Dead Confederate
On Their Past, Present & Future…
January 2010
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

“Dead Confederate’s hybrid doesn’t just feel like a compelling debut, it feels like a compelling new genre.” THE ONION

“A hairy American Radiohead.” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

“Artist to watch... When they hit full howl, Dead Confederate are the living end.” ROLLING STONE

Like staring down the barrel of a smoking gun, the dusty and crunching songs of Athens, Georgia’s Dead Confederate, sound absolutely huge and will hit you right between the eyes with all the velocity of a speeding bullet!

Friends since high school, Dead Confederate officially formed in 2006, taking their musical cues from the primary colours of alternative rock and grunge – also dipping their toes into country and psychedelia, with a dash of swampy blues. So much so, that the quintet’s – Hardy Morris (vocals / guitar), Brantley Senn (bass), Walker Howle (guitar), John Watkins (keyboards) and Jason Scarboro (drums) – rugged and red-blooded music, could be filed next to the likes of Drive-By Truckers, Kings Of Leon, Soul Asylum, My Morning Jacket and Nirvana. The latter especially, as Hardy’s tense raspy drawl and cavalcade delivery, recalls that unforgettable seared voice of the late great Kurt Cobain, adding further fuel to tunes that are already engulfed in flames.

Their press release elaborates: “It was while being picked up at an airport that former A&R man / Capitol Records boss Gary Gersh – who in signing Sonic Youth and Nirvana to Geffen in the early ‘90s, effectively made underground alternative rock a mainstream concern for the first time – heard Dead Confederate demo’s playing on his friend’s car stereo. A few meetings later and the band were signed to his label The Artist Organization, their self-titled EP following soon after in 2008. Dead Confederate were up and running and haven’t paused for breath since.”

In September of that same year, the group’s dynamo debut album, Wrecking Ball, then received a cache of auspicious praise upon it’s release in the USA, and was once again rubber-stamped with approval by critics in the UK when it was put out over here in late 2009. One of the LP’s standout cuts, which was both a Top 40 US Hit and has since gone onto become a staple of radio, The Rat (a protest song against the religious right), even saw the efflorescing collective performing this immense track live on the popular TV show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

Their press release continues: “The band’s shows carry the torch for all the great hirsute underground freaks of The ‘80s and early ‘90s... yet Dead Confederate are a band that could only have been shaped by The 21st Century. Their wall of sound could be taken as a giant metaphor for modern America itself: simultaneously expansive, emotive, affable, troubled, paranoid, confused, confident, complex and resolutely dark of heart. As their moniker suggests, however, the only flag this band is waving is for themselves and their kind: the freaks, the forgotten, the hard-bitten anti-heroes and the volume junkies.”

So for any readers who have been craving a modern spin on alternative rock, grunge, country, psychedelia and swampy blues, then it’s time to stand to attention and salute the Dead Confederate, as they admirably wave the flag for Southern-fried rock ‘n’ roll. Which with brains + brawn and wanting to step up their game on their sophomore record, looks like it could well take them to the uttermost strata of the food chain! Because with musical artillery that veers between masculine + sensitive, the renegade’s redemptive, darkly brilliant and world-weary songs, offer both jabbing rushes of noise and sedate spiritual equanimity, that will leave you wanting more.

Now back home after being on the road for some time (having supported everyone from A Place To Bury Strangers, to Dinosaur Jr, to the Meat Puppets), I sent lead singer Hardy a Questionnaire to find out more about his inspirations, musical wanderlust and one of my favourite findings from last year…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.Firstly, Happy New Year to you! To begin with, growing up, was there a song that changed your life or that stirred something deep inside of you?
“Heart Of Gold by Neil Young, was the first song I learned on guitar, and I listened to Harvest a lot when I was young. My mom also has a tape of me singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, when I was like 2-years-old. She said I used to sing that song all the time.”

2.As we’ve just entered a new Decade, what for you were some of the most significant things to have happened in The ‘00s – culturally, musically and / or for you personally?
“Musically, I feel it’s been an amazing decade. It's almost too much to take in. I mean the amount of music released in The '00's is pretty much unimaginable. That in itself is pretty significant and of course was a result of the culture changing. The Internet access for musicians and fans, the ability to record at home, free downloading, leaking records, free press, blogs... the list goes on. It’s a completely different ‘business’ now. I think bands and musicians are approaching their careers and even their music in a different way now, because you have to approach it differently. I think it has resulted in some of the most interesting music in quite a while.”

3.I read that both yourself and Brantley write songs for Dead Confederate individually, before then bringing them to the group to work on as a whole, but in terms of songwriting, a lot of musicians talk about “The thrill of the chase” – where they’re constantly trying to write the perfect song. Is this the same for you, and what are the main themes of your lyrics?

“No. We just write what feels right at the time. As far as themes, most of our songs are just based on personal experience and whatever we are dealing with at the time. Some of it is described as dark or whatever, but usually if I'm compelled to write about an experience, it probably wasn't a very happy one. If something good happens to me, I'm like, ‘Let’s go get a beer’.”

4.On a similar note, Bruce Springsteen once said: “The artists people are interested in have something eating at them. Elvis. What was eating at that guy? Why did he have to sing like that and move like that? Jerry Lee Lewis, what was eating at him? What was eating at Hank Williams? Johnny Lydon? Something was. So the idea is: how do you manage that thing that’s eating at you, without letting it eat you? ‘Cause that’s what it wants to do. The thing that’s eating at you, wants to eat you. And so your life is... how do you keep that from happening?” What are your feelings on this statement?
“It's obviously different for every musician and I don't know if I have so much ‘eating’ at me, as I have a drive to create. I don't feel right if I'm not making music for even a short period of time. I feel like I'm wasting my time if I'm not.”

5.If you could ask a musical hero anything, who would it be and what would you ask them + are there any musicians who you wished were still alive and creating?
“Speaking of artists with something ‘eating’ at them, I would ask Buddy Holly what was eating at him. I wish that he could have stayed around. I would love to have seen where he wound up musically. He had that clean-cut image, but he was raw. If he'd have made it through The ‘60s… who knows?”

6.What’s the story behind your name, Dead Confederate, and how did it feel to hold and play your very first pressed record?
“We just wanted a name that sounded like the band sounded. Kind of dark and militant I guess. Getting our first run of vinyl was very cool. That’s how album art is supposed to look: BIG. I guess we're going to get further and further away from that with mp3's and online singles and all. Who knows, maybe we're going to be part of the last ‘album’ generation.”

7.You’ve now toured the UK and Europe – what do you most enjoy about other countries, and what do you most miss about the USA?
“It's amazing over there, because you get treated like actual artists. They feed you and make sure you're taken care of. Not in like a pampering weird way, just hospitable to the musicians. It's a nice retreat from the way it is a lot of places over here, where that stuff almost never happens.”

8.When it comes to music on Dead Confederate’s Tour Bus, which artist / group do you all agree on, and if you were asked to compile a ‘Back To The Bus’ CD, which acts and songs would you include?
“Well, we travel in a van, but I'd have to say that this year we were all big fans of Vic Chesnutt's At the Cut record. We listened to it a lot on our last UK / European Tour and it was just a beautiful album. It's very sad that he's gone. So maybe we should listen to it again next time we're in the van together. Now that he's gone, it will be a whole new experience.”

9.Now that you have toured so much, has the experience of performing live changed for you and what goes through your mind when you are onstage + if you could pair up some of your favourite artists / bands to go on joint co-headline tours, who would you put together?
“I am not as nervous anymore and that allows me to concentrate and get into the songs more. What goes through my mind is, ‘Don't ruin this song’. If I could pair up some of my favourite artists / bands to go on a joint co-headline tour, it would be Sepultura and Taylor Swift.”

10.How do you spend your time away from the band?
“I write and record as much as I can, because I write minimally on the road. On the non-music side, I visit and spend a lot of time with my family and friends of course – it's relaxing and very inspiring.”

11.Would you agree that the Internet has helped to broaden people’s musical tastes, and who have been some of your favourite discoveries that you may otherwise never have heard of?
“Of course. It has simply made so much more music available. I remember several years ago, our drummer Jason and I were looking at this band we like called Federation X's page and we clicked on one of their ‘friends’ called Monotonix. The music was killer riff rock and we saw that they were playing this little DIY venue here in Athens called Secret Squirrel, like a couple weeks later. So we went to the show and of course they have an insane live set and it's become quite notorious now, but we'd have never known back then without the Internet. We'd have had to wait and see their picture in like SPIN or something and then it just wouldn't have been the same.”

12.What was the most valuable lesson that you learnt from writing and recording your debut album?
“Record as much music as possible and pick from there. Don't assume certain things are going to be good and go in with limited material. Not that that was necessarily our situation, we got the album we went in to make, I just wish that we'd have had more songs worked up to record, because we wound up with extra time and you never know... we could've done an EP or something.”

13.A lot of your songs have memorable guitar riffs, but what do you think are some of the greatest riffs of all-time?

“I have this DVD of Black Sabbath in Paris from like 1970 and every single song on it has the greatest riff of all-time. They made that possible somehow. I watched it this morning actually.”

14.Where do you feel Dead Confederate fit into the current music scene, and ideally, what would you most like your contribution to music to be?

“We are just a rock and roll band. Not to dumb it down, we try to keep things interesting and we try to approach each record and even each song very differently, but it is rock and roll at the end of the day. It just happens to be our interpretation of it at the time I guess.
As far as a contribution, we just want to make records.”

15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?
“I don't have much of a sweet-tooth, so I'll take the chips (and beans).”

A very special thanks to Hardy and to Kate @ Division Promotions, for all of their time and help.

“Shoot from the back, take good aim
Make sure I’m dead, bang bang
’Cause I’m a rat, there’s no mistake”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?