Athens, Ga.-based Futurebirds released their debut in 2010, gaining critical interest in their “laid-back country-rock with an atmospheric, psychedelic twist.” Currently on tour in support of just-released Baba Yaga, the group (Carter King on guitar, banjo, drums and vocals; Daniel Womack on acoustic guitar, banjo and vocals; Payton Bradford on drums, guitar, banjo and vocals; Thomas Johnson on guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals; Dennis Love on pedal steel; Brannen Miles on bass, banjo and vocals) opens for Band of Horses at the U.S. Cellular Center on Wednesday, May 1. 8 p.m. $40.55 (includes fees).
In advance, King talks to us about why Athens produces great bands, the connection between art and self-determination and what the folkloric character Baba Yaga means to Futurebirds.
Mountain Xpress: Your new album is called Baba Yaga. My mom was really into children’s books, when I was a kid, so I grew up hearing the story about Baba Yaga, who lived in the house on chicken feet. What about the story grabbed your imagination and inspired this album?
Carter King:It’s the two different sides of Baba Yaga that really caught our eye. She’s a destroyer and a redeemer. Perfectly summed up this record for us.
Baba Yaga is coming out on Fat Possum — how did you connect with that label, and what’s your experience been like working with them
We were well aware of Fat Possum. Still not totally sure how they found their way to us, but we are mighty happy they did. So far, it’s been a really great relationship.
Your sound has been described as “psychedelic country,” and psychedelic is really having its moment right now. Why do you think so many listeners are responding to psychedelic music these days?
The word “psychedelic” is used to describe so many different musical styles. I’m not sure exactly what it means to play psychedelic music. The definition of the word is “something pertaining to or causing hallucinations.” So if we are causing people to see and hear things that aren’t really there, then we’re on the right path.
The Futurebirds are based in Athens, which has a really rich musical history. What do you think it is about Athens that produces so many great artists? (I figure you get asked that a lot, but really. Something’s going on in Athens. Vortex? Magic beans? Something in the water?) And how do you think that particular locale has helped to form Futurebirds?
We do get asked that a lot because there is truth to it. Athens is an incredible place to start and be in a band. Lots of creative young folk, dirt cheap to live, great clubs to play. Everyone is really supportive of each other. It’s the perfect storm, I guess.
Stereogum used the term “even-keeled existential crisis” is a review of your music. I think that’s brilliant, but does it hit home for you? Do you feel like you’re tapping into heady self-truths in the act of crafting lyrics or musical composition? Is the connection between art and self-determination/self-realization part of your creative process?
This question we do not get asked a lot. I think producing any kind of art is naturally going to result in some degree of self-realization, even if you are crawling out of your own skin to create it. As far as “heady self-truths” go, I don’t think any of us are shooting to tap into the collective consciousness or anything. In the end, you can only write stuff from your own perspective, even if you are portraying some other space, or even multiple views. They all are filtered through your own line of sight. If that perspective connects with someone else’s somewhere on some level, great.
Photo by Jason Thrasher