Being a band from Athens has its perks and curses — the town’s past lends a band some credibility while also bringing it up for constant comparison.
Six years ago when the Futurebirds started out, its sturdy debut EP had people hearing echoes of Elephant 6 stalwarts Olivia Tremor Control. And that was great, except the band – comprised of University of Georgia students with a varying array of musical backgrounds – didn’t know too much about Olivia Tremor Control.
“I knew a little bit about them being an Athens resident, you kind of have to, but I didn’t really do a bunch of investigating until after we heard all that comparison stuff,” lead singer Carter King said at the time. “People go ‘you sound like these bands,’ but I haven’t really listened to those bands. I guess Athens just has that kind of feel.”
Flash forward a half-dozen years later and the Futurebirds, slated to headline Thursday night at the Georgia Theatre, has achieved a status every band wishes to reach – they sound like themselves. Through years of touring, recording and refining its sound, the band is poised for an extensive tour, and King took time to talk about what the band has learned along the way.
Looking back six years ago, did you think you’d be where you are now as a band?
CK: No I didn’t, I can’t say I had all that much foresight about what was going to happen with the band at all. I’m happy we’re here and we’ve still got a lot of other places to go.
What is one of the more valuable lessons you learned?
CK: Oh man, well the one I thing that we constantly have to deal with – and it’s an everlasting struggle – is to be patient with a lot of stuff. It’s really easy to get super anxious. You can get ahead of yourself and sometimes that ends up hurting us more than helping us. One that is the constant struggle is gaining patience, 100 percent.
What’s interesting about your band is you have a lot of individuals who contribute plenty to the band. How does that patience work for you in determining how to become a band?
CK: If you live in those tight quarters with anyone – you’ve probably never lived with your closest family members in a 5x5x15 foot tin box – you really have to learn to be patient with everyone on a personal level. But as far as the creation of music, on the patience side it’s a team effort to be on the same page but really that’s where we see something unique that we have. We do have six individuals that come from a different background musically so we try and find that middle ground between all of us to create a sound we all like … that’s not boring to anyone of us.
Your sound is difficult to define because it is a mix of so many things. Is there a musical influence you have that people are surprised when you tell them about it?
CK: Collectively we find ourselves listening to ’80s and ’90s pop and country, but I don’t think that would surprise anyone too much. But the stuff we listen to is all over the board. It’s hard to say what actually ends up in our music. I feel like influences are, more often than not, a subconscious thing than a determined thing. Going down the road in creating a song, when it’s all said and done you’ll go, “Oh s-t, I was totally ripping off” whatever it was. So we try not to be too assertive with our influences. We don’t go into the studio and say, “We want this song to sound like this band or that band.” We just try as much as possible to let it be, let it come naturally.
I do think one of your influences is the town of Athens; it just seems from the mix of sounds in town, you’ve taken something from that.
CK: Absolutely, 1,000 percent. We kind of live all spread out now, but when people ask us where we’re from, we tell them Athens is our home. It has a lot to do with the sound of the band – that’s where the band was born and where we developed. You can’t get through any interview without talking about Athens, and we like it that way. We have a lot that we owe to the town of Athens.
Let me ask about the most recent album; from what I’ve read it was a long struggle to make it, but from all that toil, something great came out. Can you tell me a bit about the making of “Baba Yaga?”
CK: The making of it did take a while. We kept going back into the studio between tours – we’d make money to pay for a couple more weeks in the studio to track more stuff and edit up more stuff – but that part wasn’t so difficult, it was actually awesome. The difficult part of it came when you have to deal with the underside of things, which is the business side, coming back into the real world to see where the album will live and see the light of day. That was the part that became wrapped up in our little nightmare and that was one of those huge occasions where you learn the value of patience.
This album sounds like you do live. Was there any aspect of that while you were doing the album that you were putting a live show on tape?
CK: I think it does come off like that a bit, but that comes ultimately from the fact when we went in to record that record we’ve been playing together so much as a unit. When we made the records before we hadn’t had the extensive touring history that we did when we recorded “Baba Yaga.” Like I said, it was recorded between tours and when we had time off and it came very much from the core of us playing together – working as a band.
How do you guys prepare for the tour, or does it seem like you’ve been on tour for six years?
CK: (Laughs) Yeah, it just seems like another day. We’ve actually been off tour for the last couple of months, but we’re excited to get back at it. We’ve actually finished recording a new record and we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to get that one out, so I think everyone is really recharged and energized. I feel a weight lifted and I’m excited. A tour is not a dreadful thing for me at all.