Band: The Weeks
Date: Saturday, April 9, at 10 p.m.
Venue: O’Daly’s Irish Pub
SouthSounds 2016 will fill the Azalea City with a calliope of music from across the Southeast, including the pure American rock ‘n’ roll of The Weeks from Jackson, Mississippi. The band has been energizing crowds with their modern style of roots rock for a decade. Albums such as 2012’s “Gutter Gaunt Gangster” and its follow-up, “Dear Bo Jackson,” have brought more listeners into the band’s fold.
The Weeks have spent the past year getting back to their roots. The band released “Lost Days,” which was the first collection of songs they ever recorded. According to guitarist Sam Williams, the band’s next album will also be somewhat of a throwback.
Stephen Centanni: This past year has been very productive for The Weeks. First, you released “Lost Days,” which you guys recorded in your early teens. What made you guys want to release, or re-release it?
Sam Williams: We haven’t put anything out for a while; that was a major factor. It just resurfaced recently, and it felt like the right time. Bands lucky enough to survive for 10 years are so far away from what they were originally doing when they first started that they would never dream of releasing their first songs. It’s just not the case for us. I don’t know if it’s luck or whatever. The music we decided to play when we were 14 or 15 years old is still the same kind of music that we play now. I feel like it holds up.
Obviously, there’s a lot of context you can throw in there, like, we’re 14. The first song on that record is literally when we started the first band practice. Nobody had been in a band before, and we knew nothing about starting a band. Somebody just made these sounds, and that is the first thing that we ever played together. It became the song ‘Kissing a Stranger.’ I feel like even without the context, and somebody stumbled upon it, we’d still put our name on it.
Centanni: Did you release the original raw tracks, or did you work it over in the studio?
Williams: We made it to be released as a record. We tracked it back in 2006, and then we mixed it. It was available for, like, one show. Then, we were approached by Esperanza Plantation, who put out the next three records. There were some snags in the idea of putting it out. We re-recorded three or four of those songs and wrote like eight or nine new songs for what is commonly referred to as our debut album, “Comeback Cadillac,” which was our first widely released record. So, yeah, it was already done.
Honestly, it’s just sort of just been sitting there, and I recently had an old computer and was like, “Holy sh*t! We still have this! We need to do something with this!” We didn’t touch them. When it came time to put them out, I sent the files that had been on the computer for 10 years.
Centanni: You guys have also been working on your next full-length, right?
Williams: Yep! It’s in the mixing process right now. It’s tracked and recorded and ready to go. We’ve been working with Paul Ebersold [Skillet, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’] at Ardent Studio in Memphis. He’s from Memphis originally, but he’s been here for about 10 or 15 years. We recorded the “Buttons” 10-inch that we did last year with him. We fell in love with the dude. He’s just a good ol’ Southern dude, who’s a little older.
He’s been a life guru for all of us. He’s just a music guy and a song man. He’s really good at what he does. If you come in, and you’re like, “Man, I was listening to this record, and I want this sound on this song on this guitar. I gotta have it.” He’s a genius at being like, “Aw, man, you just gotta push that knob this way and push that knob that way, and there you go!”
So, we fell in love with that dude. He got his start at Ardent Records, which is Jim Dickinson and John Fry’s label that they brought up in the ‘60s and ‘70s with, like, Big Star and Replacements. Z.Z. Top did their first three records in the room [where] we did this record. There’s a lot of history. It was our first time to really travel to a studio. Our last record, we made in Nashville. Before that, we’d been recording in the same place in Water Valley, Mississippi, for, like, five years. We wanted to take ourselves out of the home element.
Centanni: What was it like taking yourself out of the home element? Was there any experimentation with the recording process?
Williams: The recording process stayed the same. We really take pride in being an extremely prepared band. We’ve been doing this for 10 years, so we know what it takes to be prepared. When we go into the studio, whether it’s in our basement or in London, the process is pretty much the same. It’s really about getting the mindset right.
When we did “Dear Bo Jackson,” we recorded it in Nashville. You’d wake up every morning, and you’d get in the van, and you’d drive. It was like clocking into work. For four guys who have never clocked into a job ever, that’s not really the vibe that we wanted. You get stuff where it’s like, “Aw, man, the plumber is coming today. I gotta figure out how to get into the studio and meet the plumber.” There’s all these variables when you’re leaving home to make a record every day. The biggest part was to get out of the house and go somewhere.
We stayed in this carriage house for two weeks. I fudged it a little bit. I thought that I was getting a two-bedroom apartment, and I had gotten a studio. There was one bed, and essentially one room. We just brought a bunch of air mattresses. So, we were living on top of each other. A lot of this record is about getting back to our roots and playing high-octane, high-energy rock ‘n’ roll.
You go on the road for a couple of years, and you lose a little bit of camaraderie. That’s important to us, considering we were so young when we started to play together. We wanted to get back to the days where we were, like, “Let’s just plug up, turn up and go.” That was definitely the vibe in Memphis. We were kinda taking it back a notch. We wanted to focus on the music and have no variables to interrupt the process.
Centanni: You have a release date?
Williams: Not a specific one, but fall, or August or September, probably.
Centanni: Is there a title yet?
Williams: No, we don’t have one of those either [chuckles].
Centanni: As far as a preview of the music, what can your listeners expect?
Williams: It goes back to everything I’ve been saying; it’s just a rock record. With “Dear Bo Jackson,” there was a lot more mid-tempo, really high production quality with a lot of instruments. We had horns and pedal steel and background singers. For this one, we wanted to dial it back a little bit.
We’re playing everything, and it’s definitely more old-school Weeks. We took what we learned from “Dear Bo Jackson,” where we honed in on the songwriting. Previously, it was about capturing our energy and rawness of our show and getting that on tape. With “Dear Bo Jackson” it was more like, “Let’s craft songs and try to get these arrangements right.” This record is a marriage of everything over the past 10 years. The songs are better, and the energy is still there without being too glossy.