Isthmus – Futurebirds Feature
Psychedelic country: Diverse tastes have strengthened Futurebirds’ hybrid sound
by Joshua M. Miller
June 15, 2015
Carter King has heard many descriptions of his band, Futurebirds, but his favorite is that they sound like a “rusty chainsaw dropped in a tropical aquarium.”
Their sound features four-part harmonies over acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitars, banjo, mandolin and rhythmic percussion, all soaked in reverb and feedback. King says having five songwriters with varying tastes and influences has strengthened their work. “The musical pull between us is what we find most interesting,” he says. “If we were all perfectly on the same page, it would get boring.”
The guitarist credits his group’s hometown of Athens, Ga., for the blend of country and psychedelic rock ’n’ roll. “There’s something in the air there,” says King. “We wouldn’t sound the same coming out of any other town.”
Though the six-piece’s music was honed in Athens, Futurebirds’ fan base has been built in recent years through busy touring schedules; the latest includes a visit to the High Noon Saloon on June 19.
Futurebirds have released two full-length albums and two EPs since forming in 2008. Their most recent, Baba Yaga, was released in April 2013; it was recorded in 45 studio days over seven months, with intermittent touring to pay the bills.
King says finding a label took patience. “We want the best for these records. They’re our children. We gave life to them and want them to succeed out there in the world. You have to take the time to make sure it’s right.”
The band’s first three releases came via Autumn Tone, a small record company in Los Angeles. For Baba Yaga, they ended up signing with Oxford, Miss.-based Fat Possum Records, a prominent indie label that was home to blues rock duo the Black Keys’ breakout early 2000s records, Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory.
Futurebirds have recently been working on a new album, tentatively titled Hotel Parties, which they hope to release this fall.
“We’ve become more intentional about what we’re doing on our records,” King says. “That’s due to experience and having the resources to spend more time with the records. In the beginning, we’d find ourselves saying, ‘we’re getting kicked out of [the studio] in a few hours.’ But a lot of gold can come from not overthinking the small stuff.”