On the last leg of the tour supporting their sophomore album Sunswimmer, New Madrid is playing CAMEO this Saturday. Sunswimmer is the quintessential new sound of Southern rock. The album is not too hard hitting, but still has an edge, a little dreamy at times with a touch of drawl. The upbeat, distorted guitar riffs over a steady beat topped with melodic, echoing vocals feel like a drunken Sunday afternoon below the blue Georgia sky.
New Madrid formed in 2010, when most members lived in Tennessee. Finally, the band decided to end the long distance relationship and move in together in a converted barn less than five minutes from their recording studio, joining lead vocalist Phil McGill in the small college town of Athens, Ga. The band felt like it was a better fit for them than “Music City” Nashville, and I couldn’t agree more.
Having gone to school in Athens, I’m no stranger to the thriving music culture there. In fact, the producer for the band’s debut and sophomore albums was one of my college professors, David Barbe. Barbe co-owns Chase Park Transduction studio where he’s left his fingerprints on records for Drive-By Truckers, Deerhunter and R.E.M. He took New Madrid’s Sunswimmer back to basics in the studio with absolutely no ProTools from start to finish. The layered and complex sound is all recorded on to two inch tape and then transferred to half inch for mixing.
I spoke with bassist Ben Hackett over the phone right before his show with What Moon Things in Boston on Tuesday to talk about Sunswimmer.
“This time it was pretty different. We wrote the songs while living together and after on the road. We feel more confident in the sound and had more time to make decisions in the studio,” said Hackett. “This is the first album were we wrote together as a unit.”
When discussing the inspiration behind some of the songs, Hackett said the songs are not so much stories or to be taken literally as they are embodiments of the feeling of a place or idea. Developed collectively from the group as steam of consciousness, the songs became their own sort of environment.
Here’s a track from Sunswimmer to take you there: