American music group Judah & the Lion titled their second studio album “Folk Hop n’Roll” as an indicator of the band’s genre fluidity, their ambitious sound that blends elements of folk, hip hop, pop, and, of course, rock n’ Roll.
Band members Judah Akers, Brian Macdonald, and Nate Zuercher met in college in Nashville. After a spat of early concert success, the trio hit the tour road. “The first five years of our touring lives were mostly in a van,” Akers remembers in a new video for Men’s Health. “Two-hundred-and-fifty shows each year.”
Their tour schedule was hectic and often crowded out time for themselves. “There’s so much time and thought and process into making sure our show goes well,” says Zuercher. “But there’s not as much attention put into ensuring that our souls are doing well.”
On a tour across Scandinavia, the band was playing 26 shows over the course of 30 days. “We’re driving a van and you couldn’t read the roadsigns and it’s snowing,” remembers Akers. The trio was looking for anyway to decompress. Luckily, Scandinavia proved one of the best regions for soul decompression. Relaxation isn’t just part of the culture; it’s literally built into most homes—in the form of saunas.
“It was so good for my soul and my mental health. I brought the sauna back with me,” says Akers.
Akers has said the bulk of the band’s recently-released album “Pep Talks” tackles his family’s turmoil, including the divorce of his parents and the dissolution of a formally-strong nuclear family. Working through these issues was difficult. So too was the band’s growing image across social media platforms. The band members admit unhealthy habits of scrolling through comments.
“Social media definitely has an impact on our mental health,” says Akers. “It can have an effect on your confidence; it can have an effect on your art if you allow it to. It can have an effect on your insecurities, your fears, your doubts.”
Thankfully, most of these burdens drip away when the band closes the sauna door. “You go in and you don’t think about anything,” says Akers. “You just sweat. It’s hard to think about anything but breathing. Your breathing slows down, but your heart rate goes up. It’s this beautiful state of being completely in yourself and your body.”