen Collins and Billy Gibbons.
Dallas, who has been drumming for 15 years, describes himself as, “…a metal drummer who got pulled into Southern rock.” His influences are Jason Rullo, Symphony X, Septic Flesh, and Krihm. Dallas is largely responsible for helping in building their rehearsal space, which was originally a dirt crawl space. They’ve dubbed the refinished space (which has modern red sound panels on all 4 walls, recording and video equipment, and their practice instruments set up) Dirt Room Productions.
The six members of Birkenhëd have their sights set on expanding outside the Anniston scen to areas like Gadsden, Birmingham, Atlanta, and beyond. They are also fleshing out a recording project that they plan to record in their home studio. With original songs like “One More Drink,” “Hold On,” and “Why Wyoming,” they are well on their way to having the material they need to reach that goal.
There’s no doubt that this band is destined for musical greatness. Be sure to visit Birkenhëd on their Facebook page, where their upcoming gigs are scheduled, including the upcoming gig on Friday, January 18 at The Parlormint.