New Madrid, from Athens, Georgia, is working hard to become a band without borders.
On the quartet’s latest release, magnetkingmagnetqueen, there is a constant progression into a wide array of sounds, with songs ranging in style from 80’s era garage rock to progressive, ethereal ambient noise. That New Madrid is willing to experiment is undeniable, and that is a trait I admire in a band. Tried and true methods need a regular shot in the arm, and exploration is the only inoculation for stagnation.
With their current mindset, the members of New Madrid won’t be getting stale any time soon.
I recently tracked down New Madrid’s Phil McGill to chat about the new record, being a band from Athens, and music to add fractions by.
BRO – Your hometown has a powerful music legacy. Are there particular challenges or benefits that come with being a band from Athens?
PM – Yes to both. It’s a benefit in that there are so many musical wizards about. Wise, accomplished musicians. And there are a lot of talented, fearlessly creative younger folks as well. There is a good history, with so many incredible records that have been made here, and maybe you can feel that in the air. The challenge may be that you could be playing a show on the same night as some other incredible musician who could be from anywhere in the world, or Georgia, and they are playing next door. Saturation, but that is nice per the consumer. Another challenge is that Athens is still isolated in a lot of respects. There are limitations to its size, but that can be creatively invigorating.
BRO – The sounds on this records, easily, could be described as divergent. Is there a conscious effort on the part of the band to create such disparate sounding tunes, or is it a natural progression?
PM – I think it’s a combination of both. We do try and push boundaries, but we are also refining writing techniques that worked for us in the past. And then, sometimes, a song develops purely on its own, disconnected from all other former pieces. We definitely made a conscious effort to change and grow the sounds. We will continue exploring different ways to do that, as we don’t feel comfortable remaking the same thing, but I think, as we go forward, we won’t be able to help refining a consistent process. I’m not sure. We may just turn into a ranchero band.
BRO – Should I happen to find myself in Athens on a week night, where should I head to recharge my musical boundaries?
PM – Well, chances are you could find a good show at the Georgia Theatre, either on the roof top or in the main room. Then there is The 40 Watt frequently bringing the heat, and the Caledonia Lounge and Go Bar are sure hot spots as well. You usually can’t go wrong in those types of places. Just depends on what kind of charger your musical battery needs. If it is more experimental noise based beautiful grab bag multimedia throbs, go to Go Bar. If you want a smaller room with an incredible sound system and a stage with more space for a band, go to Caledonia. You could see a world class act there any night of the week. And The 40 Watt and Georgia Theatre have reputations that precede them, I believe. They are amazing sanctuaries for music.
BRO – We are featuring “Summer Belles” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
PM – It’s loosely inspired by a show we played in Chattanooga on July 4th a couple of years ago atop a Southern Belle riverboat. It’s a meditation on what the term “southern belle” actually means. Growing up, it always had rather positive implications and connotations. But the reality is that it’s a class that existed almost specifically due to slavery. While many qualities are good and positive – politeness, beauty, etc. – the truth of the term is oppressive in its own right. It’s about hearing the belles of summer ringing in the distance, about a smile being evil or pastels being threatening. I started really thinking about it after playing on a boat with the same name. It’s a limiting model for womanhood.
BRO – My fifth grade math students have been grooving to “Guay Lo” during class recently. Bet you never figured that tune would be a great soundtrack for adding fractions.
PM – That I would have never initially expected, but it does definitely fall within the realm of what our intention was for the song. We wanted it to be a functional piece, a song you can really get lost in and meditate to. You can run to it or drive a car or do fractions. It’s a song that helps you move through time a little more effortlessly. It would be a positive to have at least one song on each album that was proper for adding fractions, more mindless and more of a physical experience. You know you can add fractions well when you don’t have to think about it.
New Madrid’s tour schedule is pretty quiet until June 11th, when the band will take the stage in front of their hometown fans at The 40 Watt. After that, the van points Southwest, with shows in Louisiana and Texas scheduled for later in the month.
For more information on New Madrid, their tour schedule, or how you can snag a copy of magnetkingmagnetqueen, jump on over to the band’s website.
Also, be sure to check out “Summer Belles” on this month’s Trail Mix.
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