Born of four hopeful rednecks and numerous misconceptions, Athens, GA’s Modern Skirts crept onto the scene in 2005 with their debut record, ‘Catalogue of Generous Men’. The record received some good reviews, finding itself at #11 on Paste Magazine’s “50 Best Records of 2005”.
After some marginal touring success around the South and several sold out shows at Athens’ legendary 40 Watt Club, Modern Skirts took to the road for two years.
Still searching for a truly unique and singular voice, the boys in Modern Skirts discovered something startlingly fresh in singer Jay Gulley’s bedroom recordings and immediately began work on their self-produced third record.
After four decadent and dangerous weeks in New Orleans, “Gramahawk” the new release was complete.
This is a band of four guys who have played, toured, recorded and paid their dues.
Modern Skirts will be playing their FINAL SHOW this upcoming weekend during AthFest 2013. We got the chance to speak with them and here’s what they had to say…
What sets “Gramahawk” apart from other albums?
It’s very minimal in its structure without sounding minimal at all. It’s hard to put into words, especially if you haven’t heard the record, but it’s a sort of rich complicated patchwork, and upon multiple listens, you start to realize that the parts are staggeringly simple. The ingredients are just orchestrated together in a very particular way that forms a really unique meshwork that is really pleasant and interesting at the same time. I’ve never heard another record like it and I’m really proud of what we discovered in the writing and recording of that one.
How did you guys come about using singer Jay Gulley as an inspiration?
The thing I described above, that was our experience listening to Jay’s previously non-Modern Skirts demos… sort of a slow dawning realization that he was onto something really interesting and unique in his personal toying around with a four track. He was hesitant to go down that path professionally, but after a lot of convincing, we talked him into letting us take some of our favorite demos into the studio and trying to flesh them out. We were pretty hardline about keeping the lyrics and simple repetitive structures the same, since our typical tendencies would be the exact opposite, and since that simplicity was part of the heart and soul of those recordings.
What has been one of your most memorable gigs over the years?
Obviously, our show opening for R.E.M. in Amsterdam in July of 2008 was a pretty memorable experience. That’s the default answer… there are a few house parties that are particularly memorable for one reason or another, there was a pool party we got to play on a day off when we were up in Chicago… I think it was a 4th of July thing… at the end of our last song, Jay set off a few fireworks and dove into the pool as they went off… stuff like that sticks with you.
What has been your craziest fan encounter over the years?
Let’s see, some girl apparently tried to bite one of the band members’ ear off and he later got a terrible ear infection from it… that was weird.
How do you connect with a crowd during a show?
My personal style is not from the David Lee Roth school of connecting with a crowd… there’s not a lot of yelling and “How y’all feelin’ out there?” and all that with me. I try to sound genuine and gregarious when I talk to the crowd, and otherwise, I just try to play the living shit out of the piano. People love to watch someone play the living shit out of something; I’m no different, either, when I’m in the crowd at a show. So I try to connect with the crowd by being affable and relaxed, and then genuinely losing myself in the performance, and that energy tends to reverberate through the whole room.
How does it feel to be playing your last show as a band?
Our last last last show is at the AthFest Main Stage on Friday night. We did a final 40 Watt show a few weeks ago… it was really emotional, also, really really fun. We had a big party at my house afterwards, bonfire, tents, it was really a great sendoff… I think that for me, that was sort of my goodbye to the band. I feel now that I’ve said my condolences and I’m ready to move forward… so Friday will basically just be a big fun last hurrah that I can walk away from free and light. I hope it’s more of a good time and less of a funeral for everyone involved. I’m really proud of what we created and the times we had with our fans over the past ten years, so let’s do it one more time without getting too heady or heavy, you know? It’s a celebration of an awesome band-life in Athens, and I’m just really thankful so many people have wanted and still want to be a part of it with us.
What are your plans post Modern Skirts?
I’ve been touring with another local band, Of Montreal, for the past year, so I’m looking forward to more touring and recording with them in the near future, and I’m also looking into doing other types of stuff, tech work, studio work, etc… Modern Skirts and Of Montreal have both opened a lot of doors for me to do that kind of stuff, and I love the work and have a knack for it, so I hope to be really busy with that kind of stuff in the near future. I’m still interested in writing and recording and working with Jay (our singer), post Modern Skirts, as well… in fact, after we decided to call it a day with the Skirts, I felt like some walls were lifted and suddenly he and I could pursue creative avenues outside of the Skirts headspace, which I find a really exciting prospect.
Catch the FINAL SHOW this Friday June 21 during ATHFEST! The guys will be playing the Pulaski Street Stage at 9 pm.