Dead Confederate: Good To Meet You
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.
“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.”
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“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.
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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