Interview with Payton Bradford

Futurebirds Tour The USA

futurebirdsFuturebirds is a rock band from Athens, Georgia. Multi-instrumentalist Payton Bradford recently wrote in to discuss his favorite experiences on the road, the band’s songwriting process and his love of the scene in Athens.

Futurebirds is playing The Bottleneck on October 4.

For more info on Futurebirds, check out http://www.futurebirdsmusic.com/. To purchase tickets, visit http://www.pipelineproductions.com.

How did Futurebirds first come together?
It sort of properly combusted I guess. I met Carter and Daniel in spring 2008 through mutual friends right as the band I used to be in was ending. I met Thomas around the same time through different mutual friends. Thomas and Brannen had played together in a cover band before Futurebirds. Carter and Daniel had played in a band together before Futurebirds. Dennis and Carter went to high school together. Carter, Thomas, and Brannen also all interned at Chase Park Transductions studio together. Phew. Does that make sense?

Do you follow a certain method when creating songs?
Typically, whoever writes the song brings it to the table (often at different stages of development) and the band works through the arrangement instrumentally and vocally. It helps glue together songs that are written by different people. And since all of us have written for the band at one point or another, it’s nice to work on these things together so we sound more like a band and less like just a collective of songwriters.

Do you remember the first song you wrote as Futurebirds?
Some of the early stuff was written before Futurebirds formed I think. But as I recall, the first song we played live under the name Futurebirds that was written after we had started playing together was “Megachills.” Carter wrote that in the fall of 2008 if I remember correctly.

How has your songwriting process evolved since you first started out?
I know I’ve gotten more discriminating as to what I’ll follow through with to take to the rest of the band. I think collectively we’re more comfortable with each other, which is a natural progression for a band that’s been touring heavily.

What inspires you lyrically?
Anything and everything. I think everyone in the band would tell you something different.

Your songs have a very live sound. Do you try to record as live as possible?
Not necessarily. It really depends on the stage the song is in when we go into the studio.

You tour all the time. What have been some of your favorite shows over the years?
Bonnaroo was a real rush for everyone. Every city brings its own eccentricities and excitement depending on the day of the week and vibe of the crowd. I know that sounds like a copout answer, but it’s true. We always love the big cities (NY, Chicago, DC, Austin), but there’s excitement in places we’d never expect to find it given that we may not personally know anyone there.

What have been your strangest experiences on the road?
We got to spend an interesting two days in Glenwood Springs, CO (the burial place of Doc Holliday) after our transmission bit the dust driving from Aspen to Salt Lake City. There have been a lot of weird, surreal late night drives, but those are actually pretty peaceful. On our first tour, we were heckled at a pizza parlor in Austin for tuning our instruments before we played. The heckler was one of 7 people in attendance, mind you.

Do you ever write songs while on tour?
Yeah, occasionally. Different people in the band have different methods of songwriting. Lyrics are easier to flesh out on tour since you’re riding around in a van for hours on end with a notepad and often beautiful scenery to keep you company.

What do you enjoy most about the scene in Athens?
It never gets boring. There’s always cool new stuff popping up and something every night of the week. It’s nice to have the Georgia Theatre back in rotation with all the other great clubs (40 Watt, Caledonia, etc.) to keep things interesting. There are some great bands floating around here right now and out-of-towners generally get a good reception from the locals. Having a big school here also means you get somewhat of a built-in crowd so traveling bands will usually get a decent crowd even on a weeknight if they play when school’s in session.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
That’s a tough one. Getting comfortable playing with each other, but that one never really ends I guess. I think we’ve all gotten more confident as songwriters, which helps when putting stuff on the table but also when being able to judge what not to put on the table. Every tour we learn something we need to do better or not do at all in terms of preparation.

What advice would you have to up-and-coming artists?
If you’re in a position to go on tour, do it. It makes your band better playing night after night for any extended period of time even if it’s a few dates on weekends. If not, play with other musicians. And always have a blast doing it whether it’s on the road or in a garage or basement or just by yourself.