Hi Kurt. Your last album, Silver Mountain was amazing. Was it difficult starting all over on a new record?
No, not really. I pretty much start working on new stuff right away after we’ve released an album. I don’t really wait too long, the songs just come out. We had a lot of time off last some, so that was when the majority of my stuff started popping up. And songs that don’t go on one record, might go on another later on. I just have this steady flow of songs running through me.
When you work like that, gathering songs as you go along, how do you make sure the songs fit together and the album stays focused?
I was actually kind of worried that this record would end up like that, unfocused. Stylistically it was all over the shop, so I didn’t really know how it all would fit together. You finish all the songs and then start worrying about how they might fit together in some sort of order. The concept of this record seemed very unorganised to me, it was going all over the place, and there was a lot of leftovers from Silver Mountain in there. I knew I wanted the song Säo Paulo to be the focus of the record, lyrically and musically, but when we were making the record, there was just too much weird shit happening that wasn’t going to fit together. I’m still not blown away by the way these songs follow one another, but the band and the label seemed happy with it. At some point, I’d like to make a record that I’m actually happy with.
Isn’t that difficult? Most artists strive towards that one perfect album to end them all, but there’s a difference between that and not really being happy with any of your records.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the songs. I enjoy the material and our performances. It’s making the good songs into a good album I find hard. But yeah, I suppose when you make that final perfect album. I just like to chase that carrot a bit.
Do you have a clear idea of how the perfect Deadstring Brothers album would sound like?
Ha. Well, I always think I do, and then I go in and make the record and end up not knowing what the hell I’m doing. But we’re always stressed for time when we record. There’s always a time-issue, so I usually feel like I get short-changed with the amount of time I have to work on a record. That puts me off a bit. There’s always this rush to get it done and turn it in, and then it ends up feeling like a job to me. It happened with this record too. The label needed it turned in. If I had had another four months to work on it, it would have been better I think. But it is what it is, and I think it’s just my own personal critique.
Yeah, and that was my next question. I think it’s a damn fine record – how does the rest of the band react when you feel unsatisfied with your outcome?
They usually think I’m just being hyper-sensitive. Sometimes I might like something that Spencer doesn’t like, and then he might like something that I’m not happy with, and then Travis will say that we’re both crazy and that it sounds great. I guess it’s just one of those things, you know. I keep telling myself that next time I’ll spend more time on the records. I’ll start earlier, spend more time doing demos and try to make it more perfect. Every time I think our albums get a little bit cooler, closer to the zone.
And besides, rock songs usually sound better when they’re played live, don’t they?
Yeah, but we haven’t actually started touring this record yet. It has just been released in the UK and Europe, but won’t be out in the US before the end of January. So these gigs in the UK and Europe will be the first.
Half of the band is British. How does that work for you?
It works great when you can afford it. This year the finances have limited our opportunities and that’s really the only problem. We’ve had some visa issues. Corresponding is so much easier now, and even though being holed up in an environment, working on music together is the best way to do it, it still works for us.
Plus, you don’t become the Don Henley’s and Glenn Frey’s of alt.country when you don’t spend every single minute together, do you?
When you’re on tour, everyone pretty much gets sick of everyone, you know, regardless. We’ve spent months together, almost a full year in 2007, when the guys came over. When you’re with people that much, you get a little tired of it, but I think that happens to everyone. But I understand what you’re saying, but we don’t have those problems.
There’s a lot of stuff that I have been passionate about that doesn’t show up as direct influences. I grew up on country and blues, and that has certainly been an influence on me, but I think there’s only a limited amount of that actually showing up on our records. I’m a huge Gram Parsons fan, but I don’t really see the Gram Parsons connection. People mention it all the time, but I don’t know why. I wish he was more of an influence, cause I love what he did with country music. Our stuff is a lot more rock n’roll, but I guess stuff sneaks through here and there. But I grew up on Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and old blues stuff, but that never gets mentioned. Maybe because we don’t directly sound like it or something.
The Deadstring Brothers’ Säo Paulo is out now on Bloodshot Records. The band is currently touring the UK and Scotland. We highly recommend you visit myspace.com/deadstringbrothers for more info on dates and venues.