The temps are supposed to be dropping again by the weekend. So when we heard several reviewers peg The District Attorneys’ sound as summery and that they were opening for Modern Skirts along with Tedo Stone at The Earl this Saturday Jan. 14, it was easy to warm us up to interrogating lead singer/guitarist Drew Beskin as the first Kool Kat of 2012.
True, the Athens-based quintet only have been around since 2009, but they’ve been turning a lot of heads and getting some rave reviews for their first two EPs. Atlanta Music Guide’s Eileen Tilson even suggested that the seven songs on their debut EP, ORDER FROM (2010), “would easily make them an appropriate opener for The Rolling Stones circa 1963.” As for WAITING ON THE CALM DOWN:THE BASEMENT SESSIONS (2011), Eric Chavez, also in Atlanta Music Guide, effused that “With southern rock riffs mixed in with some dreamy pedal steel and a touch of surfer vibes soaked in reverb, these guys make you want to chillax on the porch with an ice cold Lone Star and reminisce about the good ‘ole days.” The District Attorneys also just finished recording their first full LP produced by Drew Vandenberg (The Whigs, Drive By Truckers, Deerhunter, Futurebirds, Modern Skirts), due out around March. And hey, Drew lists The Replacements, Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths as the band’s biggest influences.
Enough back story already. Download their first two EPs for free here, and while you’re chilling and listening, let Drew fill you in on how the DAs got started, some more 20th century musicians he and the band dig and why you need to come out to The Earl Saturday!
What’s the secret origin story of The District Attorneys and what’s in the name?
The band started when me and Chris (Wilson, drummer) decided to form a band after I graduated and he was still at UGA. After that, we acquired a few friends to play with us until it became the line-up that it is today. The District Attorneys became something real when we discovered Frank Keith IV (bass) who is basically Love Potion #9 in human form and has been the main reason we’ve been able to get cool shows to play on. The band name is a tribute to the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” as well as a love for bands like Interpol and The Police.
Your Facebook page describes your sound as Americana and rock, and reviewers have likened you to California country rock and described your EPs as summer music. How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you and what song should they listen to first?
I would def be confident in my answer if the new record was already out. The first two EPs were just as much about finding out our strengths and weaknesses as well as rushing to get something out there to show people we have our own original material that isn’t awful. I’m cool with the summer music vibe, but I think one of my favorite things about this band is that our songs are starting to get very different with each song. Some are fast and rockin’ 2-minute pop songs and some are like the California summer rock stuff. I think if you check out “California Fire” and “Slowburner” from the most recent EP of demos (WAITING ON THE CALM DOWN: THE BASEMENT SESSIONS), you can hear a big difference in style. I always really liked “Sweetheart All Reckless And Humble” from the first EP as well, which reminds me more of a Cure/Jesus and Mary Chain song than anything else.
Can you name a few 20th century musicians who have been key influences and inspirations for you and the band, and why?
I’ll just mention the first few that come to me…um…I always say The Replacements, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths. I probably say that because I love their guitar tones and how soundtrack-like they sound. I love those bands and I def try to add some of that to our stuff. I will always be obsessed with Elton John and Prince, but I don’t think I have found a good way to showcase those influences in the band…yet.
How do you approach songwriting and select which tunes make it onto your recordings?
I don’t really have a formula for songwriting. It happens differently every time, but I have noticed that it’s usually not the stereotypical sitting down at the keyboard or guitar and writing. I usually come up with something in [my] head or the start of something in my head, and then I bring it to an instrument to accompany whatever new random idea I might have. When bringing new songs to band, I like to play two or three of them at a time and then have the band pick which one they are most eager to add their own ideas to. If it sucks, we can just move on to another one. The new record started out as an 18-song record, but after some options were thrown out, we recorded 14 good songs but ended up ditching two of them because they didn’t fit the vibe we were going for.
The album will be 12 tracks. We are close to deciding what the name of the record will be ,so I don’t want to say just yet. It was produced by Drew Vandenberg at Chase Park Transduction in Athens and will be released hopefully in March, if not a little sooner. We will be releasing it through This is American Music which is a label that houses one of our favorite artists ever, Glossary.
Will we hear any of those new cuts at the Earl on Saturday night?
I’m pretty confident that 97% of the material we play on Saturday will be from the new record. We have been living with these songs for the album for a good while now so we actually are pretty eager to start bringing out some brand new and unrecorded material. But we will try and wait a little bit before we do that.
What else can you tell us about the show and playing alongside the Modern Skirts and Tedo Stone?
The Earl is one of my favorite venues to see shows at. I’ve seen The Tallest Man on Earth, AA Bondy and most recently the Diamond Rugs show [there], which was an eye-opening experience. The venue and all the bands playing this Saturday night will make it a very fulfilling night of music. Modern Skirts are incredible, and we are so excited to share the stage with them. Tedo Stone is a pretty new band with some of the best music I have heard in awhile.
How did you first get into making music? Is this a passion that goes back to when you were a kid?
I always wanted to be a drummer, but I was given a guitar at age 13 because drums would have been too noisy for my rents. At first I just wanted to learn the riffs to “Day Tripper,” “Crazy Train” and “Heartbreaker,” and then I wanted to get all the way through “All Apologies.” After about three years of that, I wanted to start writing my own songs to see what I could come up with.
What did you do musically before the DAs?
Everyone in the band has a colorful musical past, but before The DAs I spent most of my time writing songs by myself, occasionally playing open mic nights in Bloomington, Indiana, when I was at Indiana University. I also played bass for a local art-punk band while I was up there, but mainly I just wanted to work on my songwriting and demo as much as possible.
What do you do when you’re not writing and/or playing music?
We are all working or in school at the moment so whenever we aren’t focusing on The DAs or other musical projects we are busy with that not-so-fun stuff.
We are hoping to get to Austin for SXSW and tour more behind this record and hopefully get it in the ears of many new listeners. We have some exciting local shows coming up and hopefully a CD release gig sometime in the spring. We can’t wait for everyone to hear the record, and then we can’t wait to start working on the next one and any EPs in-between.
What question do you wish a reporter would ask you but they never do? And what is the answer?
Let’s see, no one ever asks me what my favorite John Travolta/Nicolas Cage movie is. It is FACE/OFF (1997). Thanks for asking finally!