The saying goes that you should write what you know, and much of the new album from country rockers Futurebirds concerns the hardships of touring and living on the road. The Athens, Georgia, six-piece, which stops by the Bartlett on Saturday, has described its latest record, titled “Hotel Parties,” as an “accidental concept album,” with lyrics that grapple with 20-something aimlessness and the difficulties of juggling a personal life and a touring schedule.
“We’re aware we’re not telling some new story,” said the band’s guitarist Carter King, noting that at the moment he was loitering in the hallways of a La Quinta Inn in Ashland, Oregon. “There have been plenty of bands to write about the touring life. But it’s our take on it, and I think a lot of people can connect with that idea of trying to balance two things you love dearly that won’t seem to get in line with one another.”
On the album’s title song, the lyrics paint a vivid picture of post-concert boredom: “I wound up drinking backstage alone / Wondering why we booked a show in Toronto / On the Fourth of July.” The track “Deadbeat Hits” yearns for a hit record, pining for “a grand buffet of FM waves / And you can stuff yourself until you choke.” And “Twentyseven” describes a relationship splintering over the pursuit of artistic fulfillment: “I could always ruin something / If you’d ever give my phone a ring / At least I still think I can sing alright.”
The album’s shuffling drums and weepy steel guitar suggest the influence of country-twinged folk-rock of the ’70s – think Neil Young or the Flying Burrito Brothers – but the songs also flirt with ’60s psychedelia, ’90s shoegaze and contemporary indie pop.
“We try not to think too hard about what genre label it fits under,” King said. “With six guys coming from different backgrounds, you get a lot of influences from all different angles. … But I’ll leave all the naming to the folks who write about it. Early on, one person described (our sound) as ‘a rusty chainsaw that’s been dropped into a tropical aquarium.’ And we were like, ‘Hell, yeah.’ ”
Futurebirds formed in Athens, Georgia, about six years ago, though their music exhibits the world-weariness of a band that’s been at it for a lot longer. The bulk of “Hotel Parties,” the band’s third LP, was written in 2012, during a period that King describes as a dark time: The band’s original drummer had left the band, and its financial futures were in question.
“We’re not young idiots just out of school anymore,” King said. “Some of us have serious girlfriends and home lives now, and you’re trying to plan for a future. So you’re kind of living these two lives that can seem like they’re at perfect odds with one another, so you do everything you can to make them work together.”
Similar to the creative processes of the Byrds or the Eagles, songwriting and vocal duties are typically divided among the band’s six members, though King says the songs don’t come together until everyone’s in the room together.
“The initial writing is more of a solitary thing these days,” King said. “But we still get together once it’s time to start recording, and we usually hole ourselves up in a lake house or a cabin somewhere to flesh out the songs a little bit. You don’t want it to sound like a record with five different guys’ songs on it. The songs themselves showcase whoever’s the captain of the song, but with six egotistical dudes in a band, everyone’s going to make sure their stamp is on the song.”
“Hotel Parties” doesn’t represent a huge sonic departure from previous Futurebirds releases: It’s still twangy and shambling and lovelorn, but perhaps less overtly country-influenced than 2013’s “Baba Yaga.” But King says the band has become more willing to bare itself, both lyrically and musically, which distinguishes “Hotel Parties” from its predecessors.
“I think it’s a little more of us wearing our flaws more proudly,” King said of the album. “Before, we tended to just wash things out, put lots of layers on stuff and cover it in reverb. Which is great, because I love it as a sound. But for ‘Hotel Parties,’ the songs themselves, with the lyrics and the subject matter, it didn’t seem right to just go covering that up in all this ethereal stuff. It took us being a little older and a little more mature in our production and songwriting abilities to be able to do that. I think it fits in nicely as a next step for the band.”