Alabama Shakes eager to move on to follow-up album

dmenconi@newsobserver.comSeptember 19, 2013 

  • Details

    Who: Alabama Shakes

    When: 8 p.m. Friday

    Where: Booth Amphitheatre, 8003 Regency Parkway, Cary

    Cost: $30-$40

    Info: 919-462-2025 or

    boothamphitheatre.com

It’s coming up on 18 months since the Alabama Shakes released their debut album, 2012’s “Boys & Girls” (ATO Records). The band is still out touring for it, including a Friday night show in Cary, and you might say they’re just a bit ... well, restless. If you come around the band’s tour bus while they’re here, it’s a lead-pipe cinch that “Boys & Girls” isn’t what you'll hear them listening to.

“By now, I don’t ever listen to those songs and I don’t 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, it’s a struggle to play them correctly night after night. Not that they’re all that difficult, but nailing them every night is still a challenge even after all this time. We’re fortunate to play for some good crowds, which makes it fun. It would be different if we were playing in front of people who didn’t 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 year’s 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.

“We’re working on ’em,” says Fogg. “We’ve had some songs for years that we’ve never done anything with. The last album had some of those. It’s just a matter of getting songs together that feel like they belong together, a nice group. We’ve got a bunch that are all over the map, so we’ll 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, it’s 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, ‘They’re still playing that on the radio, it’s 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?’ That’s my view. Everything’s 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. We’ll never write another ‘Hold On,’ that’s for sure.”

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat

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