Its coming up on 18 months since the Alabama Shakes released their debut album, 2012s Boys & Girls (ATO Records). The band is still out touring for it, including a Friday night show in Cary, and you might say theyre just a bit ... well, restless. If you come around the bands tour bus while theyre here, its a lead-pipe cinch that Boys & Girls isnt what you'll hear them listening to.
By now, I dont ever listen to those songs and I dont care to hear em anymore, says guitarist Heath Fogg, calling from a rare day off at home in Athens, Ala. But I still enjoy playing them. For me, its a struggle to play them correctly night after night. Not that theyre all that difficult, but nailing them every night is still a challenge even after all this time. Were fortunate to play for some good crowds, which makes it fun. It would be different if we were playing in front of people who didnt want to hear us; that would be negative. But the last year and a half has been very positive.
Indeed it has. The Shakes were one of last years most appealing and least likely breakthrough stories a young quartet from small-town Alabama playing swampy blues-rock with a powerful-voiced frontwoman. But despite the obvious appeal of singer/guitarist Brittany Howard, the Shakes seemed destined for life on the bar-band circuit until they picked up the endorsement of several influential fans, Jack White and Drive-By Truckers Patterson Hood.
A few well-received opening-act slots brought the buzz up to full volume, which paid off when Boys & Girls was released. The album's lead-off track, Hold On, was a hit on radio and pushed the album into the top 10. Along with three Grammy nominations, the album also picked up a gold record.
Time for new music
All of which was great, but now come the inevitable followup pressures. After this last round of touring winds down, the Shakes will spend most of the fall working on songs for the next record.
Were working on em, says Fogg. Weve had some songs for years that weve never done anything with. The last album had some of those. Its just a matter of getting songs together that feel like they belong together, a nice group. Weve got a bunch that are all over the map, so well try to narrow it down and keep on writing. Possibly talk about co-producers, things like that. We have some time off this fall and the plan is to try out different studios and engineers to see what happens.
Of course, a fast rise often leads to an even faster fall, a dynamic that makes the Shakes just that much more eager to get on to the next thing.
The way music is today, its become a disposable medium of entertainment, Fogg says with a sigh. You hear something on the radio and love it at first, until you get sick of it. Hold On fell into that category. We were just in the Netherlands and the label rep was saying, Theyre still playing that on the radio, its still strong. And I wanted to ask, Why not just go on to the next single and let it die peacefully rather than beating it to death? Thats my view. Everythings disposable and people turn their backs as quickly as they latch on. We never anticipated this happening and it would be unrealistic to expect that again. So our focus is on the future and making music that we love, with every song a little bit different. Well never write another Hold On, thats for sure.
Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat