OKEECHOBEE — The 2017 Okeechobee Music Festival has drawn to a close, but many musicians gave memorable performances that will keep fans buzzing. Among those bands was Lawrence, a New York-based soul-pop group led by brother-sister team Clyde and Gracie Lawrence. The rest of the band is comprised of Sam Askin on drums, Sumner Becker, alto sax, Jordan Cohen, tenor sax, Michael Karsh on bass, Jonny Koh on guitar and Marc Langer, trumpet.
The Lawrence siblings have been writing and playing music together since their early childhood. “We’ve just always been playing music since pretty much as long as we can remember,” Clyde said. “Our parents have really awesome taste in music, and we grew up with them just playing a ton of music we’re still super inspired by.”
Gracie reflected that it was a fluid thing. “We would always play music in our living room, and it just became music onstage.”
“And trying to make the stage feel like a living room,” Clyde added. “You know, our living room was always our stage, and now we try to make the stage our living room.”
The Lawrences began performing regularly at small cafés and clubs around lower Manhattan. It was during Clyde’s time at Brown University that they met the talented crew of musicians who would ultimately form the full-time Lawrence band. This eight-piece keyboard-driven powerhouse began to garner a passionate following at countless venues and colleges around the Northeast.
When asked what music means to them, Gracie related it to home. “Quite literally. We would come home and play music, and I think when we’re on the road or whatever it is, it’s so home to us. It’s the thing that binds us and our family and years of our family.”
Clyde felt that music has been so ingrained into them for so long that it was like a first language to them. “I was talking to some people about meditation, and I said the idea of meditation has never appealed to me. After a long conversation, I realized that what a lot of people get out of meditation is how I feel about music.” When he needs to get a thought out or have a moment to himself, he turns to music.
The siblings are often asked how they manage not to fight all the time. “We don’t really argue with each other that much,” Gracie said. “If we do, it’s never really about music. It’s a big point of communication between the two of us.”
“It’s brought us together, if anything,” Clyde interjected.
Gracie went on to explain that they have developed a quick shorthand between them. “There was a time when Clyde was playing something, and from years of playing with him, I know exactly what he’s thinking at all times. If he looks at me, I can be like ‘Oh, he thinks I’m sharp’ or he needs more of my vocals and I’ll talk to the sound guy.” She recounted a moment onstage when she knew that he didn’t want her to sing (because they sing in harmony) with just a look. “It’s things like that, as siblings, that it helps us work together.”
The band has been touring their album Breakfast nationally and recently signed with Warner Bros. Record. Okeechobee Music Festival was their second camping festival; in 2016, they performed at Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN. They plan to do more festivals in 2017. In addition to their set at the Aquachobee stage, they made a surprise appearance at the Okeechobee PoWow! super jam as official background singers to Michael McDonald, formerly of The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, Solange, Gallant and more.
As a Mets fan, Clyde shared his enthusiasm about their hotel being in Fort Pierce. “We’re just two minutes from Port St. Lucie, where the Mets have spring training. This area of Florida, this time of year, means spring training, and I’m happy about that.”
Lawrence has had an excellent year, according to Gracie, getting to play venues and festivals they never would have dreamed they’d get to play. They look forward to getting to tour more and play bigger and bigger venues, and would love to see their album get into more hands. “We want to keep making music that feels authentic to what we’re about,” Gracie said. “We’ve encountered artists who change the course of what they’re doing over time, which is great in a lot of ways to evolve.
Clyde agreed. “Our goal is just to make music that we’re proud of, and have more and more people know the songs, listen to the songs, sing along to the songs and show up to our shows. We’ll see where it takes us.”
They chose to name their album Breakfast because it reminds them of home, when they’d wake up and come downstairs and listen to Stevie Wonder as they ate breakfast. “It’s goofy and quirky but it’s also the first album, it’s the first meal. It fills you up,” Clyde said.
“Also, there’s something about this album that’s just like a meal,” Gracie laughed. “You sit down with this and it’s an entity. All the songs feel sort of different and that’s exciting, but as a whole, it’s something that you can digest as one thing.”
Check out the band at their Youtube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr5v6l4EIKiImmJU-COJ0Sg, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lawrencetheband.