OEB’s 5 SXSW Qs – Futurebirds
Hometown: Athens, GA
OEB 2013 SXSW Review
After two years of recording and negotiating, Futurebirds’ long-awaited sophomore effort is due for release this year. Guitarist/vocalist Thomas Johnson checked in with OEB on the hectic nature of SXSW booking, gravitating towards experimentation and a preview into Futurebirds’ 2013 (hint: tons of shows!).
It is unfortunately too rare that artists take a more experimental approach to the alt country genre. What inspires you to push the boundaries of such a traditional base?
First of all, we don’t think that we could do it any other way. There’s too much weird, dark, mysterious energy between all of us to put out something as straightforward as typical “alt-country”. We wouldn’t really even characterize our music as being “country”. It’s undoubtedly southern, but I think it draws more from the gothic and folksy parts of the south than from your down-home country breakfast. That being said, we have a deep appreciation for more straightforward country/alt-country as well, most of us grew up listening to a lot of that. Maybe at the core of it though, is that we’re far more interested in forging into unknown territory than in recreating something that is already classic.
Your latest is a live record - how does the live show presentation differ from your song forming in the studio?
In many ways, the live show is a platform for fleshing out our recorded material. We don’t typically play our new songs before they’ve been recorded. That’s not to say we don’t play them before they’ve been released, but songs are usually brand new when we record them, whereas they have a chance to really evolve live. Some of our older songs (and newer ones for that matter) sound nothing like they do on the record. Some songs can’t be recreated in the same way, some songs make more sense to play differently, and some songs have a way of never really being finished - they can be continuously writing and re-writing themselves every time we play them. A record is a piece of art. A live show is an exercise in entertainment art. If we go play a sold-out show in Athens to a bunch of drunken college kids (and we don’t mean that in a derogatory way), there’s gonna be a lot more noise, feedback, and electric guitar. On the live record, we played an old theater in Athens with awesome natural acoustics. There was a lot more stripped down, mandolin/banjo/acoustic type treatments at that show. At the end of the day, we want to feed off of the energy of our crowds, not suck the energy out of them, which is why every show is different.
What’s on plate for Futurebirds in 2013? Any new music coming down the pike?
New record on plate – haha. We have a new record set to come out this year. we’ve been done with it for almost a year now and started recording it almost 2 years ago. Needless to say, we are excited and ready to get the damn thing out. It’s been a long process of negotiating and renegotiating and putting the right team together, but we’re really happy with the folks we have on board, and are anxious to hit the ground running behind it. By the time this interview comes out we may have already announced the release date/label/etc…, but since we haven’t yet we can’t really give you any more specifics, other than that we’re going to be playing a ton this year, and that we are taking big strides as musicians, songwriters, and co-conspirators with this record.
Do you have any appearances lined up for SXSW yet? Is there anything you’re looking to get out of the festival beyond a normal string of shows, especially since you’ve showcased before?
We have a few things lined up for SXSW. At this point, our agent and the folks putting on the different parties/showcases are still going back and forth with details, as is often the case with SXSW. As you may or may not know, the “festival” can be a total shit-show, and the booking process for it isn’t much different from where we’re sitting.
Being that we’ll have a new record coming out this year, we certainly are looking at that weekend to really raise the awareness of our pending release and to capitalize on any hype/momentum that we may already have heading into the festival. Another thing we’re looking to get out of the festival is a laminate, that’d be nice.
Have you had a chance to check out the band list for SXSW? Any acts you are looking forward to catching yourself?
I haven’t really looked at the lineup yet, but I’m sure it’s riddled with all kinds of awesome music that spans all genres and interests. This will be our 4th year at the “festival” though, so we’re well aware that the best time to catch other bands is before/after the shows we play. We played 8 or 9 times last year, and by the time we got done with hauling our gear, loading, unloading, parking, etc, we were more ready to find a bar that didn’t have a line than we were to go seek out new music. The truth of it is, most of the really good bands we want to see there we’ll have an opportunity to see elsewhere down the line (or have already seen). SXSW is a great place to find new music, but it’s so spread out and crowded, its sometimes more hassle than it’s worth, impossible really, to plan out a schedule of bands to see, at least as a band that is playing a lot itself. Our favorite shows of the past have been catching bands like The Orwells side-stage before our set at the Aquarium Drunkard party, hanging out with all of our Athens friends at the 40 Watt party, or catching a late-night raucous Diamond Rugs 1am show.