When bands from the South are mentioned, the idea of Southern rock usually isn't far behind in the descriptive statement. But there are groups that break from the stereotypical mold — and they usually find a home in Athens, Ga. There must be something in the water there ...
The latest rock band to find solid footing on the indie side of the tracks is Dead Confederate — a quartet that finds an element of Southern drawl in harmony with a voice much like Kurt Cobain's, if Nirvana had slowed things down. It's no surprise that the band's name is also a reference to killing the stereotype.
"My original thought — I didn't think of it being that Southern of a name," singer/guitarist Hardy Morris says from a tour stop in Arizona. "I was thinking of Confederate as being in a military sense. There's a confederacy in Star Wars. Of course, us being from the South they go right to the Civil War. I wanted something kind of dark and militant-sounding. There was also a tongue-in-cheek vision of not being stereotypical Southern rock."
While the band's debut full-length album, Wrecking Ball, had a dark side, the band's latest release, Sugar, has a happier side. Not happy, just happier. It also mixes up the band's sound more — something that Morris hopes will show growth and not just change.
Calling Athens, Ga., its home may have had more of an impact on the band's music than members may have expected. Though originally from Augusta, Ga., the band lived briefly in Atlanta before relocating to the smaller town. Known for its music scene and variety, Morris says the town was the right fit — he lived there to attend the University of Georgia, and it's also a cheap place to live.
It helps that there's also an incredibly supportive music scene that allowed the band to develop its sound and find influence in every corner.
"There are so many sounds there — Drive-By Truckers, The Whigs, Of Montreal," Morris says. "None of them sound the same. People are always trying to do something different. Nobody's doing the same thing because they'd get laughed at. There's not a metal scene, or a rock scene — there's just a music scene."
Sugar may parallel that thought as no two songs on the album sound the same. This is in part done via the band's dual-headed system of writing — both Morris and bassist Brantley Senn write songs without collaborating.
"We've got some stuff we're working on together now, but in the past we'd write on our own and bring it in to the band for everyone to learn," Morris says. "I don't write songs with other people in the room, and I don't think many people do. For me, it takes being alone to really pull it off. We have talked about working together on some newer stuff and putting some chords together. Two heads are better than one at a certain point."
While the album offers a good bit of variety, the band's signature sound remains intact — and Morris enjoys the mixtape feel of the results. "It's not one big genre exercise," he says. "There was a little bit of apprehension in the beginning stages because we were thinking the record would sound nothing like our last record. Then it was like, 'Who gives a shit?' It's our band, it's our album, it's our songs. We can put whatever we want on there. It keeps us on our toes and our listeners on their toes.
"We didn't want it to sound like a big change and like we're a different band. I wanted it to show growth and development. It's not like we don't like our first album ... we just didn't want to do the same thing again."