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Friday October 24th 2014

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Bird is the Word

by Jessica Forbes

Touring in support of their latest album “Baba Yaga,” Athens, Ga.’s Futurebirds are headed back to Vinyl Music Hall.

Across their growing catalog, the Futurebirds’ music has a consistently resonant and Southern quality, sort of like what the Beach Boys might’ve sounded if they’d grown up listening to REM and pre-1990s country music in Georgia.

“We have four guys that write really good songs and sing well, so we want to let that shine, you know?” said Carter King, the band’s primary singer, guitarist, and occasional banjo player. The six members incorporate the traditional Southern instruments of pedal steel guitar, banjo, and mandolin into their highly democratic songwriting process. The result is a characteristic sound involving a good deal of vocal harmony, reverb and an emotional sonic thread that evokes both joy and melancholy, often within a single song.

The band formed in Athens in 2008, its members having migrated there from hometowns across the state. “We had five or six bands at once it was kind of a rotating cast of the same people in each band. Futurebirds caught some momentum and went off from that,” King remembered of the band’s early days in Georgia’s famed musical incubator.

Currently recording demos in preparation for what will be their third full-length album, their Nov. 17 show at Vinyl Music Hall will be Futurebirds’ first stop in Pensacola since January 2011 when they opened for Drive-By Truckers. “It was a really awesome show, everyone in Pensacola seems like they like to have a good time. Which, we’re all into that,” said King.

“Baba Yaga,” released in April 2013, was for Futurebirds fans and the band itself, a long-awaited release. Their first full-length album, “Hampton’s Lullaby,” debuted in July 2010, and earned the band quick attention and spots at festivals including Austin City Limits, Hangout, Outside Lands and Bonnaroo to name only a few.

Having put out two EPs in 2011 (Futurebirds and Via Flamina) as well as “Live at Senney-Stovall Chapel” that was released as part of Record Store Day 2011, Futurebirds also managed to squeeze in sessions for “Baba Yaga” between tour dates over a period of seven months.

“We ended up being in the studio for 45 days total which is a lot of days in the studio, a lot of money to spend,” said King. “That gives you a lot of time to over-analyze every little thing, every little note and frequency that would never matter to anyone but you.”  A search for and change of record label slowed the album’s release, and the process seemed to drag on even more for the band.

The title for the sophomore album was one of the last pieces to fall into place. In Slavic and Russian folklore, Baba Yaga is a witch who dwells in the forests in a hut that moves around on chicken’s legs and, while capable of evil, she is also rumored to go easy on the pure of heart. “No one’s into witchcraft that deep yet,” King laughed when asked about the title. “No, it was just something we came across when looking for the perfect fit for the mythical creature we felt our record had become. It was too perfect.”

For their upcoming album, the band is limiting studio time to 10 days and anticipates a group of songs that are “more live and raw” versus Baba Yaga’s longer and more intricately produced tunes. “As far as the songs sound, they’re all over the place right now, so it’s a good place to be,” the singer reported. “We’ve got lots of variety to put together a really strong album.” While King can’t promise any will be developed in time for the next leg of their tour, he hoped a few would be, saying, “Hopefully we’ll be playing some new ones in Pensacola.”

Last year, King relocated to Nashville where he encountered Blank Range, an up-and-coming band that will be opening for Futurebirds in Pensacola. “I’m really excited about this upcoming little run with those guys.” And by “little run” King was referencing the next leg of a tour schedule that began in Fall 2012 and isn’t set to end until February 2014. “We stay on the road a lot. We love it,” King said. “It’s what we all want to be doing.”

THE FUTUREBIRDS
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox
COST: $10
DETAILS: vinylmusichall.com