Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Facial hair, personal injury, and displaced optimism - March's SEP Arrives!

It's that time again, Southeasterly music-folk!

March's Southeast Performer Magazine has hit the window ledges and free racks of your record stores, coffee shops and venues, and I have to gush. I have exactly three pieces in this issue, and I'm immensely proud of each of them. [Disclaimer: that means there's about to be a lot of copy-pasting. Sorry.]

First up is the spotlight I had the extreme privilege of writing about A Decent Animal. I'm copying it here because I'm so proud of these guys, and I think the story turned out really well...I hope I'm not deluding myself.

A Decent Animal
By Julia Reidy
Photo by Jonathan Stout

Through gradual change, the process of evolution crawls
forward for millennia. Every so often, however, progress leaps ahead.

A Decent Animal is leaping. The past couple of years have seen the Charleston trio develop at breakneck speed. They grew a third limb with new drummer George Baerreis last year. They’re preparing for a move. And halfway through 2007, these Decent Animals were suddenly asked to follow their fellow South Carolinians, Band of Horses, on the road. They were naturally selected, if you will. In evolution, it’s survival of the fittest, and for many, A Decent Animal is as fit as it gets.

Riding their electric live performances through throngs of new fans at every show, the three gentlemen of ADA have been writing furiously since the 2006 release of their Rabbit Hole EP, a project the band says feels like eons ago. In the interim, the music changed and developed.

“I think we’ve grown exponentially since then,” says bassist/guitarist Richard Weld. “We don’t even really play those songs anymore. It’s a very different band.”
A taste of ADA’s new material finally made it onto vinyl this year, with the release of a 7-inch single in January through Charleston’s Tick Tock Records. The progress continues, as ADA readies to record their first full-length, which they excitedly aim to put forth by summer under the production of Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell.

“By the time we get it recorded, it’ll probably be about two years of songs, old and new,” says Weld. “It should be interesting because the way we write now, our songs sound a lot different than they used to.”

The group transitioned from their mostly acoustic primordial soup to full-fledged rock band during the recording session for their first EP, resulting in the addition of Baerreis.

“Jonathan and I learned pretty much in the studio how to record the Rabbit Hole EP, and we didn’t have a drummer,” Weld explains. “Our engineer who’s a really close friend of ours played drums. We loved hearing the way it sounded, so as soon as we got back home ... we created George.”

Baerreis wasn’t actually conjured out of thin air. He existed for years in the musical wild before migrating toward the welcoming company of ADA, serving stints with Bain Mattox and The Velvet Swells, among others, along the way.

“I’ve been playing music for 15 years at this point,” he relates. “I liked pretty much everything that I’ve been a part of, but this is definitely the closest to what I hear in my head.”

In the year-plus since he joined ADA, Baerreis has come to blend in seamlessly with the pack. “As soon as we started playing with George, we started writing as a 3-piece,” Weld says. “And George brought a bunch of ideas to the table right off the bat. So the transition was immediate.”

“And natural,” adds singer/guitarist Jonathan Nicholson.

Nicholson and Weld likewise involved themselves in other musical ventures before the formation of ADA, some together, some apart. “We’ve all been in bands that have done really well,” Weld muses from behind his rather remarkable beard. “But this has been the culmination of years and years of work.”

The next substantial adaptation for the group will be translating their standout live performance to record form. “If it’s possible for me to relay the energy that I think the songs contain and somehow to give people just how those songs make me feel,” explains Nicholson, “If I can do a small portion of that in a recording, to me, I’ve accomplished something.”

This month, ADA take their accomplishments to a new home. The group has decided to migrate to the more westerly environs of San Francisco. They’re flying away.

Not to worry, says Nicholson, “We’re still a Southern rock band.” He pauses. “Well, we’re not a Southern Rock band.” Balking at the suggested imagery of rebel flags and Ted Nugent, he clarifies. “We want to be a rock band and we’re from the South and that’s all there is to that.”

Baerreis counters; “I like the Nuge. I actually wrote him in for president last year.” In even the most decent band, there’s going to be at least a little competition, a little dissent. It’s only natural.

Next, I reviewed the Attractive Eighties Women show where Mack got cut with that glass. It was awesome. (Mack's fine, don't worry...)

And last, I did a record review of Titans of Filth's new EP, Feats of Strength. They're so great. And apparently I went to high school with one of the girls in the band. I had no idea!

Enjoy guys, it's great issue. Go grab one!

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