Flying high: Brothers from Geneva finding success in Nashville with alternative country band

  • Brothers Tommy Leland Cantwell (pictured) and Brandon Cantwell, graduates of Geneva High School, are finding success in Nashville with their alternative country band Flying Buffaloes.

    Brothers Tommy Leland Cantwell (pictured) and Brandon Cantwell, graduates of Geneva High School, are finding success in Nashville with their alternative country band Flying Buffaloes. Courtesy of Flying Buffaloes

 
 
Posted9/24/2021 6:00 AM

Tommy Leland Cantwell and his brother Brandon Cantwell are successful musicians in Nashville, but they have a specific viewpoint regarding their hometown of Geneva.

"There must be something in the water in Geneva that makes that town produce some amazing musicians," Brandon said. "There were so many kids passionate about music, doing it at full force and really killing it out there."

 

That belief holds sturdy for the Cantwell brothers and their alternative country band the Flying Buffaloes as they travel from their Tennessee base around the South and Midwest to play weekend gigs and improve their skills.

Tommy, 29, graduated from Geneva High School in 2010, and the 26-year-old Brandon did so in 2013. As such, it is easy for them to chart how Geneva and the Tri-Cities area shaped their love of music to the point they could make a full-time job of it in one of America's musical hot spots.

This family photo from 2002 shows how brothers Tommy Leland Cantwell, left, and Brandon Cantwell have been interested in music since childhood.
This family photo from 2002 shows how brothers Tommy Leland Cantwell, left, and Brandon Cantwell have been interested in music since childhood. - Courtesy of Tommy Leland Cantwell

Both made their way through the Geneva schools' music programs, citing high school instructor Pat Frederick and others as key mentors. But the musical roots got a boost because their father Tom Cantwell had a local rock band called Gallery.

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"That band would rehearse at our house and, when I was in high school, I was their roadie," said Tommy, who plays lead guitar for the Flying Buffaloes. "By the time I graduated, I was playing in clubs with them and it was just a classic rock cover band."

Tommy played most of the area's music events, including Swedish Days, Festival of the Vine, and the Concerts for a Cure for Parkinson's research.

In the meantime, Brandon was cultivating skills through a love of the high school jazz band. And, along with Tommy, learning as much as he could from instructor Paul Sargent at the Imperial School of Music in St. Charles. They both performed in the Granquist Music Competition held in Geneva during Swedish Days.

Brothers Tommy Leland Cantwell and Brandon Cantwell (pictured), graduates of Geneva High School, are finding success in Nashville with their alternative country band Flying Buffaloes.
Brothers Tommy Leland Cantwell and Brandon Cantwell (pictured), graduates of Geneva High School, are finding success in Nashville with their alternative country band Flying Buffaloes. - Courtesy of Flying Buffaloes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Brandon, who plays bass guitar, was one of the first recipients of the Louie Armstrong Award at the high school as a top jazz musician, and he went on to perform with the highly regarded youth jazz band at Elgin Community College.

Tommy moved to Nashville in 2014 after graduating from Berklee College of Music, and Brandon was not far behind in moving there in 2018 after graduating from the University of Illinois.

"We met all of the band members in Nashville, and we all came here with the same dream of being musicians," Tommy said of band mates Johan Stone, Barry Stone and Danny Pratt.

"We were playing enough gigs to be able to quit our side jobs, and we started up a company and business to support the band," he added.

The Flying Buffaloes name came about when a member of the band's organization lived out of the country and would fly into Nashville for various shows. He had a fondness for Buffalo wings when he was in the United States.

Ultimately, Flying Buffaloes came about and started to operate like a rock band with a country look and sound.

"A week for the Flying Buffaloes is busy," Brandon said. "We usually get together every day and work on a handful of things, rehearsing our live set or writing and getting together to do the day-to-day business."

The Flying Buffaloes were in Chicago last weekend to showcase their latest song "A New Day is Gonna Dawn," while bringing the Cantwell brothers close to Geneva. It's a trip they like to make.

"We keep busy on the road in the Southeast, but we like to get to the Midwest," Brandon said. "All of the band members are from the Midwest, and we all migrated to Nashville at some point."

Nashville tends to do that sort of thing, pulling in musicians with a dream on a regular basis.

To attract the Cantwell brothers is a nice feather in the cap for Geneva's music programs and another slice of potential musical greatness for a city in Tennessee that thrives on it.

The bazaar is back

Planners had to cancel the Annual Bazaar at the Holmstad Covenant Living Center in Batavia last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but they are ready to welcome shoppers again this year.

The event, with free admission, is open to the public and will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Holmstad, 700 W. Fabyan Parkway.

The residents are geared up for the event, having spent much of the past year creating items that will be for sale.

"All of this is possible through the generosity of nearly 300 resident volunteers who give of their time and talent to make this happen," Randy Johnson, the bazaar chairman, said in a news release about the event.

Items range from baked goods, wood and needlecrafts, seasonal wreaths, designer knits, plants, quilts, and secondhand items like jewelry, furniture, books and household items.

Residents use the proceeds for the Benevolent Care Fund, graduation gifts and scholarships for high school food servers, library books, music for the choir and craft materials for resident projects.

It's a farm fest

Having visited Corron Farm in Campton Township for years when the family would host a pig roast for family and friends on Labor Day, one of the most interesting aspects was when our friend Dave Corron would show us around the farm and share its history.

Everyone gets that chance when the township hosts its annual Prairie Fest at the Historic Corron Farm from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2.

The free event at the farm, located at 7N761 Corron Road, includes parking, admission, various activities, tours and refreshments.

Dreams of Randall past

Having worked and lived in the Tri-Cities area nearly 45 years, I fall somewhere in the middle of those who have lived here all their lives and those who have been around maybe 20 years or fewer.

It could be the reason that, on occasion, when navigating traffic along Randall Road, my mind drifts back to what used to be.

I've heard from lifelong locals talk about having car races as teens on "the gravel road west of town." That gravel road, of course, was Randall Road in the 1940s and '50s.

I only need to go back to about 1977 when working my first reporting job in Elburn, covering news west of Randall Road at the county, township and school levels.

Randall Road was established as a pretty long stretch of road by then, but there wasn't much on it in the Tri-Cities area -- a version that was fine with me.

A Montgomery Ward and Dog 'n Suds in St. Charles were all I needed. Visiting the monthly flea market staged by Helen Robinson at the fairgrounds was a nice diversion.

Neither Geneva nor Batavia had much going along Randall Road in those days, which worked to their advantage later as they started from scratch with visions for developments like the Delnor Hospital complex, Geneva Commons and new subdivisions and commercial developments. Batavia went the route of shopping strips, a movie theater complex, townhouses and major retailers like Walmart, Kohl's, Target and others.

These developments provide convenience for shopping and dining, and eliminate the need for anyone local to drive to other cities to enjoy those activities.

I'm certainly not anti-development, but when you are stuck in heavy traffic, the thought of a root beer at Dog 'n Suds, getting anything I need at Montgomery Ward and simply taking a leisurely cruise along Randall Road carries much appeal.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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