In an age when the majority of buzz bands come our way armed with a bucketful of hype, the success of Alabama Shakes has been a breath of fresh, if old fashioned, air. Formed in Athens three years ago, the four piece toured, released an EP and toured some more before catching the world’s attention with the song ‘Hold On’. With debut album Boys & Girls under their belt and two sold out Irish shows this weekend, State spoke to guitarist Heath Fogg…
Now the album’s been released, does it feel that everything’s moved up a gear?
Yeah, it feels kind of crazy right now looking at our schedule for the next couple of months. It’s pretty chaotic but it’ll all be fine, that’s for sure. It’s exciting. We’re new to touring at this level, before we were more of a weekend warrior band. It was about getting home to work for the week and then go and play on the weekend. Now we’re getting to do something we love every day and go places and meet people. At the same time it can be hard. When we were at SxSW my girlfriend was about to have surgery and I couldn’t get back when I needed to. You have to learn how to deal with that.
Having grown as a band so organically, is it hard to adapt to these new circumstances?
We’re asking a bunch of questions right now. It seems we lost control of this little project we created at some point and we’re trying to regain that. You have to put things in other people’s hands and you got to have faith in people on your team. They know more about this business than we do because we know nothing. Every day I feel like I know less and less.
Was there a point when it became clear how big you’d become?
There was a show we played in Milwaukee that we sold out. We thought there’d be about 500 people but it was this beautiful lavish theatre, the stage was huge and we didn’t have our own sound guy. We really felt out of our element on that one so we were nervous and excited.
As a band you seem to strike a balance between the old and new way of doing things, such as releasing Boys & Girls on vinyl with a digital download code…
In a sense, especially when it came to recording. We just wanted to make it the way a lot of our favourite records sounded. There’s also a lot of current bands that we love and we wanted to incorporate bits of that. We’re not anti-digital recording, I just think that for a band like us analogue was the best way to go. It’s great to have our record on vinyl, I’ve always had records. The big US retailers are starting to stock vinyl again, I got the Prodigy the other day.
Do you have your own album on vinyl?
Well I got one copy and we put it on and both sides were of side 2 do we had a problem. It had to go back to the manufacturer so I haven’t got my real copy yet.
Southern music appears to have moved a long way from the days of Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd?
There are so many bands drawing on so many different influences. Some take from the southern rock of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but there are also punk and electronic acts all from the state of Alabama. There’s a lot of southern influence in our music but I’m also a huge Rolling Stones fan. They had some of the twangiest guitar licks I’d ever heard.
The sense of community is strong…
There’s something special, all the bands playing original music seem to support each other. It’s like an underdog mentality. Everyone wants to see someone come from here and do well. Drive-By Truckers are a prime example of that, they’re heroes to everybody in our music community.
Is it the same kind of mentality that you’d find in cities such as Montreal and Seattle?
Being from a small town you can’t just find a guitar player to be in a garage soul band, you have to work with what you have. Everybody’s just friends, that’s how groups start round here. In New York or LA I imagine it’d be easier to pick a scene but in our band we’re all extremely different in our influences. It’s about finding a common thread and narrowing it down enough to make a record. You have to be patient and wait for the right band to come along.
Alabama Shakes play Academy 2 in Dublin (Sat 5th) and Kilkenny Roots Festival (Sun 6th)