Rachel Sutton goes into the world of some of the best up-and-coming musicians to find out what’s really on their minds.Based in Athens, Georgia, southern rock band Dead Confederate is alive and running with their latest effort Sugar. Recorded over hushing white snow during a record setting blizzard in New Jersey, the ten-track album combines razor sharp 90s' grunge amid mysterious melodies and raspy vocals. With such an effortless current from song to song, it’s hard to believe none of the individual tracks were written together. Members and songwriters Brantly Senn (bassist) and Hardy Morris (singer/guitarist) wrote separately, then, they each picked out their favorites from the others selection. The band spent two days getting to know 20 songs, spent only a week modifying them, and then laid down half of them — creating a thriving collection of sounds.
Recorded by John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.), Sugar is an exciting follow up to the groups 2008 debut Wrecking Ball. Due out August 24th on TAO Recordings/Old Flame, Senn and Morris along with Walker Howle (guitar), John Watkins (keyboards) and Jason Scarboro (drums), are all excited about the finished product and ready to take the show on the road. After devouring this delicious album, I sat down with Morris — and his southern twang — to discuss Dead Confederate and their ever-growing name in the alternative indie world. DeadConfederate.com — Rachel Sutton
How would you describe Dead Confederate to a new listener?
It sounds cliché, but I really do think that this band has its own thing going on. Our last album was quite dark and melancholy, while the new album is more upbeat and psychedelic. We are working on new material now and it will undoubtedly have a different vibe. We have always changed things up as much as possible. It keeps it interesting, both for us and for the listener.
What was the recording process like for Sugar?
We recorded the album almost exclusively live like all of our other recordings. However, the main difference was that we learned the songs as a band just days before we went into the studio. We had played the songs on our last album for close to two years before recording them, but this time we wanted them to be looser and more malleable in the studio. It made it a lot easier to let go and play with arrangements, tempos and effects.
How has your sound progressed from Wrecking Ball?
I don’t know that it’s so much a change in our sound as much as the nature of the songs themselves. We still play them big and loud like the Wrecking Ball tunes, they’re just different songs. The songs on Wrecking Ball, a lot of them, came from a dark place, whereas many of the songs on Sugar are not necessarily based on personal accounts.
You handpicked each other’s songs instead of collaborating as a whole, how do you feel that has affected the completed album?
We had a lot of songs going in and they were really all over the place, in style and vibe. So, we just recorded as many as we could and went from there. We spent a lot of time listening and playing with sequences to see what songs we wanted to keep and what fit with what. It made for a very interesting recording process for us, and in turn an interesting record (I think).
What are some of your musical influences?
As a band, our influences are all over. We are all just into stuff that sounds good and real. Everything gets played in our van, from the Melvins to Vic Chesnutt to George Jones to James Brown; it just has to be real. Some folks are more likely to put in one thing than another, but it’s always like, Man, I love this song.
Why choose the “Sugar” track as the album’s title?
It’s not really supposed to be a title track, but I guess it is seeing as it is a track and it’s the title of the record. Anyway, while we recorded the album in Hoboken, there was a record-setting blizzard and the word sugar kept coming up. Everywhere you looked was white and it just fit what we were seeing and feeling while recording. Plus, the songs are a little sweeter this time around if we want to get all sappy about it… but mainly it was the snow.
How did Dead Confederate form?
We have all known one another since our high school days in Augusta. We ran in the same circles and played in different bands together. By the time most of us had graduated from college, we were all under the pressure of do we get jobs or do we pursue music? So we immediately moved into a house together in Atlanta and started writing songs. We moved to Athens a couple of years ago and that has been great as well. Athens is a special place.
What is the most annoying thing about touring for you?
Late nights and early mornings can wear on you after a while. Luckily we all get along really well. We know one another’s personalities and know when to stay out of each other’s ways. We all enjoy touring a lot.
What is one thing a person should do if ever in Athens, Georgia?
Eating at The Grit is almost a rule for out-of-towners. Also, it depends on how long you’re in town, but seeing a show at the 40 Watt is always a good option. There are great record stores and places like Agora downtown. There is plenty to do here. It’s a small town, but there’s a lot going on.
What’s next for Dead Confederate?
We just finished a couple of videos for new songs that came out really great. Also, we start a tour next week with our pals Deer Tick. We’ve played together a couple of times, but this will be our first tour together. We are all fans of their new record, so I’m excited to see some of it played live. They are a great band and good guys.
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