With their sophomore album on the cusp, Lee alumni, husband and wife and local pop-art duo The Mailboxes are planning a tour combined with a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, wearing nothing but lavender.
Pianist and singer Jillian Ivey explained that in the band’s beginnings, The Mailboxes wore primary colors, and she thought it fitting for their second LP, titled “Inside Outside,” to tote secondary colors—lavender and dark green.
“The album colors were actually decided before the meaning came about,” Jillian said. “Whenever we started trying to come up with ways to release our album that would be unique, we had also been planning a hike. Because we were planning that, I had the idea to wear all lavender as a part of that; it would be so fun and artsy.”
However, lavender and dark green came to have a deeper meaning as they created the album.
“The lavender represented the inner world and the things we create, and the dark green represented the outer world,” Jillian said. “The songs [on the album] are a lot about becoming who you are, and the theme is like, ‘You kind of become who are you by exploring your inner and outer world.’”
Jillian and her husband Logan Ivey approach their inner and outer worlds first and foremost as creators and translate that passion through the art-pop scene, pursuing new ways to celebrate exploration. This led them to the idea of touring alongside a hike.
Jillian explained that the tour itself mirrors the idea reflected throughout the album of questioning the traditional ways of doing things and pursuing new and exciting ideas.
“Logan and I…like the idea of kind of exploring more than just music as art,” Jillian said. “We definitely want our shows and experiences to be more than just like a typical band. We want to add elements of theatre, color or performance art, which is what this tour-hike is.”
The decision to hike the Appalachian Trail came when Logan broke his right wrist and left elbow in late 2017. The extent of his injuries kept him in recovery for the greater part of 2018, spurring him to find new ways to be creative.
“Logan is always making things with his hands—wood, art, working on houses or whatever he’s interested in,” Jillian said. “So that was really like an identity crisis, I think, for him.”
With his hands on hiatus, Logan used that pent up energy to hike the John Muir Trail with Jillian.
While on the trail, they realized that the act of hiking is similar to touring in that it involves hopping from place to place and meeting new people every day.
The energy the Iveys felt on the John Muir Trail became one of the driving forces in their decision to turn their Appalachian Trail hike into a tour.
“You’re walking every day, and you’re exhausted, but you get to see the sunrise and the sunset and a million trees, and people are happy to see you because they’re afraid they’re going to die out there,” Jillian said. “Touring has a similar energy, but it is a lot different, so we were like, ‘Why can’t we incorporate this into what we do every day?’ It’s where we find joy.”
Sporting optimistic attitudes, the tour hike and meaning behind “Inside Outside” quickly began to mesh together, and the Iveys developed a plan to make their album premiere unique.
“The phrase ‘you can do anything’ is overused, but taking that in as a truth and really digesting it, it’s true. The only thing that stops us from doing things is ourselves, most of the time,” Logan said. “An album release normally looks like an album release, but it doesn’t have to, and that’s what we want to do with [the tour-hike].”
Logan and Jillian believe “Inside Outside” will provide its listeners with an opportunity to connect with the music, others and ultimately themselves.
“We want there to be…conversations about different things, so it’s not like, ‘Oh, we have an answer for you.’ It’s more like, ‘Hey, we hope that us wearing this weird color makes you think about hiking gear differently or makes you think about the color lavender differently or yourself differently,’” Jillian said. “There’s a million ways to connect to people, and if you follow the status quo without questioning, it’ll be easier for people to ignore what you’re doing.”
Junior public relations and advertising major Mercedes Harris is eager for the new album because of The Mailboxes’ unique sound.
“I hadn’t heard anything like them before. They’re a one-of-a-kind, feel-good band,” Harris said. “I don’t know what to expect, but I am ready for a new experience.”
In the name of questioning things, The Mailboxes explored a different sound on this album compared to their previous music.
“I think the new album has a lot more electric sounds and ethereal type atmosphere than the older music,” Jillian said. “[We’ve] just kind of [been] creating music that gives more of that magical sense and is moodier.”
Junior studio production major Caleb Woodall believes the approach to their sound is what sets them apart.
“The Mailboxes take a unique approach to songwriting and instrumentation without sacrificing the grassroots feel that connects them to their audience,” Woodall said. “They aren’t your average local band.”
With the upcoming release of “Inside Outside,” the Iveys hope their music makes listeners feel understood and know they are not the only ones who may feel a certain way.
“I want people to find [the music] relatable,” Logan said. “So on whatever level that’s possible, I want that to happen, whether it just be a purely physical mood, scenario or something deeper.”
Logan and Jillian will update their social media on their hike and, following the shows they play along the way, put together documentary video footage and an art gallery featuring their customized lavender gear at the end of the tour.
The first show to celebrate the release of “Inside Outside” will take place at Songbirds in Chattanooga on March 2. Soon after, they will begin their trek down the Appalachian Trail.
Though many of their performance dates are still being determined, midway through the trail, they will be playing at the Flip Flop Festival in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the AudioFeed Festival in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and the finale of their tour will be held at Lee University in September.
The Mailboxes have received supplies from various sponsors but are still in need of food and other supplies for their extensive trip.
Donations through Patreon also come with certain perks so the Iveys can stay connected with their supporters.
You can also keep up with The Mailboxes' tour on their Instagram.