The Blue Indian Recommends: Austin Crane
From Columbia, SC, Austin Crane is a four-piece band that consists of Austin Crane (guitar, vocals), James Gibson (bass), Nathan Poole (lead guitar, back-up vocals), and Caleb Weathersby (percussion).
Austin Crane is one of those bands who’s extremely difficult to categorize because of their unique sound. And it is perhaps Crane’s twangy vocals that sets them apart from most bands. Mostly easy-listening folk-rock, Austin Crane really confuses that label with their dark, moody, and bordering on brilliant lyrics. It’s not difficult to tell that the band is comprised of a few talented writers, as seen in front-man Austin Crane and guitarist Nathan Poole, who is currently earning his MFA in Creative Writing. Austin Crane, the front-man, is first and foremost a poet/writer who happens to be a very gifted indie-artist.
Austin Crane’s first record, “I Know My Hands” was a very solid singer/songwriter effort that seemingly made its own noise; however, their new record, “Place at the Table” is bigger, deeper, and simply mind-blowing. After listening to a few songs off of the new record, Crane’s vocals will still be ringing through your head long after you’ve taken the headphones off of your ears. Poole’s wavy guitar riffs gently pull you around aesthetically causing you to forget to breathe. Pardon the cheesy analogy, but Gibson and Weathersby work together like peanut butter and jelly. All four of these roles fit together to compose something simply beautiful that leaves you speechless.
The Blue Indian will soon be reviewing their latest release, “Place at the Table.” Austin Crane will be super busy during the month of November touring the Southeast, and we were fortunate to sit down with Crane, himself, before things got too crazy. We talked about mutual friends, the New Brookland Tavern in SC, and the new record.
Blue Indian (Luke Goddard): Hi Austin. I’m very glad we crossed paths.
Austin Crane: Me too, thanks for getting in touch.
BI: So, you’re from a pretty rad area. It seems like your area is notorious for producing amazing artists. Let’s see, you, Washed Out, Toro y Moi, and other South Carolinians such as Mark Mathis, Public Radio, and the list goes on. Are you proud of your roots?
AC: Yeah, I would certainly say that I am honored to share the same home base with Washed Out and Toro y Moi, I am really excited about what both of those guys are doing and it is great to see them gaining increased notoriety. They absolutely deserve it. Mark Mathis and Public Radio, though they are from Charlotte, have been in a similar community with us for a while and we are able to play together a good bit. Mark is one of my favorite songwriters and is now a good friend, I was going to see him play when I was in high school.
So, to answer your question, yes I am very proud to be playing music out of this area, as I am to share a community with each of these three musicians.
BI: So, it’s not just you, Austin Crane, but it’s a band. What are their names and roles?
AC: It’s not just me. I had been playing acoustic for a while before we got together and I guess you could say that I remain the principle writer initially, in terms of lyrics and the skeleton of the songs. However, particularly with our new record “Place at the Table,” we have produced a full-band effort and spent a lot of time hashing the parts for these songs out individually and as a group. There is so much on this record that came as a result of each of us being able to intentionally focus on our own parts and having time in the studio to do so. We really had a shift in the way we approached writing for this record and as a result we have something a lot more expansive and holistic. I am really honored to be playing with:
Nathan Poole: guitar, vocals
James Gibson: bass
Caleb Weathersby: percussion
We also recorded this album with Kenny McWilliams at Archer Avenue Studio here in Columbia and I cannot say enough good things about working with him, he really serves as a 5th member on “Place at the Table.”
BI: You seem to be friends with our good friend and supporter, David Stringer, from Scene SC- “South Carolina’s Music Playground.”
AC: Yes, David Stringer is one of the most devoted supporters and champions for local music that I know. www.scenesc.org is a great resource for finding out what is happening in this area musically and I think David has done a great job with getting this site off the ground and creating a community around it. I would be surprised if anyone else goes to more shows in Columbia in a year than him.
BI: Have you had a chance to hear Mark Mathis’ new solo record, “Secret in this Town”? Our good friend from Columbia, SC, Grant David Keyes, is in the process of reviewing the record.
AC: I have listened through it, but I haven’t got to spend as much time with this record yet as I have his last, though of course I plan to. I have seen him play the new songs live a couple times though and they are definitely strong. His last record, “We Both Was Young” is so good and has one of my favorite songs ever on it, “Deep Blue Sea.” To me, Mark is like a Damien Jurado-type figure; he will consistently keep writing and recording great songs and he has a strong and loyal following to show for it. After hanging out together a few times, I would trust my life to Grant, so I trust him with Mark’s CD.
BI: Austin, who are some of your major influences as an artist?
AC: In terms of music, I would say that “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel is my favorite record, hands down. That was the only thing I listened to for about two years. Pedro the Lion/David Bazan has been really influential for me as well over the last 6-7 years. “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” by Wilco and a lot of the Microphones/Mt. Eerie’s work has been influential. Sufjan Stevens and Iron and Wine. Lately, Animal Collective, Phosphorescent, Toro y Moi and Colour Revolt.
I like Russian literature a lot, and that is a big part of what I am studying in school. I also like Southern Gothic literature in the vein of Flannery O’Connor. She has a big influence on the music we write, I would say. As does being from the South in general, it’s a pretty rich and wild place, you know.
BI: Let me ask you this: If you could punch one person in the face as hard as you can, who would it be?
AC: Probably myself when I forget every word to every song I ever wrote on stage, or when I forgot the name of one of the bands we played with as I was thanking them last week. I should really work on that.
Bill O’Reilly might be a close second…I wouldn’t have the nerve to ever follow through though; he is just being reactionary for a living.
BI: Are you interested in Austin Crane signing to a label? If so, what is one in particular that you’d be interested in signing to? If not, why?
AC: That is a hard question for me to answer at this point. Right now, I really want to get our new record out there and see what comes of it. I also want to be cautious with getting ourselves into anything that we cannot sustain. Three of us are in our final years in school, so that is a big factor. I like the idea of being a holistic person, but I will say that music is probably the thing that I feel most fulfilled in doing and I can’t imagine not pursuing it and sharing it in some form or another. So I am pretty open to what this could look like in the years to come. I think to be a part of Merge records would be awesome, they have a lot of incredible bands, as do Sub Pop, Secretly Canadian and Asthmatic Kitty.
BI: So, your new record. Just stellar work, man. How is “Place at the Table” sitting with you?
AC: Thanks very much, it is sitting quite well actually. I think we have made something that we can all be excited about and probably even surprised ourselves a little bit with what came out. It was an interesting process for me, because I was abroad for three months this summer. I did the vast majority of my parts before I left in April and May and left the production to be done over the summer. Nate Poole, our guitarist, and Kenny McWilliams did so much to make this record come together in this aspect. So I came back in August and was pretty floored when I heard how a lot of the record had developed as a whole. I think I can speak on behalf of all of us that we are really proud to share this with people. It feels like we can play these songs like we mean them live, which is a good thing for us and hopefully also for those that will listen. I don’t expect it to revolutionize anything, but my hope is that it will be meaningful to people.
BI: One of my favorite songs, “The First Shall Be,” is a powerful little gem. Tell me where you were at in your life when you wrote the song? It seems to reflect a lot internal thought.
AC: Yeah, I would say right now that this is my favorite song we play. It’s really simple musically and playing it is always a cathartic experience for me. In terms of meaning, it can be seen as sharing some of the central themes to the album in how it deals with finding a place on somewhat of a grander scale and dealing with the uncertainty of knowing if you have found anything for certain. For me, that song has a lot of self-examination within it as well in terms of my motives and ability to distort things that are good, to take gifts and seek to monopolize them. If I remember correctly, that was the first song we wrote as a band after our last record.
BI: What are some of your long term goals with Austin Crane? Where would you like to see the band in 5-8 years?
AC: Well…my immediate goal is to play good shows and enjoy the community within our band and around our music for the next year. After that, what will ensue remains to be seen. Jimmy and I are in the last year of our undergraduate studies, Caleb is in school as well and Nate is doing his MFA in creative writing. We are all really excited about the band right now and feel that it is a good thing in our lives, something important that brings us a lot of joy. I would not dare try to answer that question exactly though, I try to never project too far upon the future because I have quite often found that to be fruitless.
BI: Would you consider yourself a genuinely nice person or do you have to work at it?
AC: I try to be. I could probably be a better listener. We are from the South Carolina, isn’t everyone nice here?
BI: Who do you have a major crush on right now? (You must list a name)
AC: Definitely my girlfriend Megan. Then there is Bryce Wilner, he is the cool talented dude that did the drawing for our album artwork, what a killer.
BI: What is your favorite US city and venue to hit on tour?
AC: Well, we just had a great CD release show here in Columbia at New Brookland Tavern. That is probably our favorite place to play and it means a lot for me, especially since I have been going to shows there since I was 15. Outside of Columbia, I would say that another favorite place is The Midnight Rooster in Hartsville, SC. It is a quirky little coffee shop/restaurant/bar that we try to play at regularly. I have known the owners for a long time and it is always a good night there. Shows in Charleston, SC always seem to go well. We are mostly playing in the South Carolina/North Carolina/Georgia region right now.
BI: Favorite movie of all time? And favorite soundtrack?
AC: The Royal Tenenbaums, I love that movie and its soundtrack. I also like The Gods Must Be Crazy, because I watched it all the time growing up. Honestly, I am not a huge movie buff though.
BI: Do you and your band-mates have any special talents?
AC: I am learning to speak Russian. Jimmy is jazzy. Nate is literary. Caleb is going to be a male nurse and is the sweetest man alive.
BI: What’s one of your best memories so far? (Doesn’t have to be music related)
AC: I have a lot of good memories from traveling with friends. It is hard to pick just one, but I took a road trip with four other guys about two years ago along the East Coast that remains a great memory. I think it was at a place in each of our lives where we really needed to do it and I was able to process a lot during that time.
BI: What’s something that your fans would be shocked to know about you?
AC: My first name is Jonathan, but I am called by my middle name. Nate, our guitarist, almost disavowed me when I told him that after hanging out for two years, exclaiming “I don’t even know you anymore.” So let’s just get that out there for everyone to know.
BI: If you were being shipped to a deserted island and you could only take 1 book, 3 CD’s, 1 girl, and 1 extra item, what (and who) would they be?
AC: These questions are getting progressively more challenging.
I would take the Bible for sustenance. If a work of fiction is what you’re getting at, then I might take “The Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoevsky or a collection of Flannery O’Connor stories. There is a lot to unpack in there and I’m afraid I just gave you three choices instead of one.
In terms of music:
“In the Aeroplane over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel, “The Glow, pt 2” by the Microphones and maybe “Seven Swans” by Sufjan Stevens, that album really encourages me and I would probably need that.
I would bring the girl whom I am dating.
An extra item would be a guitar with everlasting strings. Is that a copout? I could never answer this question well at sleepovers.
BI: What is most important to you?
AC: People, relationships, community. I traveled a lot by myself this summer and realized that pretty quickly. Personal faith is important to me. Belonging and the need for place, I can usually relate a lot to that. In terms of music and relations, I put a high premium on honesty.
BI: What can Austin Crane fans be watching for in the near future?
AC: Hopefully a fair amount of shows. I am also going to do a sparser, solo acoustic album at some point in the next year based on Old Testament stories and tradition for my senior thesis. I will most likely give that to whoever is interested.
BI: Austin, it was a pleasure.
AC: Absolutely, thanks very much for getting in touch and for the interest in what we are doing. Thanks for supporting music with the Blue Indian.
Here’s the deal: Because we’re showcasing Austin Crane, you can download the new single off of their latest release. But, you really should go to iTunes and purchase their new album. It’s amazing.
Download “The First Shall Be” for FREE HERE.