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Having already laid down the gauntlet to all other alt-rock bands out there with their superlative self-titled new album, we were dying to have a chat with Augustines and find out more about the record. The band have recently made a video available which talks about how 'Augustines' came into being, and you can watch that below. What's even better is that Eric Sanderson from the band took some time out to answer a few of our questions.
TSOC: Thanks for taking the time to answer these few questions. With 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships' there was a sense of the cathartic, putting ghosts to rest. The new album has a near celebratory air of freedom, of moving forward to it. Also you have dropped your prefix. Is this all a conscious act of closure and beginning, or more a case of uplifting happenstance?
ES: During the creation of 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships' Billy and I lived through many tragic experiences. But we are not tragic people. We dedicated our lives to overcoming the situation we were in. When we met Rob, and truly became a band, it was the music and the people that supported us that gave us the fuel to truly move forward. This record, like ever record we have made, expresses the lives we live. You can never say, "I'm going to make this record or that record", so it's not conscious in that sense. But there is incredible intention.
TSOC: I have been lucky enough to catch you guys live a couple of times - both times on a boat here in Bristol. In that setting you have the ability to connect with the crowd in a near transcendent sense. I have only felt that intimacy and shared oneness with a handful of other bands, notably with Pearl Jam. You have managed to capture that sense with some of the tracks on the new album such as 'Cruel City' and 'Nothing To Lose But Your Head'. Did you approach these songs with that in mind? With a focus on how they will work live?
ES: We toured 'Rise...' for close to two years, played over 250 shows and visited over 20 countries. Our understanding of how music should be, how life should be, completely changed during that time. After the last show we took two weeks off before heading to the studio to start 'Augustines'. We didn't want to lose the connection we had with the stage. That meant everything to us.
TSOC: To me there are many nods to the great touchstones of the '80s on the new album. A 'Graceland' rhythm to 'Cruel City'. 'Don't You look Back' - The Replacements and Petty. Even Pete Townshend's solo output. What were you listening to when writing the album? Are these influences? Do you think that time in music is unfairly judged?
ES: We listen to literally everything. We've been loving and studying music our entire lives. Every generation of sound has so much to offer. You have a very keen ear because all of those bands have affected our lives during various stages. And all of them are DJ'd regularly on tour.
TSOC: Travel and places seems to inform much of your music. 'Juarez' grew to be one of my favourite songs off 'Rise...'. You toured extensively leading up to this album. How much did that shape this album? Have bearing on the writing? Do you write wherever you are? Or do it in focused bursts to have more coherent flow to the new songs? Is your writing process a communal venture, or do you all bring songs in to the others? What else influences you as writers?
ES: A friend of mine that is an artist in New York recently did an exhibition in Berlin titled 'The Gathering Field and the Perch'. The piece documents and examines how people create. Where the impulse come from. We have all travelled all of our lives, especially during the last three years. During that time we gather every experience we live, we seek out inspiration, and collect. Then, as every artist does, there is the time to reflect. We perched up in an isolated church in snow-laden upstate New York. There we exacted the feelings we had collected. We all bring our experiences to the table. Bill is the primary writer, but every person in the band specializes with different talents. I love the quote "if you want to go somewhere fast go alone, if you want to go somewhere far go as a group".
TSOC: 'Augustines' has a feeling of greater confidence, a surety in its writing. Such as 'Walkabout', whose scope and depth is quite breathtaking. Did the success of 'Rise...' aid this? Or is it just experience and time allowing greater mastery of your craft?
ES: Yes and yes. We are a few years older and a few years wiser than when we started 'Rise...'. They say if you want to build a building it can only go as high as its foundation is strong. As humans our foundation is humility. I believe 'Rise...' gave us strength in ways we never could have imagined.
TSOC: There is very much a sense that you approach albums as conceptual entities, and consequently they are journeys, diaries, experiences to immerse into. Rather than a batch of strong singles then some filler at the album's end. How important is it to deliver a complete body of work? Did you feel a pressure to make the album from outside sources?
ES: Our music has always been an extension of our lives. We have not yet sat down and said we are going to make a record about this, but we are always exploring if there is a theme to the life we are living. When we finished touring 'Rise...', Billy birthed the term "Now You Are Free". I cried because it hit me so hard. Freedom is incredibly powerful and is equally frightening. We have a very trusting relationship with the people we work with. Votiv believes in us. Though they desperately wanted to hear the songs we were working on, they gave us the freedom to make what we needed to make. I have great respect for that.
TSOC: Towards the end of the touring for the last album you started to play larger theatres, bigger stages. Of course you want to play to as many poeple as possible. If you had the chance to step up and play the larger places, would you worry about losing that sense of intimacy? Would you attempt to have a "show" or keep it organic? There are some bands who seem to choose two nights in the same city rather than an arena. The Gaslight Anthem did this last year. What do you think would work for you? Do you think that you can still have the same live experience with a larger crowd? Who do you think manages this?
ES: We have never had a hard time preserving intimacy in larger venues. I've often thought why that was the case. I don't mean to sound arrogant. In Pela we played the club scene for years, then one day we played our first outdoor festival. I remember being on stage looking out to all of those people. For a brief moment I felt the grandeur of the experience and froze. Then, literally in seconds, that feeling went away. I realized that whether I was playing music for people in my apartment or for a main stage festival, it's all the same. Sure, on big stages you have to make large and slow gestures, small movements get lost, but the essence of it is the same. I believe we are moving towards a place where we have an organic show. It has taken so much energy and preparation to get this record ready for the stage. We care deeply about doing the best work we can. That is the show aspect. But music isn't about being on a pedestal, it's about sharing an experience with others. That is why we are musicians. That is what we are living for. Being in the moment, sharing this life we are living, that will always be what we do on stage.
TSOC: Over the last couple of years you've played with some great bands. Did anyone stand out for you? Did you take any little things away from touring with them?
ES: We all really appreciated Charles Bradley and Bon Iver. Bon Iver's show was nearly perfect. Every aspect had been fine-tuned and thought out. Incredible intention. Charles Bradley brought more heart and life experience to the stage than any performer I have ever seen. He completely modified the songs for the crowd, you could literally "feel" every word he sang and every note the band played. It's a powerful experience to feel the hearts of 8000 people.
TSOC: Are there any new bands you'd recommend us to check out?
ES: We are taking My Goodness out on tour with us in the States. There are so many bands out there nowadays, many of them know the way to look, or what instruments to play, but so many of them miss the heart. My Goodness are making music for the right reasons, because they have to.
TSOC: And to our final question. You are headlining your own festival. You can pick five other bands/artists to play with you, alive, dead etc. Who would you choose?
ES: Could we morph society at the same time as time jumping through bands? If that's the case I would say Charles Bradley, Manu Chao, Duke Ellington, Martin Luther King, you can also throw in Anthony and the Johnsons, and Elliot Smith.
TSOC: That's technically six, but as Martin Luther King would presumably be giving a talk - or being the coolest ever compère, we'll let you off!
Buy the album
Catch them live:
11 FEB 2014 West Hollywood, CA, The Troubadour
13 FEB 2014 San Diego, CA, Soda Bar
15 FEB 2014 Phoenix, AZ, Crescent Ballroom
17 FEB 2014 Houston, TX, House of Blues Bronze Peacock
18 FEB 2014 Austin, TX, Stubb's Bar-B-Q
19 FEB 2014 Dallas, TX, House of Blues Cambridge Room
21 FEB 2014 New Orleans, LA, Parish at House of Blues
22 FEB 2014 Atlanta, GA, The Masquerade
23 FEB 2014 Nashville, TN, Mercy Lounge
25 FEB 2014 Durham, NC, Motorco
26 FEB 2014 Washington, DC, U Street Music Hall
28 FEB 2014 Philadelphia, PA, Boot & Saddle
03 MAR 2014 New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom
05 MAR 2014 Boston, MA, Brighton Music Hall
06 MAR 2014 Providence, RI Fete Lounge
07 MAR 2014 Rochester, NY, The Club at Water Street
09 MAR 2014 Montreal, Canada, Belmont
11 MAR 2014 Toronto, Canada, The Garrison
12 MAR 2014 Ann Arbor, MI, Blind Pig
14 MAR 2014 Cleveland Heights, OH, Grog Shop
15 MAR 2014 Chicago, IL, Lincoln Hall
17 MAR 2014 Minneapolis, MN, 7th Street Entry
18 MAR 2014 St. Louis, MO, Firebird
19 MAR 2014 Kansas City, MO, Riot Room
21 MAR 2014 Denver, CO, Larimer Lounge
22 MAR 2014 Salt Lake City, UT, Club Sound
APR 10 2014 COCKPIT, LEEDS, WEST YORKSHIRE
APR 11 2014 THE ARCHES, GLASGOW
APR 12 2014 THE SAGE 2, GATESHEAD, NEWCASTLE
APR 14 2014 KOKO, LONDON
APR 16 2014 MANCHESTER ACADEMY 2, MANCHESTER
APR 17 2014 TRINITY CENTRE, BRISTOL, AVON
MAY 10 2014 PLUG, SHEFFIELD, SOUTH YORKSHIRE
MAY 11 2014 RESCUE ROOMS, NOTTINGHAM, NOTTS
MAY 12 2014 O2 ACADEMY OXFORD, OXFORD
MAY 14 2014 EAST VILLAGE ARTS CLUB, LIVERPOOL
MAY 15 2014 THE LIQUID ROOM, EDINBURGH, MIDLOTHIAN
MAY 16 2014 THE INSTITUTE, BIRMINGHAM
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