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Ready to Conquer: Lexington band aims to build on success with new EP

Grant Curless, Wils Quinn and Shawn Reynolds make up the Lexington-based band Johnny Conqueroo.
Grant Curless, Wils Quinn and Shawn Reynolds make up the Lexington-based band Johnny Conqueroo. swalker@herald-leader.com

The members of Johnny Conqueroo had played in other bands, but they were never satisfied until their current act formed.

“It had to happen,” singer and guitarist Grant Curless said of joining up with drummer Wils Quinn and bassist Shawn Reynolds to form the Lexington trio.

The band is an up-and-comer on the national music scene and a firmly established presence in Lexington — especially through appearances at events such as the Moonshiners Ball and Crave Music and Food Festival — although it had to work to be taken seriously for years as a band of high schoolers. But they graduated last May, and Quinn and Reynolds have wrapped up their freshman years at the University of Kentucky.

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Johnny Conqueroo -- Grant Curless, Wils Quinn and Shawn Reynolds -- perform at the Fifth Annual Crave Lexington Food + Music Festival was Aug. 12, 2017 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

“You kind of have to earn the respect of people,” Quinn said. “It’s always a climb.”

With the release of their new EP, “Haint Blue,” they hope to grab listeners’ attention beyond the MIdwest and someday, they say, the world. The EP has cover art by Lexington artist Lawrence Tarpey, and the title, "Haint Blue," refers to a shade of blue often used on Southern porch ceilings and other parts of homes because it is believed it will ward off ghosts or "haints."

Johnny Conqueroo's music is a bluesy rock and roll with psychedelic influences. The band's name references the Muddy Waters song "Mannish Boy," which itself references a slave folk hero.

The band members said their musical style has evolved since their founding, both through new musical influences and their own skill. Reynolds did not know how to play bass before joining Quinn and Curless, who had known each other since meeting at Montessori Middle School.

The band's debut album, "Washed Up," was released in 2016. Its newest music brings a tighter and more aggressive sound than before, influenced in part by sounds like garage punk, though the members listen to and are influenced by music that spans genres.

“Just because we’re playing rock and roll doesn’t mean we’re not listening to other things,” Quinn said.

“It’s a passion,” Quinn said. “It’s a lifestyle,” Curless added.

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Grant Curless, Wils Quinn and Shawn Reynolds make up the Lexington-based band Johnny Conqueroo.

This spring, Johnny Conqueroo completed a weeklong tour around Kentucky with stops in West Virginia, Ohio, and Michigan, and it's played in cities such as Detroit and Nashville ahead of the new release.

It was a memorable tour. Quinn recounted how the band ran into Cage the Elephant singer Matt Schultz in the Bowling Green bar Tidballs, where Schultz sometimes hangs out. Schultz, wearing an enormous white cowboy hat, backed Curless into a corner and pinned him there for several minutes with the hat, which matched one Schultz's father was wearing in the same bar.

Although some parents frown on their children having professional music ambitions, the members say their dreams are encouraged.

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“There’s a good scene, they are all very supportive,” said Quinn, whose father also plays with a band and allows Johnny Conqueroo to practice in his house and use his equipment.

Curless said his parents frequently took him to Nashville to immerse him in the vibrant musical scene, and supported his ambitions.

He said, “They helped me realize that dream. ”

If you go

Johnny Conqueroo

What: EP release show for "Haint Blue" with Boa and The Dividends

When: 9 p.m. June 16

Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Road

Tickets: $10

Online: Theburlky.com, Johnnyconqueroo.com

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