The 502s by Kendall Polidori
Ed Isola (left) and Joe Capti (right), of The 502s, represented folk rock at their first Lollapalooza performance on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023. Photo by Kendall Polidori

The 502s had quite the day on Friday. They played Lollapalooza in Chicago for the first time, and they released their new EP Pure Serotonin

“I almost forgot that the EP was coming out because we were so excited about Lolla,” says lead vocalist Ed Isola. “It felt like the happiest day for the happiest man on Earth.” 

When I met Isola and Joe Capti—saxophone, trumpet and harmony vocals—in the press lounge on Saturday, Aug. 5, they truly looked like the happiest men on Earth. They’ve had a day to process the performance, and the gratitude is evident. 

“To see more than 1,000 people jump up and down, an entire body of people moving to our music, was super cool,” Capti says. 

While Lollapalooza includes acts from a variety of different genres, it’s not often they feature folk or country acts. This year, in addition to The 502s, the lineup sees acts like Lainey Wilson, Morgan Wade, Ingrid Andress, The Red Clay Strays and Pony Bradshaw. As a fan of folk rock and Americana, this year’s fest has the most acts in the genre than I’ve seen before. 

For Capti and Isola, it’s exciting—they’ve noticed that folk rock is having a moment in the industry with bands like The Lumineers, Caamp, The Avett Brothers and Mt. Joy gaining more traction. 

“We used to sing All The Debts I Owe by Caamp when we first started out,” Capti says. Isola chimes in, “It’s cool to see bands get popular that aren’t necessarily pop music.” 

One of the draws for people might be the banjo. I can always count on crowds going crazy and screaming in excitement when they see a band bring out a banjo. As the banjo player, Isola is modest—but he admits it never gets old to get the crowd going with the strings. 

He picked up the banjo after hearing Mumford and Sons use it in their music, and now it’s validating for him to see how much people enjoy the instrument. People often don’t realize how difficult it is to play the banjo compared with guitar or bass, but it was the first instrument Isola learned. 

The 502s’ music is an intricate display of layered string instruments. When they’re writing and recording music, they typically take a lot of time—sometimes three months—to over listen to it, and add in six banjo sections. They try to balance all of the instruments out, but the layers are found most in banjo, guitar and saxophone. And they keep in mind how it will translate live. 

“We’re very attentive to the idea of like, ‘we don’t want the album to sound like this.’ And we don’t want the live show to sound like a worse version of the record,” Isola says. “So we try to keep what we put on the album reflected on what we can actually do. And it’s easier with six people in the band, you can have multiple stringed instruments.”

With more music and a major U.S. tour in the works, The 502s are transitioning to full-time musicians—being more intentional about the music they make, which is a folk rock that lets listeners ride the wave of a positive and happy outlook on life. 

“We want people to feel less alone,” Isola says. “It’s music that we hope makes people’s day 1% happier, hopefully more than that.” 

Keep up with The 502s here

Kendall Polidori is The Rockhound, Luckbox‘s resident rock music critic. Follow her reviews on Instagram and Twitter. @rockhoundlb