Fall Issue | 2015
of Lasers, Wild Hearts, and Futurebirds
by Jesse Webb | firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Johnson plays a slow riff as Carter King and Daniel Womack tune their guitars for “Paranoia Letters”. Dennis Love matches the riff with scattered plucks at his pedal steel guitar, as Johnny Lundock reigns in the rhythm with a soft hi-hat and bass drum. The whole process is like the tuning of a symphony orchestra, the distorted electrics echoing and layering over each other, folding themselves into the shape of a melody, Brannen Miles' bass bringing it all together. “Can I get some lasers on us?” Carter asks as neon green lines spread across his face and the ceiling above. “Turn up the acoustic please,” Daniel asks the man working the soundboard in the back of Proud Larry’s, “and my vocals just a little bit, a little bit more please. And the guitar a little more, a little more. And a little more on vocals please? That’s it, thanks.” The Futurebirds look at each other for a moment then turn toward the crowd and start the show.
Formed in Athens in 2009, the Futurebirds have just released their third studio album, Hotel Parties--a “coming-of-age record for 28 year old dudes in bands” as Thomas describes it. The ‘birds began the second leg of their album release tour this past Thursday, driving into Oxford from Nashville and Atlanta. The tour begins a new chapter for the band. Hotel Parties reflects this change, it “comes from a lot of being a touring band thats not quite made it to the next level yet but is past the point where being in a band is a novelty.” The college parties of their days in Athens have become late nights at the local La Quinta as they reluctantly come to terms with being at the end of their twenties,
I want to be losing something
I want to be confusing something
I want to be using something
in my heart
but I just wait until the van
pulls up to take me away
to that toilet bowl of sin
I’m turning twenty-seven soon
I never thought I’d still be
shooting for the man on the moon
[from "Twenty Seven"]
Despite this shift in attitude, the Futurebirds have maintained the same sound that drew me in when I was still in high school. The waling steel guitar bends between the chords of Daniel’s battered acoustic as Carter’s lead wildly dances along the scale, culminating in what many have labeled, ‘psychedelic country’. Their songs evoke a sense of freedom, and have ever since I first listened to “Ski Chalet” while escaping my parents in Atlanta on the road to Athens. And as great as they are on their records, their live shows are where they truly show their spirit as a band. The chemistry between the members is covetable and an essential factor in their success.
In the food cellar turned backstage below Proud Larry’s, I spoke with Thomas and Carter about Hotel Parties and their tour:
Y'all have been touring for a while now, you've played at Bonnaroo, opened for the Truckers and Panic--why do you think people are so attracted to concerts and music festivals?
T - I think, for me, the live platform is still the only—you can’t replace it, its the one thing that if you want the experience you have to go there. It sounds different when your there.
C - music’s always been a live get together—its in peoples blood.
Describe the process of learning a new song and reconciling the writer’s vision and the band’s.
T - there’s not much friction as far as, ‘this is my song and I want it on the album’ but we do have arguments about what the best songs are.
C - within the creation of the song, whoever’s song—and it varies whoever’s song it is—but whoever’s song, they kind of have the pole position and direct it.
C - even when you bring a totally complete demo…everyone’s like eh that sounds pretty cool but I’m still gonna come up with my own thing for it…’this is how I hear that’, ‘this is how that sounds to me,’ and that’s what we had to figure out early in the game is, this is the band’s song now.
That’s one thing I think y’all do really well, making each song a Futurebirds song rather than Carter’s song or Daniel’s song. What was it like starting out, did you know much about doing shows when you first formed?
C - Athens is a great place to come up because the venues pride themselves on helping out new bands.
T - there comes a time when you really have to stick your neck out. If you keep going to the same bars and they start to know who you are, it helps. But at the end of the day, you just gotta make a move.
One of my favorite songs you guys play is your cover of Wild Heart, which you close a lot with, can you tell me about how that came together?
T - well we found this version of the song on the internet--
C - I think Stevie Nicks was doing a photo shoot for Rolling Stones or something.
T - someone had a camera and she was playing the song, it wasn’t the version that ended up on her album but we all really liked it and needed another song for the EP, so we sat down and worked it out how we wanted to do it. It was a really vibey thing that just worked out for us.
The Futurebirds soak their discography in the memories of the places they've been. Their first studio album, Hampton’s Lullaby, was written while the band lived in a house called the Ski Lodge (so named because of its A-frame architecture, large wraparound stair case, and huge living room). In the title track, the 'birds recall their old landlord--"after everything he said, he’d go ‘youknowwhatImean?’, ‘that light needs fixing over there, youknowwhatImean’, and that became the chorus of ‘Hampton’s Lullaby’.” Hotel Parties, meanwhile, evokes a different set of memories--ones blended together from long days on the road and even longer nights in unfamiliar cities,
Another freezing, 5-hour post-show drive
and cars don’t pass like ships sailing in the night
hotel parties making everything alright
hotel parties always leave me feeling right
they’re having hotel parties even in my dreams
what went to sleep as a whisper just woke up as a scream
I think they’re pumping something poison
through the hotel vents
but I’m not sure just who I’m trying to convince
because the company I keep
they all live in my tv
sometimes they lie with me while I sleep
episodes and dreams
without money, love, or reason
my heart’s leaving
[from "Hotel Parties"]
The Futurebirds take you out of the moment and back to at time when you were sitting in the backyard with friends, no job to go to tomorrow and no bills to pay, the bonfire smoke rising like reverb into the chilly night, youknowwhatImean?.
lyrics provided by futurebirdsfans.com
published on October 28, 2015
Jesse Webb is a junior from Atlanta, Ga and serves as managing editor for Populi Magazine. He is pursuing a Marketing degree with an English minor and loves reading poetry and listening to bluegrass and folk when he's not writing and recording music of his own.