By Marcy Pedzwater – Contributing Writer – [email protected]
Futurebirds, an up-and-coming band from Athens, Georgia, played at the Grey Eagle last Friday to play songs off of their sophomore album, Baba Yaga. Mirroring the band’s progression, Baba Yaga debuted in April.
Banjoist, guitarist and vocalist Thomas Johnson described their inspiration for the new album.
“We’re just kind of figuring out how to navigate the murky waters of the music industry,” he said.
The band, an eclectic group of individuals, has come together to make music. With three vocalists each voice had a distinctive sound that could be heard at Friday’s concert.
The band’s five members met in Athens through mutual connections. Bass guitarist Brannen Miles said they formed by being involved in the music community in Athens.
Due to the band’s diverse set of members, they have a unique style. Johnson emphasized their desire to be different and said he likes to think they don’t emulate anyone.
Each of the band members grew up listening to different genres and styles of music. Johnson points to a variety of influences including Motown and even some country.
The tracks from the new album reflect the feelings of the band’s aging members, who said they are noticing the effects of their nontraditional path as they are reaching their mid-twenties.
The lyrics show the band recognizing their lives becoming increasingly different from their peers, who have started to settle down into traditional jobs.
“Songwriting stems from being at a point in life where our lifestyle is getting further and further away from our peers,” Johnson said.
The band’s songwriting process is done mostly by individual members of the band, who then bring an idea or a concept to the rest of the band. Johnson said there is very little structure to the band’s songwriting process. It happens in many different ways and some songs are easy to write.
“Sometimes I’ve sat down and written a song, all the music and all the lyrics in an hour.”
At other times, it is a messier process for the band members. Johnson said some songs took years to write.
“Sometimes I’ve written a guitar part or a chord progression and didn’t finish the song for two years,” he said.
However, he emphasized a certain free-spiritedness to making the music.
“You just have to take it as it comes. If you’re inspired or it’s coming to you, you get that down,” Johnson said.
The name of the Futurebirds’ album comes from Russian folklore. In the legend, Baba Yaga was a witch who lived in a house made of chicken legs. She would provide the protagonist with something essential to his quest, but she would often destroy people’s lives. Johnson said they chose the title because they felt it was a metaphor for the record itself. Johnson emphasized that the album was difficult to make and had the potential to destroy the band, but they had to get through it to get to what they ultimately wanted to do.
The new album has a variety of songs. Dennis Love, a member of the band, says his favorite track from the album is “Virginia Slims” or “Dig.”
“It changes nightly. The songs that you play the least or the songs we’ve just started playing are typically my favorite to play,” Johnson said.
It was harder from Johnson to pick a favorite. According to Johnson, picking a favorite song proves as hard as picking a favorite child.
The band tries to keep a group mindset on and off the road. Johnson says as a group they try to focus on being considerate, selfless and have as much of a group view as possible.
The group has a casual relaxed feel to it. The band members lightly make fun of each other.
“We mainly just talk … about each other behind each other’s backs and wait ‘til it comes to a boiling point and it explodes, and we just hate each other for the rest of our lives,” Johnson joked.
Johnson recognized the stress of being on the road and the strain it puts on the band.
“On some level deep down in there we’re friends,” he said.
After the band’s performance in Asheville, they will continue to tour to gather support for the band. Futurebirds hope to grow and become more successful and widely recognized.
Miles emphasized that they were still waiting for that million dollar deal.