Auto Defiance: “We’re going to keep the upbeat dancey direction”

Nashville’s Auto Defiance returns to Asheville on Saturday, Jan. 5. They’ll play a 9 p.m. show at Emerald Lounge with fellow Tennessee bands A Great Disaster and Matt Sanders Band. $5.

The band, fronted by Bradley Boyer, describes its sound as “heavy meets lush instrumentation combined with pensive lyrics …heavy, yet atmospheric songs, which take you on an adventure from high-energy anthems to melodramatic ballads.” In advance of the band’s Asheville show (and their Jan. 15 LP release), Boyer spoke to Xpress (while taking break from hanging up posters) about new wave influences, analog aesthetics and the artistic environs of East Nashville.

Mountain Xpress: Auto Defiance formed in 2008, but you’re only just getting around to putting out your debut full-length, Running on the Edge. Why is that?
Bradley Boyer: We had an EP [Damiana’s Dream] in 2009 and then we released a single [“Heart Attack”] this spring. We’ve just been writing and recording. We record quite a bit. I think that’s the natural progression of things. Even the biggest artists spend several years putting together a record. We wanted to make sure it was the best of the best and we weren’t in a really big hurry to put something out there in a rush.

We’re really proud of this album. Ash [Buehl] sings two songs on the record and the rest is me. It’s a joint collaboration of some of the best of the best of our friends here in Nashville. It’s been pretty rewarding — we had a special guest appearance by Kevin Hornback and Jeff Brown who are the rhythm section for Reeves Gabrels. He lives here in East Nashville, too — he’s been pretty much adopted as a member of The Cure. That’s interesting — that’s pretty much one of my favorite bands in the world!

Your sound takes some cues from the ‘80s and ‘90s. You just mentioned the Cure: are there any bands to whom you try to pay homage?
Yeah, I’d say The Smiths, U2, early post-punk, The Pixies, Jeff Buckley. I pull from so many different walks of life. Those are definitely some of my favorite musicians and songwriters. I like a lot of the music coming out today, but — I don’t know if I’m just a purist; I don’t feel like I’m a music snob by any means — it seems like a lot of that sound and the depth and the overall feel of that music seems to be lost today. I don’t known if it’s because of the digital electronic age: Everyone just wants to push buttons on a computer and make bleepity-bleep music.

I’m all for dance and I like electronica. I grew up on metal. Who knows how I ended up somewhere in the middle of all that. But I’d definitely say The Cure or some of The Smiths would probably be some great influence on me as a songwriter.

Do you record analog? Do you have a strong analog versus digital aesthetic?
In a perfect world I’d love to record analog. We usually track in pro studios, mostly digital. I’ve been working with Sean Giovanni at The Record Shop since we became a band. It’s been an interesting experience with him. This spring I teamed up with mix engineer Jeff Koval who’s done wonders with bringing out the guitar and the cello and making a lot of the instruments really shine. He runs everything back down to two-inch tape and we dump everything analog to get that pure song, that warmth. We do analog on the back end.

There’s also a new wave aesthetic to your sound. In my opinion, even though new wave is 30-plus years old, there’s something about it that still reads as contemporary. Why do you think that is?
I never consider us new wave, but with the new songs coming out, that term’s been thrown around a lot lately. It’s really exciting and an honor because I love that era and that sound. We’re kind of motivated and inspired to draw more form the synthesizer and have that feel. Covering New Order [“Bizarre Love Triangle”] on the album has been a lot of fun.

I went through a period in the last couple of years were most of the sounds were acoustic and slow. Sad love songs. Relationship drama. Really sorrowful. I feel like I got over that and was kind of like, I’ve done that. Those songs are powerful and draw a lot of soul out of you. It’s good to make that statement. But I’ve felt since then, for the last year or so, like going more in the direction of “Heart Attack,” our single. Dancey, happy. It’s more uplifting. Lyrically, you can still have some serious topics, but the music is more accessible. It’s catchy. It sticks with you. I let the guys know in the band, we’re going to keep the upbeat dancey direction, and a little bit more rock ‘n’ roll.

Are you playing the new songs at your shows even though the record isn’t our for a couple more weeks?
Yeah, we’re playing most of the tunes off the record. Some of them we’ve had for awhile and some are new.

Tell me about East Nashville. Does it have a different vibe from the rest of the city?
East Nashville’s kind of landed on the map. It’s always been here, but five or seven years ago it was a more run-down and crummy part of town. It’s really grown in the last couple of years. It’s got a lot of trendy restaurants and just the food alone is getting reviews in New York Times and all these articles. A lot of that is attributed to the young, artistic hipsters. I hate to throw that word around. But anyone who’s not a crazy sports Titans fan or all into the new country scene. The Taylor Swift crowd. Anybody who stays away from the tourism and the country aesthetic. Not that I have anything against country, but there’s a lot of folk, Americana and rock ‘n’ roll. [It’s] Jack White, Jeff the Brotherhood and your ‘60s-revival garage-rock crowd. I moved over here about four years ago and just love it. The rent’s cheap and you can still throw a rock and hit downtown. It’s just across the river.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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