Music Column: Interview with Athens band Futurebirds | The Crimson White

Photo courtesy of Ryan Myers

Futurebirds is a band that’s impossible to ignore. The sound changes from southern twang, to soft eeriness, to more of an indie rock vibe. The band’s lyrics are undoubtedly earnest and the sentiment behind each track is evident.

There’s this band from Athens, Georgia, (I know what you’re thinking – of course they’re from Athens) with the ability to combine a broad array of genres into a unique southern psychedelic rock sound that knows no bounds.

Futurebirds is a band that’s impossible to ignore.

The sound changes from southern twang, to soft eeriness, to more of an indie rock vibe. The band’s lyrics are undoubtedly earnest and the sentiment behind each track is evident. The sound is transcendent, but do not try to box it into a specific genre.

“We never set out to make a certain kind of music,” said Thomas Johnson, one of the band’s primary songwriters. “We’re all from the South, and draw inspiration from that, but we’re also all into the weird, dark and out-there aspects of music and life. That being said though, we don’t qualify ourselves as anything; we’re just trying to write songs that make us feel something.”

It goes without saying that the Athens music scene has led to the formation of many influential college bands. Futurebirds are the modern-day version of those bands, such as R.E.M. and Drive-By Truckers. It’s clear that Johnson thinks rather fondly of the college town.

“Athens is just a phenomenal town,” Johnson said. “Our friendships there run very deep, and we continue to see our Athens friends all over the country. The Athens music scene is a family, as cheesy as that sounds. Everywhere in Athens is great to play. Caledonia, 40 Watt, and Georgia Theatre are the places we’ve played the most probably.”

Prior to Futurebirds, the band members were working on their own musical projects in Athens and, as they fizzled out, the four original members began to play around with the idea of forming their own band. Payton Bradford, Carter King, Daniel Womack and Johnson recorded the band’s first EP. The band quickly started touring after the addition of Dennis Love and Brannen Miles.

Currently, the band consists of King on electric guitar and vocals, Johnson on electric guitar and vocals, Womack on acoustic guitar and vocals, Love on pedal steel guitar, Miles on bass and Johnny Lundock on drums. The band or its members would not have been the same had they not come out of a college town, specifically Athens.

“You have an opportunity to be the big fish in a small sea,” Johnson said. “I can’t imagine trying to gain traction as a new band in New York or LA. Athens is very communal, and the music scene is made up of a bunch of people helping people.”

Futurebirds has toured with a wide variety of bands. The band’s most recent LP, “Hotel Parties,” explores the drawbacks of a band finding itself in the beginning stages of fame. The album contrasts time at home versus time on the road.

“[Drive-By Truckers] definitely taught us how to be a touring band,” Johnson said. “We’ve probably gotten to know those guys and the Band of Horses guys better than any of the others we’ve opened for. It’s nice to have a sounding board for advice on balancing touring life with home life.”

“Hotel Parties” explores and features the array of sounds found in the Futurebirds’ vocabulary. The honest lyrics of songs like “Paranoia Letters,” “Twentyseven” and “Hard as You Like,” hint at the band’s desire to create music that means something to them. Other songs, like “Rodeo,” appeal to a wider audience, but still draw on the same emotions.

Last November, Futurebirds released their most recent EP, “Portico I.” The album was recorded in a Baptist church, the Portico, right outside of Athens. While at the Portico, the band recorded their album in two parts, “Portico I” and Portico II.”

“We picked the Portico because of how we wanted to record,” Johnson said. “We wanted to find a place that wasn’t a traditional recording space, but where we could still get some isolation, recording-wise. We also just wanted to get out in the country, and we didn’t really set out to accomplish one particular goal. Our approach to the recording was very laid-back, took our time and didn’t force anything that wasn’t working. So I’d say the Portico very much informed the vibes and recording process for us.”

Both EPs consist of one original song and three covers. “Portico II” will be released sometime this year and will feature the original “Olive Garden Daydream #47.” “Only Here For Your Love,” the original from “Portico I,” explores the band’s more eerie sound, furthered through recording at the Portico.

If you haven’t had the chance to experience all that Futurebirds has to offer, I would recommend adding them to your queue. The band is a melting pot of southern music and if that does not float your boat, then listen for the lyrics.

Source: Music Column: Interview with Athens band Futurebirds | The Crimson White

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