Interview: Dead Confederate, Playing Tonight at the Bluebird

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The day is finally here: Dead Confederate is headlining the Bluebird tonight, with openers Catfish Haven, Lovelikefire and Jon Hardy and the Public. Here's an interview Shae Moseley conducted with bassist/vocalist Brantley Senn.

MP3: Dead Confederate, "Yer Circus" (home demo)

Shae Moseley: I saw your show at SXSW opening for R.E.M. and it was my favorite show of the weekend. I think you’re fairly new to a lot of people. How did you form and where did the band’s sound evolve over time?

Brantley Senn: We all grew up in Augusta, Georgia, and played around in bands in high school, just playing parties and even bars when we could work around the age thing. But the current configuration minus our keyboardist formed when we were all around 19. So we played around as a band called the Red Belly Band, but we were still in school so it was kind of a weekend warrior thing. It definitely wasn’t Dead Confederate, but it was the same people. We all went away for college but kept playing here and there and after that we all decided to move into a house together in Atlanta and that’s how Dead Confederate came about.

What changed that made you guys want to get more serious about playing music? I think just life. Our tastes in music changed as we grew up and plus once we started working in the real world I felt like Hardy and I had a lot more to write about. I wrote a song called “The Rat” and we started enjoying playing with things like distortion and noise and just being loud and shocking people. The best moment is when you’re playing a bar and nobody gets it and they’re all freaked out and that’s basically exciting, like making a scene or something.

It is hard to get that energy until you see the live show. You even took a live approach to making the album, right? A lot of it was recorded live and with limited takes and overdubs? We didn’t want to put out an album that was fake -- and I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong with adding layers, but we really wanted to challenge ourselves to make a record that really tried to present what we do live. I doubt if we take that approach every time we make a record, but this time we wanted to put out what is the culmination of what we’ve been doing up to this point. I don’t ever want to make the same record twice. I may end up burning a lot of people but we’re in it for the creativity and the fun not for the money and all that stuff. I mean it’s great that things are picking up but we definitely want to keep challenging people and ourselves.

You recorded in a space that was used to record the sound effects for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Was that something that attracted you to that studio? We actually didn’t even know about that beforehand. We didn’t even know what the studio looked like, we hadn’t seen it or anything. Mike McCarthy our producer was like, “Here’s the address.” So we just showed up. It was actually Trail of Dead’s practice space.

McCarthy has worked with …Trail of Dead and Spoon, right? Yeah, we love the stuff he’s done and we’re really glad we got a chance to work with him. It wasn’t the best recording studio but his gear is amazing and working with him was fantastic. He has such a great sarcastic sense of humor like all of us so it worked out well.

You and Hardy handle most of the songwriting, right? How does that process work? Well, when Hardy writes, he usually just sits down with an acoustic guitar and comes up with a song. I usually sit in front of a computer and make a demo by layering instruments and beats and experimenting.

So you guys work pretty much separately? We rarely write together, but we do bring songs to each other before we bring them to the band and work things out. If he gets stuck on something he’ll bring it to me and vice versa. And all of the guys are really great at taking the song and making it their own once we get into the full-band arranging stage with a song. It definitely wouldn’t sound like Dead Confederate without all of our input and different approaches to sounds.

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