"Home town / Burn you to the ground," sings frontman Jonathan Coody on the title track to Ninja Gun's forthcoming album, Restless Rubes.
Poised somewhere between the punk-rock alienation of the Real Kids' "Small Town" and the quiet desperation of Wilco's "Hate It Here," the song has the classic earmarks of a jangly Southern pop ode to provincial ennui. Which is something the son of a South Georgia pig farmer knows a few things about.
"We come from a town that's really small and restrictive," says the Valdosta, Ga., native. "I won't say backwards, because I think there are really cool aspects to where we're from. But if you don't take over your parents' business and settle down at an early age, South Georgia can be kind of confining. We're just a bunch of podunk kids who wanted to get out and see the world without joining the Army."
Like Guided By Voices and R.E.M. (who Coody says did a good job of being distinctly Southern without falling prey to Southern rock archetypes), Ninja Gun boast a variety of pre- and post-punk influences, populating their live sets with Kinks, T. Rex and Brian Jonestown Massacre covers.
Currently in the middle of a national tour, Valdosta's premier musical export will be spending a week in Colorado performing and hanging out with friends at their new label, the Denver-based Suburban Home, which releases Restless Rubes on June 24.
"We had played with Drag the River, which is another band on their label, and they had nothing but good things to say about Virgil [Dickerson], who runs Suburban Home," explains Coody, who describes the new album as "a lot more textured and layered than the first, just because we had a lot more time to spend on it."
Recorded at Valdosta's Earthsound studio over the course of 18 months (as opposed to their debut album's five days), Restless Rubes reflects the band's rising economic fortunes. "I was like 24 and completely poor when we made the first one," says Coody. "Now I'm 29 and just hanging out right above the poverty line."
All that could change, of course. Coody left his "soul-sucking horrible" marketing rep job for the tour, while drummer Jeffrey Haineault closed up his pizza shop and is debating whether he can reopen when they get back. ("He's always griping about how cheese prices are through the roof," says Coody.) With only one job left between the four of them, Coody says, "We're all in kind of a weird position. We have to figure this out when we get home."
One thing Coody won't be doing is farming.
"It's been a while since I've seen them," he laughs, when asked how accurately life with swine was portrayed in the Babe movies. "But from what I remember, they're not cute and little and pink well, they are when they're born but after an hour or so, they're rolling around in shit and not very much fun to deal with."