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Drive by truckers - We won’t be out playing until it is safe for people to come see us. But, once it is, we will be out in force on whatever level is possible

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Drive by truckers - We won’t be out playing until it is safe for people to come see us. But, once it is, we will be out in force on whatever level is possible

The pure unadulterated rock and alto country of Drive By Truckers is deeply rooted in the American Southern states and always creates pure energy on stage. The band has been on the road since 1996 and recently released a new record 'The New OK' (to be released on vinyl in December). We had a nice conversation with the band. Immediately we had a nice conversation about the past, present, corona times and the future of Drive By Truckers.

Hi, the band was born in 1996, which means that next year it will be 25 years old, that is quite a lot. What were the highs and lows so far?
Patterson Hood (DBT):
It was quite the lovely delivery, despite occurring right after a tragedy. The nine months leading up to the birth of DBT was full of writing and creating and dreaming and planning. I had the name (as unfortunate as it turned out to be) and was literally trying to form my dream band while writing what became our second album (seems I can never do anything the correct or sensible way). Our first day as a band was a day of studio time I saved up for and booked on June 10, 1996. Two weeks prior to that, one of the players that was supposed to be in the band was killed in a car accident so the actual first day of DBT (the day we were born) there was a weird mixture of joy, musical elation and pure grief running through our veins and out our mouths and hands. Lows and highs, to the extreme, all on the very first day. That spirit has informed everything we have ever done since.

What do you think is the biggest change since the early years?
We have changed and morphed continuously ever since. Our first 2 albums were very influenced by old timey country and country soul, while also being influenced by hip hop (in subject matter) and punk rock (in delivery and attitude). Our 3rd album was a loud post-punk album where we basically played songs from the first 2 albums very loud and recklessly. The 4th album was Southern Rock Opera. Along the way we’ve explored power pop (Blessing and a Curse and The Big To-Do), country-soul and murder ballads (Go-Go Boots), an album celebrating loss and survival (English Oceans) and most recently a trilogy of albums about the social and political upheaval in the USA (American Band, The Unraveling and The New OK). We used to have personnel changes every few years but have had a rock solid lineup since 2013 that I hope to continue until I die or am forced to retire.

Are there things that you, knowing what you know now, would do differently?
First of all, the name of the band. It hasn’t really aged all that well and really doesn’t reflect what or who we are anymore. It was a drunken joke that ceased to be very funny the next day. Most people just call us DBT or The DBT’s anyway. If I was doing it over, I’d try to work at a more deliberate pace and most of the albums prior to 2014 or so would be at least 1 song shorter. Maybe 2-3 songs shorter in a few cases.

Some of your releases are concept albums. As I read in some of my biographies 2004' the dirty south' how did that idea come about?
That one was the true followup to Southern Rock Opera (even though Decoration Day came out between them). It sort of took the threads of what we were talking about on SRO to their logical next place and explored socio-economic issues related to the deep south. Decoration Day (which is my favorite of the so-called classic period) was a more personal album about navigating the toll that chasing our dreams had taken on our lives and loves. There’s not much I would change about either of those albums.

Also 'Southern Rock Opera' was a real milestone, tell me more about it? The story behind it and so on?
: It’s a coming of age story set amongst the post-civil rights south. I took the music of my youth and teen years (basically arena rock) and used it to soundtrack an exploration of the duality of the southern thing in all of its glory, hate and complexity. To make it the way we heard it in our heads, we had to relearn how to play and sing (for me, that took much longer than the time we made the album). We had this hugely ambitious project that we were committed to making but no money whatsoever to make it with so we had to be very inventive (and more than a little crazy) to pull it off. We recorded it in the upstairs of a uniform shop in downtown Birmingham Alabama on some borrowed DA-88’s (late 90’s digital recorders that were very unreliable and tempermental). Also, we were all fighting and broke and most of us were getting divorced while we were making it so it was kind of a mess, but it somehow worked out and changed all of our lives  forever.

Your music is also often described as Southern rock, with a reference to Alabama. Is that a consciously chosen direction? why?
: People call us that, I guess because of that album. I personally hate the term as applied to us. I would never ever call us that. To me, we are a Rock and Roll Band. We happen to be from the south, but so was Rock and Roll in its foundational state.

Up to there the past you recently released a new record from 'The New Ok'; how were the reactions so far?
We released 2 albums this year. The Unraveling came out Jan 30th. We had planned on touring all year behind that until the Covid-19 pandemic forced us off the road indefinitely. We ended up making The New OK and releasing it in October (it comes out on vinyl and cd in December). Both have been well received. So much of our income is based upon touring that it has been a really hard year for us (personally and financially) but working on The New OK definitely helped get us through it by giving us something artistic and creative to focus on while all of this was going on. Both albums seem to be getting a little bit of traction on some year-end lists and that’s always nice.

Does the title have an underlying meaning? In other words, is this also a kind of concept record or am I wrong?
: When people would ask me how I was doing this summer, I would answer that “I’m OK, the new OK.” The title track kinda stemmed from that. I live in Portland Oregon, which like much of America was embroiled in a lot of protests after the police murdered George Floyd in May. Here, the protest became especially heated and Washington ended up sending in federal troops to try to stop them. (It didn’t work, it only made a bad situation much worse). I wrote the title track as well as a song called “Watching The Orange Clouds” during the protests and occupation. On a side note, it should be noted that the old hand signal for Okay has been taken over by white supremacists as a sort of secret handshake way of signaling each other. You see nationalists posing in pictures making that gesture. I would argue that the new ok is NOT OK. It’s not so much a concept album as the culmination of some themes we began exploring on our 2016 album American Band and continued on The Unraveling.

It is an album with material that partly comes from the sessions of the great ‘The Unraveling’, have I read somewhere? Is that correct?
We spent a week in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording Service in fall of 2018. We ended up recording 18 songs. The majority of the last two albums came from those sessions. It was an extremely productive and musically fulfilling week. We also recorded three new songs this August, which was challenging since we live in four different states and I live on the opposite end of our country from the rest of the band. As a band we have generally recorded all of our albums live, playing together in one room room like bands did it in the old days. For the newest songs we had to improvise and embrace the technology that enabled us to record together separately. I would demo a song in my music room and send the track to our drummer. He went to (our producer) David Barbe’s studio and recorded a drum track to my demo, then they sent that back to me. I went into a studio here in Portland and recorded my guitar and vocal tracks then sent them to the rest of the band. Everyone added their parts than Barbe mixed it all. This was all done very quickly as we decided to make the album in late July and to have it out on vinyl before Xmas we had to have everything including artwork and liner notes turned in by mid-September. It was hard work, but actually very fun and creatively exciting.

I was very charmed by ‘The Unraveling’ earlier this year, I admit. So why release a record so soon after or does it have something to do with this crisis in which we live?
It has everything to do with the crisis of the day. Our country has been spiraling out of control for the last four years. Being stuck in quarantine and unable to go out and do our jobs was making us all crazy. We made The New OK as a way of getting out there, even though we couldn’t physically do so.

It's remarkable, after all these years, where do you keep getting your inspiration from? Because here, too, you're taking a completely different path, or am I wrong?
Thank you. We all work very hard at improving and are still chasing that album of our dreams. I’m still trying to write my best ever song. The band keeps getting better at playing and singing and performing. Life is a work in project and if you live right, it remains so until you die. I’d like to think that our next album will be quite different from any that we have ever made. I’m actually pretty excited about that, whenever it might happen.

You have been able to prove yourselves live, now that that is no longer possible for the time being, this is a serious cut in the bill. How do you, as a band, musician and human being, deal with such a crisis in which we live?
: It has been a real challenge. Almost all of our livelihoods is based on getting out there and playing live. Our management and all of the great folks who work so hard behind the scenes to make it all work have had to work extra hard to invent ways to bring money in for us to live on. We have a pretty big archive of live shows recorded and have been putting some of them up on Bandcamp to generate funds. Our fans have been super supportive throughout this crisis. Also, several of us have been doing shows from home streaming for fans. I play every other Wednesday night on the site NoonChorus. I call it Heathen Songs and I have been playing themed shows, deep-diving into my catalog of songs. My partner Mike Cooley has been doing shows on the alternate Wednesdays and our multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez has been doing some amazing shows periodically also.

How do you personally think that culture and music, which have been severely affected by these closures, will survive this crisis?
I’m very worried about it all. I wonder what there will be to come back to when this is over and we can resume playing. So many of our favorite venues are closing or have closed already. Same with theaters and restaurants. It’s been a nightmare through and through.

Let's also look to the future, what are the plans after this crisis?
We will be out playing wherever there is left to whoever is willing to come. We have been very conscientious about not wanting to be out endangering ourselves and our fans. We won’t be out playing until it is safe for people to come see us. But, once it is, we will be out in force on whatever level is possible.

After all these years, are there still ambitions or goals that you definitely want to achieve with the band?
Absolutely. I am well into writing the next album, although I imagine it will be a while before we can record it. I have a book I have been working on for some time that I hope to continue working on. I have a solo album and a couple of side projects I would like to do also.

Thank you for this pleasant conversation, hopefully we can do it again face to face soon when you go down to Belgium for a concert
DBT: I would love that. Stay safe and hopefully see you soon. See you at The Rock and Roll Show!

Aanvullende informatie

  • Band Name: Drive By Truckers
  • Date: 2020-12-01 23:00:00
  • Rating: 8
Gelezen: 282 keer
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