Our “Band of the Month” feature began in January 2012, featuring Savannah-based trio CUSSES in a short interview that gave readers a glimpse of what to expect from one of Georgia’s hardest working bands. We then landed an interview with Of Monsters and Men right before they broke and would then go on to include acts like Ponderosa, Cheap Girls, Swear and Shake, Jonny Fritz, Torres, The Districts, and more over the next two years.
So as we move forward into 2014, our entire staff would like to extend thanks to the artists who have taken the time to speak with us and the readers who have been so dedicated to supporting the site.
photo by Colin Patrick Murphy
Meet New Madrid. The Athens-based act I’ve previously touted as “a seasoned four-piece playing dark & charming garage rock, incorporating sounds of Southern psychedelia with bright, delay-driven choruses” recently released their second album, Sunswimmer, via New West Records. I caught up with the guys right after the start of their current tour to chat about the new record, sharing the stage with Drive-By Truckers, and memories of their very first show – which happens to have occurred exactly two years prior to the release of Sunswimmer. Make sure to catch the band on their first full-US tour.
How did you all meet each other? I understand at least a few of you, or all of you, were from Chattanooga, correct? And then what prompted the band to eventually relocate to Athens?
Graham Powers (all answers): Ben, Phil, and I are Chattanoogans. We met up in high school. Ben and I played in a band together. Phil had his own music project in high school. Ben met Alex in Nashville while attending Belmont together. Alex is from Birmingham. We all got together (the four of us) in the summer of 2010 and haven’t looked back since. Phil was going to UGA at the time, and over the years we realized as a band that Athens would be the perfect spot to locate the band.
It’s been three years since the release of Ghosts & Fire.. When you look back at that recording session, or where you were as a band, what stands out the most?
What stands out most is the fact that the recording of Ghosts & Fire was the initial spark that ignited the band. We had the songs for G&F before we had the name New Madrid. That session was literally the first time we played music together.
Once the band moved to Athens, you guys began working on what would become Yardboat, your first full-length..What was the deciding factor when it came down to picking David Barbe as the person to produce and record the album?
We had already recorded Yardboat before the move to Athens in August 2012. Those sessions took place in February 2012. We were attracted to Chase Park Transductions before we met David, because of records we we’re familiar with that we’re made there (Decoration Day, Halcyon Digest, Merriweather Post Pavillion), the list goes on. We met David through winning an MBUS contest back in October 2011. We had the opportunity to get one of our songs recorded by him and the students in his recording class. We haven’t looked back since, or even really considered working with anyone else. Now we’ve made two LPs together. David is the perfect fit for us.
You guys opened up night one of Drive-By Truckers‘ recent three-night stint at the 40 Watt.. What was that experience like, especially considering it being just days before their new album came out and a week out from the release of Sunswimmer?
Opening for the Truckers was so exhilarating! They played almost all of English Oceans that night, which was an amazing live experience.
Can you walk me through the writing and recording process with Sunswimmer? I understand you made the album with David Barbe again, but this time things were a bit different for all of you?
The songs on Sunswimmer come from various points in time, rather than one specific writing session. ‘And She Smiles’ is the only song we wrote during tracking. “Manners” and “Find My Blood” are almost three years old. The others are more recent. The main difference between recording Yardboat and Sunswimmer was the amount of time available to make the album. We basically spent all of July 2013 recording Sunswimmer. No computers were used. It’s all on tape.
Going way, way back.. What was the first show as New Madrid like?
Our first show was in Athens, GA at the Max Canada, which is now called MAX, on February 25th, 2011. We we’re playing all the Ghost & Fire material and some earlier Yardboat songs. I think we played one cover. There were maybe 25 people at the show, which was exciting to us at the time. We knew then that Athens would be the right place to call home.
I find that many people are quick to describe bands from Athens as “sounding like Athens”… If you guys feel like you can relate, how would you describe what that means?
It’s dense and all over the place really
Speaking of Athens, where do you guys tend to hang out when you’ve got time to spare at home?
We hang out at our barn. Caledonia 40 watt georgia theatre, go bar. Outside. Wherever live music is
Moving back to Sunswimmer, the band made their Pitchfork debut back in December with the release of “Manners”, the first single from the album..What kind of response did you all get from that release?
We had a really good response. A lot of streams, and awareness of the band has definitely grown. But it is still just a song.
You’ll be on the road until late April is what it appears like, cover ground all the way out to California and then back East to New York.. Other than playing to some new fans in new markets, any particular sites you’re looking forward to seeing?
Both oceans. Atlantic to pacific.
New Madrid – Sunswimmer Tour
3.08 // Macon, GA // The Hummingbird
3.09 // Birmingham, AL // Workplay Theatre
3.11 // Houston, TX // Cactus Records
3.12 // Austin, TX // SXSW
3.13 // Austin, TX // SXSW
3.14 // Austin, TX // SXSW
3.15 // Austin, TX // SXSW
3.16 // Austin, TX // SXSW
3.19 // Wichita, KS // Abode
3.20 // Denver, CO // Lost Lake Lounge
3.21 // Salt Lake City, UT // The Garage
3.22 // Boise, ID // Treefort Music Festival
3.25 // Jackson, WY // Town Square Tavern
3.29 // San Francisco, CA // Milk Bar
3.31 // San Diego, CA // Soda Bar
4.01 // Los Angeles, CA // Bootleg Theatre
4.03 // Scottsdale, AZ // The Western
4.05 // Austin, TX // Holy Mountain
4.06 // Fort Worth, TX // Lola’s Saloon
4.08 // Kansas City, MO // Czar Bar
4.09 // Rock Island, IL // Rozz Tox
4.11 // Chicago, IL // Beat Kitchen
4.15 // Allston, MA // Great Scott
4.16 // New Haven, CT // Bar
4.20 // Philadelphia, PA // Boot & Saddle