By Ellen Eldridge
In the middle of touring to support the recent release of its sophomore album, Sugar, Dead Confederate returned home for a short break, which it took after opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at The Masquerade on October 4 (check out our review HERE). Shortly before the show, vocalist Hardy Morris, drummer Jason Scarboro, and keyboardist John Watkins conversed with AMG about the making of the video for “Giving It All Away,” influences from bands met along the last year of touring, and the band’s headlining spot on the Favorite Gentleman “Stuffing” show scheduled for November 24.
So, you’ve released Sugar and made a video for the single “Giving It All Away.” Can you describe the creative differences in making this video from what you did with the video for “The Rat,” the single from the Wrecking Ball debut?
Hardy Morris: Well, with this one, we met with Jason Miller, the guy that directed the video, and we had a few ideas bouncing around. One of which involved having kids, as the audience of a show, ransack the stage and take our stuff from us and they start playing. So, that was one idea and he had another idea; he said, “I had an idea of you guys selling your organs for money so that you can keep playing music.” We thought that was a funny idea too. So, we just kind of incorporated the ideas…we thought, “Why don’t we have the kids do the surgery?” and, instead of organs, we decided to use musical instruments. It was a conglomeration of a bunch of different ideas.
Was Jason Miller brought on by the label, Razor and Tie?
HM: No, he’s just our friend from Athens
Jason Scarboro: An Athens connection
HM: He’s just a friend of ours from Athens. He’s worked with a lot of local Athens bands. He did another video on the last record too.
Which video was that?
HM: “Start Me Laughing.” It was a live video kind of thing.
Okay then, about J Mascis, how did he get involved with writing/recording “Giving It All Away”?
HM: He’s the guitarist and one of the songwriters for Dinosaur Junior and we did a couple of tour with them last year. When we were doing the record…
JS: It had the same producer…
HM: Yeah, it had the same producer as the record. John Agnello has done all the Dinosaur Junior records forever and ever, so he’s friends with J [Mascis]. John heard the song, dug it a lot, and he felt we needed to get J to play on it. So, he called J who agreed and he laid some stuff down.
Of all the people in bands Dead Confederate has played with, from Meat Puppets and Dinosaur Junior to Alberta Cross, who has been the most influential or big brotherly?
John Watkins: I’d say David Schools [the bassist for Widespread Panic] and his side projects like Stockholm Syndrome. He had a good part in taking us in, he really dug us. He introduced us to people and let us play shows for him and his bands. I’d also say the Meat Puppets. They were apeshit.
Did you get to meet up with any of the bands at the Forecastle Festival?
JW: Not this past year. Black Crowes the previous year; we talked to the guys backstage and they were really cool. We hung out with Manchester Orchestra.
Did you guys actually write all of the songs, the music and lyrics, in the days spent recording Sugar?
HM: No, the songs were written previously. We learned them all, fleshed them out as a band within a couple of days, but we had written all the songs throughout the year prior.
I didn’t think you guys looked outside and thought, “It’s snowing outside; let’s make a record.” I know the album title Sugar was in reference to the record snowfall in New Jersey, but the song “Sugar” is about a relationship. Did you, Hardy, write those lyrics or did Brantley write that one?
HM: I wrote that song. Yeah, it’s got other meanings too. The song was already written, but it wasn’t so much a title-track type of thing. That word [sugar] kept popping up… the album is a little sweeter than stuff we’ve done in the past, we had all the snowfall, and it just kind of fit the mood and the whole vibe of the record so it wound up being the word we used for the title.
JS: It wasn’t the intention.
The song was written and titled “Sugar” beforehand and it kind of carried over even though they weren’t directly related…
HM: Yeah, long before.
I listened to Wrecking Ball quite a lot and I really enjoyed it, but when I started Sugar, I didn’t even think it was the same band! I understand it’s one thing to grow as a band, as a person, and as a musician, but can you talk about the choices the band made which contributed to Sugar’s different direction?
HM: We had written a bunch of songs and they didn’t exactly fit in that same mold that was on Wrecking Ball. At first, we were a little apprehensive about it [thinking], “This is way different.” Then again, we felt “It’s our band; it’s our songs,” so we made the second record the way we wanted to make it.
JS: But it’s still honest music. It’s from a different time and place than the first record. In two years a lot can happen in your life and, hopefully, isn’t always going to be shitty. There is going to be some good stuff that comes along. Maybe, since I write about everything that happens to me, I’ll write about some good stuff. I think if Brantley were here to say it, he would say he wrote about what was going on at that time and, at that time, there were good things going on in his life so his songs had more of an upbeat attitude instead of such a bleak despair to them.
How are fans and press reactions to Sugar?
JS: It’s easier just to not think about that.
HM: I’ve been sent some good reviews by our press people; maybe they just don’t send the bad ones.
Tell me about Favorite Gentleman and The Stuffing show coming up in November.
HM: I know it’s, mainly, all the Favorite Gentleman bands. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Manchester Orchestra; they’re from here and it’s their record label, called Favorite Gentleman. The Stuffing includes all bands on their label plus a handful of other bands that they’re friends with, including us. They’re kind of taking over the Center Stage complex for the evening. Bands are playing in the Loft and the Vinyl. It’s going to be music all day and all night.
How does Dead Confederate plan to spend Thanksgiving?
HM: We’re doing that the night before Thanksgiving. Then, I’m assuming, everybody will go to their respective family’s homes. Last year we spent it in Holland…
JS: Eating at a Burger King…
Anything else you want to add for readers?
HM: Go pick up the record.
JW: Get some Sugar.
Favorite Gentlemen Presents: “The Stuffing,” November 24 at The CW Midtown Complex
Death On Two Wheels
All Get Out
*Midnight DJ Party in Vinyl following Manchester Orchestra!