Antique Firearms is an amalgamation of tastes, influences and proclivities toward experimentation, but there are also certain consistencies that serve as a foundation to the sound. There’s a moody, atmospheric quality — kind of Mazzy Star and kind of Sparklehorse — and a velvety lushness that underscores each song on the band’s self-titled full-length, whether the tempo is a waltz (“Something’s Wrong”) or a languid rocker (“Crooked Grin”).
And then there’s lead singer Bradan Dotson’s voice; a rangy rasp that, he tells Xpress, initially developed as a response to the vocalists he likes. These days, that delivery (“the voice,” as the band members call it, as if it’s an entity unto itself) comes without effort. Dotson owns it now — a breathless, sometimes quivering intonation that’s as much the melody as the accent to Antique Firearms’ instantly recognizable (if genre-inspecific) soundscapes.
“One of the things I said from the very beginning was that I don’t want to get locked into a sound,” says lead guitarist Parker Dotson. He numbers Beck, My Morning Jacket and bands that “are constantly transforming” among this group’s inspirations, allowing for a wide palette from which to draw.
Also informing the sound is the close relationship of the band’s members — three brothers and two brothers-from-another-mother. Parker (the youngest Dotson) and Bradan conceived of the band while Parker was finishing out a semester abroad and Bradan was visiting him in the Netherlands. Bradan split with his Raleigh-based project, Whiskey Kills the Butterflies, and moved to Asheville (the Dotson clan grew up in Fuquay-Varina, N.C.) where he and Parker began writing Antique Firearms’ first EP, Empty Frames. They recorded that album in a single day, in a hip-hop studio with producers Prophet and W2 (Will Worthington).
Soon, brother Galen joined the band on keys, followed by Bradan’s best friend since high school, Chandler Brewer, who relocated from Charleston and learned to play bass to be part of Antique Firearms. Brewer, say the Dotsons, might as well be a brother, and the band’s newest member, drummer Dave Breske, has already earned honorary Dotson sib status — all of which amounts to great musical chemistry. (A testament: A mere eight months since their Asheville debut, Antique Firearms plays the Orange Peel as part of a local showcase this weekend.) It also leads to a lot of arguing.
“If we give each other shit, we’ve been doing it our whole lives,” says Bradan. “For us, there’s always a push and pull.” He credits Antique Firearms’ sound to that dynamic, along with the absolute comfort that the group has with each other.
“A song doesn’t see daylight until we all feel good about it,” says Bradan. Which means something along the lines of consensus (they may not all agree on slow-and-melodic versus upbeat-and-dance-y, but they aim for a balance of contemplative and booty-shaking numbers that still make sense with the band’s overall aesthetic).
“We have two songs we aren’t going to play anymore because we decided they don’t fit with where we’re going,” says Parker.
Where they’re headed, sound-wise, will soon be revealed: A sophomore full-length is currently in the works and due this summer. The brothers Dotson agree that their combined writing process is organic and open to a variety of genres including blues-rock, reggae and even electronic — the forthcoming album will involve some electronic beats. Remember, they were originally recorded by hip-hop producers and both Parker and Bradan have side projects with W2, a potential future Antique Firearms member. (Parker is in electronic/hip-hop collaboration East Coast Trade Company, which opens for Brewer’s quirk-rock side-project, Shorty Can’t Eat Books, at the Altamont Brewery on July 7; Bradan is in hip-hop/rock outfit The Space Program.)
But don’t expect hip-hop attire at an Antique Firearms show: The quintet parlays its slightly spooky musical aesthetic to the stage, adding lamps (”if it was up to me, we’d have chandeliers,” says Bradan) to their set for an intimate, living-room feel and sharply cut suits. Early in the band’s incarnation, preparing for a show at MoDaddy’s, “I was like, I’m going to wear a suit,” says Brewer.
“We were like, let’s all wear suits,” says Parker.
And they couldn’t backtrack from that point, says Bradan. The suits, along with stylized posters, band photos and an in-process video (all created in-house) lend a deliberate aura to all things Antique Firearms, marking the band’s arrival on the local music scene.
— Alli Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: Antique Firearms, Red Honey and Hermit Kings
where: The Orange Peel
when: Friday, June 22 (9 p.m., all ages. $5. http://theorangepeel.net)