The concept of Futurebirds was born and developed in Athens, GA. Still considering it the band’s “hometown”, they often lend credit to the music town for cultivating them in the earlier years. However, perhaps this band should be calling the road their home. Commitment to being on the road to play live music seems to be a domineering theme in the life of a Futurebird. With two years between the release of the last full-length (Baba Yaga) and the release of their new album in September (Hotel Parties), the band was on the road constantly; steadily building their fan base.
All this time spent in a van might have had a play in the theme of Hotel Parties, an album very much about the pitfalls and perks of a life on the road. Though it mocks much of the surrealism that often accompanies commercial success, it’s hard not to recognize some drawbacks of a life as a professional musician.
The lyrics on the new record read a little more personal than past work, opening up with a song about what’s happening at home while the band is out touring (“Paranoia Letters”). Harshly stated lines like, “One night of love, don’t make up for six weeks alone”, serve as a cold reminder that a life left at home often unravels while one is out chasing dreams. Aptly titled “twentyseven” leaves you with the feeling that the band may even be a little road-worn after the confession, “I’m turning twenty-seven soon, I never thought I’d still be shootin’ for the man on the moon.” The fundamental ballads “For You” and “Rodeo” set a similar tone of exasperation.
Hotel Parties is a lot of the same brand of ethereal, psychedelic rock the Futurebirds were laying down before, the kind deeply rooted in country and Southern music. And they are still making those deep pockets of sound, the same ones that house those unconventionally-beautiful harmonies and the sharp slide of pedal steel. However, a more explicit sound emerges on Hotel Parties. The Futurebirds decided to slightly lift the veil of heavily draped reverbs, leaving the album on the lighter side. The result is a more open sound, one with more room for their unpolished, eerie vocals.
The amount of time that it took to get Hotel Parties to audiences is partly due to the fact that the band had to find a label for it; a struggle all too familiar to the Futurebirds. When the band settled on Easy Sound Recording, the contract was for a total of three albums; putting fans at ease and allowing the band to focus on more important things for the next two records. There is bound to be abundant material available for new albums, with almost every member of the band writing songs. Though plenty of songs were at hand, they selected just eleven tracks for Hotel Parties; intentionally optimizing the album for release on vinyl and leaving a trim follow up to the double LP, Baba Yaga.
The Futurebirds seem to thrive off an ability to coalesce the varied songwriting and instrumentation. Though just one person may bring a song to the table, they insist that even the most “complete” song-idea gets reworked on at least some level by all six of them as a band. While they’ve been known to mix up instruments on recordings, for live shows they are typically sporting three harmonizing-guitarists (Thomas Johnson, Carter King, and Daniel Womack), in addition to the crucial pedal steel played by Dennis Love; resulting in what appears to be a carefully orchestrated state of bedlam.
A band with such distinct intonation relies greatly on the parts of the whole to continue to reproduce that signature vibe. So when original drummer Payton Bradford left the band a couple of years ago, finding the right replacement was pivotal. Johnny Lundock already had a history with the band, and so Carter King states that when the band needed a drummer, “Johnny skied on down off the snow capped peaks of Colorado,” to their rescue. Bassist Brannen Miles confirms that he and Lundock share important chemistry while playing. The band also says that there are no plans for anyone else to leave, all agreeing that no one is longing for a life of convention (as opposed to Hotel Parties), thus securing the delicate balance of the band.
Though Hotel Parties is a little more stripped down than the Futurebirds you may have been used to, the intentional manner in which they play live is still as explosive as ever. Their feverish shows have affected a largely grass-roots fan base, fervid in their efforts to keep this bus a-rollin’. Evidentiary to the fact, as this article was being written, Futurebirds’ fans were showing their support by setting up a crowdfunding page to help the band recoup their losses from a break-in their van suffered in Chicago over Halloween weekend. (Please note that the band has not yet reached the goal at this time; for more information and to donate click here.) With such devout fans and the promise of two new albums, the Futurebirds have predicted themselves quite a long road ahead.