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Futurebirds

06dec8:00 pmFuturebirds

Event Details

Futurebirds, Easy Company

“I’m movin’ on,” Daniel Womack sings during the first minute of Easy Company, an album that finds Futurebirds — once the best-kept secret of Athens, GA’s music scene, now a beloved act on a national scale — back in the driver’s seat, speeding together toward some new horizon.

Momentum. Evolution. Expansion. Those are important traits for a critically-acclaimed group that recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary. “When you’ve been a band for as long as we have, there’s a lot of moving on,” says Thomas Johnson. “We just keep going, because that’s how you keep things fresh. That’s how you keep the spark.” By matching the sharply-written songs of three distinct frontmen with a progressive mix of rock & roll, electrified folk, and cosmic American roots music, Futurebirds have built an audience that’s as wide as the band’s own sound. With Easy Company, Futurebirds’ fifth studio album, that sound reaches a new peak.

Featuring four songs apiece from singer/songwriters Womack, Johnson, and Carter King, Easy Company feels like a celebration of the tight-knit bonds that have held Futurebirds aloft since 2008. Back then, the guys were college students at the University of Georgia, building a buzz around town with shows at fraternity houses and local bars. Years later, they’ve become headliners at bucket-list venues like The Ryman and The Fillmore, collaborating with fellow genre benders like My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel along the way. They team up with new partners on Easy Company, which was recorded with producer Brad Cook in the border town of Tornillo, TX. The guest list includes Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, who trades verses with King on the album’s title track, and Drive-By Truckers co-founder Patterson, who delivers a spoken-word monologue during “Soft Drugs.” A brass section even makes a brief appearance. The result is a bold blend of old and new, delivered by a band of brothers who’ve never sounded so invigorated. Easy company, indeed.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to challenge ourselves, always finding new angles to look at this thing we’ve been doing for more than 15 years,” says King. “What hasn’t changed is the core of this band. We still have three songwriters. We still have our original bass player, Brannen Miles. When you come this far together, your walls come down and you realize that these friends know exactly who you are, and you know exactly who they are, and it’s such a relief when everyone can just be themselves. It’s great company to be in, and it’s so much better for the art.”

Futurebirds kickstarted Easy Company‘s creation with a week’s worth of live-in-the-studio performances. For a group of road warriors who’d already logged thousands of hours onstage, this was an opportunity to capture the sheer energy of a Futurebirds show — the same show that prompted Rolling Stone to dub the band “the most captivating rock act touring today” — on tape. “People sometimes see us live and say, ‘It sounds so energetic, big, and full onstage, but some of your earlier records don’t really capture that,’” King explains. “That was something we talked to Brad Cook about. We wanted to find that live magic in the recording studio. We wanted to move fast and stay in the moment.”

The results speak for themselves. Praised by USA Today for “mixing Neil & Crazy Horse with My Morning Jacket” on their previous records, Futurebirds defy comparisons altogether with Easy Company. “Colorados” pays tribute to the Centennial State with sunny vocal harmonies and Kiffy Myers’s searing pedal steel. “Bloom” begins with a solitary acoustic guitar, then gives way to thick, reverb-soaked soundscapes. Drummer Tom Myers take a bow during “Solitaires,” a song driven forward by deep, Deadhead-worthy grooves, while keyboardist Spencer Thomas adds gauzy atmosphere to tracks like “Feel Less Bad.” It’s easy to imagine those songs becoming highlights of the band’s concerts, joining audience favorites like “Trippin’” as setlist staples, but Easy Company wears its studio-album status proudly. It also marks the first time Futurebirds have handed over the reins to an outside producer. Free to focus exclusively on the music itself, they’ve never sounded so dynamic. The loudest moments reach a new peak of big-budget crescendo. The softer moments evoke cozy campfires and front-porch guitar pulls. Brad Cook captures the full range of those performances, but it’s the bandmates themselves who make Easy Company sound, well, easy.

“We’ve never thought of ourselves as one particular kind of band,” says Womack. “That’s important for longevity, because we’re always recreating ourselves and finding ourselves all over again. I don’t think we’re done with that process. We’re always ready for more.”

For Futurebirds, the road goes on forever. Easy Company is the latest stop on a journey that’s still unfolding, winding its own path through American rock & roll, giving Futurebirds and the grassroots community they’ve created — the Birdfam — a new place to land.