Dead Confederate

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Dead Confederate finds a new way of recording with latest album Sugar

:: Dead Confederate ::
:: with Alberta Cross ::
::  Larimer Lounge :: September 18 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: September 19  ::

By Brian F. Johnson

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what equipment you use. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what studio you’re in. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter who wrote the song. Because, when it comes down to it, sometimes it’s weather that influences the feel of an album more than anything.

When the Athens, Ga., quintet Dead Confederate left the South last winter to travel to the highly revered Water Music Recording Studios in Hoboken, N.J., they had a loose idea of how they wanted their new songs to sound. But after days upon days of being stuck in a studio due to a blinding nor’easter, the southern grunge rockers emerged with their sophomore album Sugar and a whole new idea of how their songs could sound.

“For our last record, we had played those songs — well, some of them — as long as two years before we ever recorded them,” said vocalist Hardy Morris in a recent interview with The Marquee. “We didn’t actually start to learn all of the songs until just before we went up there. We wanted it to be something more malleable, so we kind of waited on purpose. But there were major blizzards and so we were stuck in the studio the whole time and that made us move things along more than if we wouldn’t have been held up there.”

The resulting thoughtful contemplation lead to an entirely different recording experience than the band, known for its loud style, had ever been a part of before. “Our recording experiences in the past had that loud noise kind of vibe, you know, where everybody is just hammering away. Well, what we found is that works live and they’re fun to play, but when you put the mic on it and record it, it kind of turns to mud.”

Working with veteran producer/engineer John Agnello (The Hold Steady, Son Volt, Dinosaur, Jr.), the band found a way to turn their approach to recording on its end. Morris explained that on past albums, to get out of that “muddy” situation, they would end up having to strip elements of the tracks away, so that the music would translate to recording. “That’s fine,” said Morris. “But it doesn’t make for the most creative process or the most constructive recording session. You want to do it this way to make it more positive — add this, build this, not take away. It just makes the whole vibe better and it’s a better recording session.”

That approach made it so much better, in fact, that when the band sent out a press release last month to announce the new album, it said, “For the band, that makes Sugar feel like their first true album, with Wrecking Ball [the band’s debut release]as more of a collection of their early songs.”

The tracks on Sugar are, with the exception of one, all new material. Morris, who writes half of the band’s material, with bassist Brantley Senn taking the other 50 percent of the writing credits, said that these songs weren’t sitting around for a while. “We did have one song, ‘Run from the Gun,’ which was kind of an acoustic song that I had written a couple of years ago. We never actually had the intention of making it a Dead Confederate song. It was just kind of a song in my back pocket — something I’d play when I play by myself. Well, John [Agnello] heard it, he said, ‘This has to be on the album.’ So that was the only one we kind of pulled from the past. Everything else is brand new,” said Morris.

Without abandoning the driving guitar work that first drew attention to the band, Sugar gives nods to bands that they have toured with, like Dinosaur, Jr., and the Meat Puppets. The songs cover a broad musical area from epic jam moments to classic rock to shoegaze, but perhaps there is nothing on the record that is as relentless and as merciless as “Quiet Kid,” a straight-up shock rock song of distorted rage.

But not all of the songs are like that, and Morris said that their ability to change their sound while recording these tracks lead to the tunes finding what worked for each of them. “There was nothing ingrained already, you know? It wasn’t like we were standing there and saying, ‘This is my guitar tone on this song. This is what I always use.’ You know, it was more like, ‘What tone should we use?’” he explained, again giving Agnello credit for helping the band to approach their songs like that. “Simply put, we have more room to breathe. You have to be honest and natural about the whole thing. This is special to us and that’s where we get our gratification.”

:: Dead Confederate ::

:: with Alberta Cross ::

:: Larimer Lounge :: September 18 ::

:: Fox Theatre :: September 19 ::

Recommended if you Like:

• Dinosaur, Jr.

• Sonic Youth

• Meat Puppets

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