Dead Confederate, hailing from Athens, Georgia, stopped by the Bowery Ballroom to open for The Whigs this Saturday March 7th, and shared their own brand of southern hospitality with New York before making their way to down to Austin for South by Southwest.
Before their set, Hardy Morris (singer, guitarist) took a few moments to speak with us at Knocks From the Underground. Hardy and I stood near the intersection of Delancey and Bowery streets at the entrance of the Bowery Ballroom, about an hour before show time. As we settled in, a taxi driver swerved through several lanes of traffic, nearly causing an accident. A chorus of horns blasted right behind us. Morris flinched just a bit, craning his neck around to see what happened.
Knocks: Welcome to New York, Hardy (smiling).
Morris: (Laughs a bit) Thanks, I actually really like it here. It’s good to be in New York.
Knocks: And you guys have been traveling a lot recently, not just New York. You’ve been playing non-stop from what I understand. So what’s next on the tour?
Morris: Well, we’re finishing this leg of the tour with The Whigs, and then we’ll be in Austin for SXSW again. At the and of March we are going to be in Dublin with A Place To Bury Strangers, who I think is from here, but yeah… We’re touring Europe with them. We are excited, and we are really looking forward to it.
Knocks: Speaking of South by Southwest, you guys were picked by REM to open for them last year? How was that?
Morris: That was great, and it made me realize just how true blue those guys really are. We would see some of the guys out at our shows; and yes, they still go out to shows just like normal people. But I think it was after one of the shows when they decided to ask us to open for them. And they are great, so playing with them was a good experience.
Knocks: And why the name “Dead Confederate?” Where did that come from?
Morris: We wanted something dark, and at the same time a name that described our style. We wanted it to incorporate the south, but not certain stereotypes. I think sometimes people get the impression we’re simple and talk like (affects ridiculous southern accent) “Yall…. How’s yall doin’ Yall??” The actual meaning of confederate is member of a brotherhood, or federation. It’s a complex thing, and I think our music and influences represent that pretty well.
Knocks: And how do you describe Dead Confederate’s sound?
Morris: Dark, Southern, psychedelic rock with a bit of Pink Floyd and a little grunge.
Knocks: How has your sound evolved over time to what it is now?
Morris: We used to play these small town shows back in Georgia, where there really wasn’t a music scene to speak of; it was pretty pathetic actually, but we were playing. It wasn’t until after college that we really began to take this seriously, and moved to Atlanta to start Dead Confederate. We released an EP, and then Wrecking Ball last November, and we’ve been touring pretty much non-stop since.
Knocks: What would you say to people who say you sound like Nirvana?
Morris: Well there are a lot of worse bands we could be compared to. Sure, there is some Nirvana in our music, but there is so much more in there. We have so many influences, you know… Nirvana is one of the reasons I first picked up a guitar, but I think people will find these reference points when they describe things, and just run with them. Dead Confederate incorporates a lot of classic rock elements, phychedelia, and southern rock that just cannot be classified by simply “grunge,” or “Nirvana.” So yes, it’s there, but there is a lot more to our sound than that.
Knocks: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Hardy. I hope the rest of the tour goes well, and have a good show tonight. I really look forward to seeing it.
Morris: Yeah, thanks a lot. Take care.
Dead Confederate took the stage at Bowery Ballroom at a quarter to ten, and they wasted no time in impressing the sold out crowd with their unique wall of southern grunge inspired sound. The performance was all about mood and communication between artist and audience, rather than a specific hit song.
Bare floor lighting illuminated the band, and faces in the crowd, with the intimacy of candles, leaving most of the ballroom in darkness and flickering shadow. Morris presided over this atmosphere with his signature lonesome wail.
Dead Confederate’s sound was a hive of buzzing guitar punctuated by the bombastic yet marching drums of Jason Scarboro. Guitarist Walker Howe, an impressive sight onstage at about six and a half feet with a long, pointy beard, occasionally slipped into eerie whale sounds on guitar, reminiscent of Animals era Pink Floyd, as Brantley Senn (bass, vocals) maintained a driving methodical beat into marching cadence. John Watkins (keys, vocals) filled out the textured sound, which literally pounced, snatching the audience by little hairs on the back of their necks, physically pulling them into the show.
The performance at Bowery Ballroom was at once immense and solipsistic; a textured wall which created an introspective aura for the audience, who silently stared as Morris stooped pigeon-toed over the microphone and commanded their attention with his voice. The buzz of murky guitar and grungy southern rock infected the room and at every pause, people moved and cheered as band and audience became locked into one another.
If such a solid performance is what can be expected from Atlanta’s Dead Confederate as an opening band, I am interested to see how they will sound after finishing their expansive tour of back-to-back dates between here and Austin, Dublin, and the rest of Europe. At some point soon they will begin headlining bigger shows, playing larger stages with larger productions. Will they retain this intimate stage presence, which was so accessible at Saturday at the Bowery Ballroom? It may be a good idea to go see them and find out.