Dead Confederate: Good To Meet You

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By: Kayceman

Dead Confederate
“We’re kind of in our own world onstage. I really hope it translates, and I hope you enjoy it, but we’re not going to kiss your ass for no reason,” says Dead Confederate bandleader Hardy Morris. “We’re just being honest and putting our hearts on our sleeves, because that’s what people are interested in. That’s what was so great about Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Dylan told the whole world everything that was going on with him and that’s why people loved him.”

Throw on Dead Confederate’s debut album, Wrecking Ball (released September 16 on TAO/Razor & Tie and recorded in Austin, TX in the same studio where the sound effects for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre were laid down) and you’ll take Morris for his word. This is an unforgiving, highly emotional affair, and there ain’t no saccharine to help wash down the sentiment. Theirs is a dark, atmospheric, fuzzed-out form of psychedelic rock that’s just as much grunge as it is classic. It’s mean and burdened by the past, but absolutely sincere. And as Morris alluded to, these songs were inspired by real life.

“They’re deeply personal and emotional songs. There’s nothing on that album that’s very frivolous or composite, [no] made-up stories. It’s all very real and very much things that happened,” says Morris. And with song titles like the 12-minute “Flesh Colored Canvas,” “All the Angels” and “The Rat” (a song Morris describes as “a poke at us growing up in a super religious part of the country. It’s just [about] the hypocrisies of the über-religious”) one wonders just what happened to these boys growing up down South.

Rising from Athens, Georgia’s fertile rock soil in 2006, Dead Confederate is Hardy Morris (guitar/vocals), Brantley Senn (bass/vocals), John Watkins (keys/vocals), Jason Scarbroro (drums) and Walker Howle (guitar). Morris and Howle have been playing guitars and messing with loops, delays and reverb since high school. Performing as a two-piece around Athens, they scooped the other three guys off local bands that were slowly unraveling. It wasn’t long until Capitol Records president Gary Gersh (who has been instrumental in the careers of David Bowie, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Beastie Boys and many more) signed the band to his new label, The Artist Organization. Less than two years after forming, Dead Confederate has already been featured in Rolling Stone guru David Fricke’s “Picks,” selected as an “Artist to Watch” by the same publication, and have played Langerado, Sasquatch!, Bonnaroo, Rothbury and are set to play New Orleans’ Voodoo Fest at the end of the month. On top of that, when I recently ran into Widespread Panic bassist (and ex-Athens resident) Dave Schools, he was toasting Dead Confederate as one of the best new bands he’s heard in years.

Dead Confederate by Shiv
If you go to the band’s MySpace page they list their influences solely as “On The Beach, Meddle, Bleach.” These influence sections are generally a bunch of crap. How do you sum up a band with a few words? Well, you don’t, but by listing these three seminal albums Dead Confederate does a nice job opening a window into their world. The bile-spitting brilliance of Neil Young’s roots-rocker On The Beach, the expansive, haunting psychedelia of Pink Floyd‘s Meddle, and the scary similarity between Morris’ pain-seared screams and Cobain’s on Bleach all work together to form a nice composite of what they’re going for. But this, of course, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Inside their crushing iron wall of noise are hints of Radiohead, Sonic Youth, My Morning Jacket, Kings of Leon, Dinosaur Jr., Dead Meadow and more.

“I’m a huge Elliott Smith fan and Brantley’s a huge Bob Dylan fan and Walker is a ginormous Jimi Hendrix fan from back in the day and he loves the blues. John, our keyboardist, is into classical music, and Jason, our drummer, is like an über metal head,” explains Morris. “So certainly those [On The Beach, Meddle, Bleach] aren’t the only three albums that any of us listen to.”

Continue reading for more on Dead Confederate…

 
It’s a poke at us growing up in a super religious part of the country. It’s just [about] the hypocrisies of the über-religious.

Hardy Morris on Dead Confederate’s song “The Rat”

 

SOUTHERN ROCK?

Hardy Morris – Dead Confederate
The term “Southern Rock” has gotten a bit of a bad name in the past decade or so. Bands like The Drive-By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, Widespread Panic, Kings of Leon and many others including Dead Confederate (and even Canadian hero Neil Young straddles the line) play rock music influenced by the South but falling well outside the stereotypes of Confederate flags, straight-ahead/predictable guitar songs or, god forbid, being lumped with crossover artists like Kid Rock and Black Stone Cherry. It wasn’t always this way. Back in the 1970s heyday when bands like the Allman Brothers still had Duane (although there’s a strong argument for the quality of post-Duane Allmans, too) and Skynyrd still had Ronnie Van Zandt, when The Marshall Tucker Band, Little Feat and Dixie Dregs were pushing the boundaries of the genre, back then it was a patch you’d wear with pride. So it begs the question, coming from Georgia with the word “confederate” in their name, is Dead Confederate a southern rock band?

“We’re making rock & roll and we live in the South so I guess at some point it has to be referred to as that, but no, I just think of it as a lot more personalized, emotional, artistic rock & roll. I don’t really think of it as having a region,” says Morris.

He makes a good point. You won’t hear any covers of “Freebird,” these aren’t blues-based guitar progressions and you likely won’t see any lighters in the air at a Dead Confederate gig. You’re far more likely to see a healthy mix of hip indie rockers, older metal heads, adventurous jam fans and a fair share of whiskey-swillin’ rockers from south of the Mason-Dixon line, all with eyes closed swaying back-and-forth to the distorted swells of sound.

Dead Confederate
“I don’t think of us as much different than R.E.M. [another Athens band],” continues Morris. “We don’t sound anything like R.E.M., but just the overall vibe and spirit [of our music] shares some similarities, and I don’t think of them as Southern rock at all. I don’t think anybody ever has.”

When pushed about the name of his band, and if perhaps it’s misleading, Morris shrugs it off, “I wanted something kind of dark and something kind of militant, but also I just thought it sounded like us.” And as long as you don’t get hung up on the “Confederate” imagery, he’s damn right. There’s a brooding sense of urgency and a timeless, vintage quality to their music – uncertain terrain where you can almost see a Civil War soldier sneaking over dead bodies on a deserted battlefield at dawn. Sometimes it’s what you don’t play and Dead Confederate instinctually leave vast chunks of space open. Reverberating guitars, shaking strings, rumbling bass and lingering thoughts all waft across foggy patches of earth. Cinematic, spooky and colored by Morris’ shrieks, there’s plenty of room for personal interpretation, but as Morris said, the music is always dark and often filled with the intensity of close-range combat.

In a time of glossy press shots, 30-second soundbites, assembled A&R “super groups” and singles prepped for shallow TV show placement, it’s refreshing to get whacked over the head by a band like Dead Confederate. Funneling their diverse influences into a sonic maelstrom and bringing us back to the bloody knuckle D.I.Y. ethos that defined punk and grunge before they became marketing terms, Dead Confederate is the genuine article.

“We’re just honest and no bullshit. And it comes through in our songs,” says Morris. “We’re not trying to kill you with our good looks. We don’t sit down and try to write giant hooks. It’s just very honest, from us to you, and that’s the same way we would be if I met you face-to-face. Everybody in our band would shake your hand and say, ‘Good to meet you,’ because honestly, it is good to meet you.”


Dead Confederate is on tour now, tour dates available here.

Dead Confederate – “The Rat”

Dead Confederate – Athens Georgia

Dead Confederate – “The Wrecking Ball” (Tripwire Session)

JamBase | Georgia
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