Big Bill Broonzy. Marty Stuart, Chris LeDoux, Jimmie Rodgers, and Tammy Wynette. B.B. King, Son House, Junior Kimbrough, and Hound Dog Taylor.
Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll . . . .
I have taken some good natured ribbing in my day about my home state, but I’ll tell you this here and now; few states in the Union can rival the musical pedigree of Mississippi. The native sons and daughters of the Magnolia State read like a who’s who of the blues and country music, and that list above only scratches the surface.
Heck, I can even claim Lance Bass, Afroman, and Britney Spears as fellow Mississippians.
Now you can add The Weeks to the list of great bands and musicians that hail from Mississippi. Though they have been making music together for over ten years – having been playing together since they were in their teens – last week’s release of their newest record, Easy, only recently brought them across my radar.
And I’m glad I have made their musical acquaintance. Their sound bridges the gap between gritty Southern garage rock and the early nineties grunge of my college days and rolls easy on my ears.
I recently caught up with guitarist Sam Williams to chat about the new record, making music easy, and Mississippi musical heroes.
BRO – You titled the new record Easy, a nod towards the comfort level the band shares when making music together. That’s a far cry better than Total Drag or Pure Drudgery, right?
SW – Yup! After ten years of making music together, communication becomes paramount. We’ve been fortunate enough to know all along that communication is something you have to work on every single day in a working relationship. We’ve seen a lot of bands go down because they’re unwilling to discuss stressful or problematic stuff, but that, along with all the other potentially devastating moments of being in a band, have always been answered with a simple “easy” from us. It also stems from the increasingly absent bravado in rock and roll lately. If you don’t think that your band is the beast band, you’re doing it wrong.
BRO – Do you have a secret for making the making of music easy?
SW – With this record, we spent an entire summer having slumber parties and getting back to our high school days of grilling out with a bottle of whiskey and a fat bag of doja. No expectations, no limits, no reservations. We put together a really tight calendar that lasted about three months that was just organized chaos. We took out the time limits and the idea of What’s the single, though? and that helped immensely. Not shooting for a certain style or putting restrictions on a song before it’s created is really important. You have to let the song steer itself. If you try to get ahead of it, it usually falls short of your expectations. Finding the right people to make music with is huge, too, obviously. When you put four like minded folks in a room for a decade, things get exponentially easier.
BRO – We are featuring “Ike” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
SW – It goes back to the idea of watching a lot of great bands fall apart along the way. It’s always about just moving forward and taking what you’ve learned with you. Never get comfortable. Comfort is the gateway drug to complacency. “Too much time and too much talkin’,” man.
BRO – You recorded the new record at Ardent Studios in Memphis. Could you feel the vibes from this historic studio creeping into your sessions?
SW – It was unreal to be in a room that created so many iconic records for us. To think that the organ on the record is actually Booker T’s organ from Green Onions . . . . That’s insane! To have Jody Stephens, the drummer from Big Star, pop his head in and check on you? It was surreal. ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres, The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me . . . the list is endless. It’s unfortunate so many bands are steering towards home studios when places like this are still around. People have this mindset that studios with that kind of history are out of their price range when, really, they’re right on par with their buddy’s place. The soul of Ardent Studios permeates every recording that leaves there and we feel really fortunate and grateful to have it be a part of Easy.
BRO – Favorite musical hero from Mississippi?
SW – For us, it’d have to be Luther Dickinson. Watching what he and his brother Cody have done over the last twenty years with The North Mississippi All Stars is a big part of our blueprint. We’ve been watching them since we were wee tots and getting to tour with them and become friends with them, and seeing how the create and live their lives, has been really helpful and influential to us. They embody the spirit of Mississippi to a T.
You can find The Weeks throughout the Southeast over the coming weeks, with dates in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Mississippi all scheduled. For more information on the band, how you can grab a copy of Easy, or when The Weeks will take to a stage near you, surf over to their website.
Be sure to check out “Ike,” along with tracks from Craig Finn, Orchestra Baobab, That One Eyed Kid, and more on this month’s Trail Mix.