It's strange that you can play a song you wrote this morning for thousands at a concert, but to record and release it for a label can take forever. That frustration is fresh in the mind of Athens country-psych quintet Futurebirds as they find a home for their third album, tentatively titled Hotel Parties.
The band began work on their second album, Baba Yaga, back in 2011, and spent nine months getting it perfect. They added pedal steel and ramped up the reverb for a woozy, harmony-enriched, Kodachrome-sunset sound. It took six months to find a label, after negotiations with their first choice had broken down. Then it took another seven months for Fat Possum to slot it into their schedule. All that waiting left the band needing Metamucil.
"It's hard, sitting on the stuff. Then by the time it gets out, it's like, 'Man, that's old news,'" says guitarist-vocalist Carter King. "It was such a painstaking process, and that's where the title came from."
For those who haven't brushed up on their Eastern European folklore, Baba Yaga is a strangely ambivalent forest-dwelling witch. She eats children, but also helps guide the hero in completion of his quest.
"At some points we definitely felt like those kids in the woods getting cooked into a stew," King chuckles. "But it was kind of like, 'This is the key part of the puzzle. Lead us through and we'll be victorious in the end.'"
That's pretty much the feel of the album, which is soaked in Neil Young and melancholia, then sprinkled with Band of Horses-brand melodic shimmer. It's twangier and not as jammy as My Morning Jacket, but that's the neighborhood.
One of several songwriters in the group, King penned album highlight "Virginia Slims," a dreamy, jangly number driven by its lyrical anxiety: "We've been burning too long / Don't want to sleep the night away."
Futurebirds recently finished up work on their new album, for the first time recording outside Athens, in Richmond, Virginia, with Drew Vandenberg, who's co-produced and engineered all their music. They changed it up sonically as well, peeling back some of the reverb.
"We didn't want to do the same thing again," says King. "The songwriting is a little bit different. The production is different. It's not quite as spaced-out. We're trying to keep it fresh for ourselves and everybody else."
As with Baba Yaga, the album title Hotel Parties carries with it a degree of ambivalence for the band: "It's another duality. Sometimes they're fun, sometimes they're nightmares, but either way you're stuck there."
Of course, one thing the musicians have learned over the course of a half-dozen years making music together, is patience. And even as it seeks a new record-company machine, the band isn't leaving us completely bereft of new music. It's teamed up with longtime friend T. Hardy Morris, of Dead Confederate fame, for a "heartbreaking country" 7-inch that will be released on Record Store Day, April 18.
"The worst thing you can do to yourself is be too hasty," says King of the prolonged waiting game. "If it were up to us, we'd probably be slapping the album onto Bandcamp next week. But you have to take your time with it."