Athens band to share their country psychedelic sounds with Alabama tonight

Athens band to share their country psychedelic sounds with Alabama tonight
Photo courtesy of David McClister

On Thursday night, a mere two days following Halloween, Saturn, a favorite Birmingham music venue, will be full to the brim of concert-goers donning their All Hallow’s Eve best if Futurebirds get their way.

“We just played in Charleston for Halloween with our friends, The Artisanals,” said Carter King, singer and guitarist for Futurebirds. “We had a 3-piece horn section, The HornyBirds, with us. Everyone was dressed like maniacs. It was such a good time. I wish every day could be Halloween. Let this in fact be an open invitation to everyone in [Alabama] to dress up at any and all Futurebirds shows anytime, any place.”

With nicknames aplenty and inside jokes running amok, the band’s five members–Cartezz, Tojo, Womz, B Mah and Johnny Colorado – have jaunted through the southeast this fall, thanks to their sixth bandmate, or chariot, Paco. Like any road-touring band, Futurebirds, the Athens, Georgia-based psychedelic country band that, by the end of a setlist, turns every crowd into a gathering of friends, has faced its fair share of woes–the stories of which could make anyone chuckle with, or at, the modest band.

Paco, a white Ford E-Series van, has provided transportation and housed the band since 2010. On Oct. 1, things looked grim for Paco, as the band was forced to leave the van in North Carolina because of transmission issues.

“Paco lives!” King said. “We thought she was a goner after a transmission issue but she's back in the game. You can't keep a true road dawg down. We're actually getting shirts printed right now that say 'Paco Lives'. That's how excited we are we didn't lose her.”

The tour follows the release of the second part of a two-part EP “Portico II.” Both “Portico I” and “Portico II” were recorded at Portico, a Baptist church outside of Athens. The album artwork for both EPs features a photo found by the band while recording at Portico.

“That photo of the snake-handling funeral was in a frame inside the church,” King said. “It kinda blew us all away and loomed over the whole recording session. So much so that we did some research into the photo, contacting a professor out of Chattanooga who specialized in snake-handling churches to figure out what the story was behind it. It turns out the teary-eyed man at the top of the coffin holding the snakes above his head was the father of the guy in the coffin, who had died handling snakes in church. How insane is that? That's some serious devotion. We were all in a point in life where that not only resonated with us, but even inspired us in some weird way.”

The time spent in Portico culminated in the creation of the two EPs, each featuring both covers and originals. “Portico II” begins with a Futurebirds original, “Olive Garden Daydream #47,” followed by three covers. The covers include “Big A” by Heron, “Under Your Spell” by Desire, and “Voices Carry” by Til Tuesday.

“We went into those sessions with the idea of doing a covers project alongside working on some new original material,” King said. “Recording a cover song gives you a different frame of mind in approach to creating the music, which in turns helps you look at crafting original music a little differently. We play a handful of covers live, but when it comes to recording cover songs, we like to chase tunes on which we really think we can put our own stamp. That's probably why the genres of music on these Portico EPs range so drastically.”

Futurebirds will play Thursday night at Saturn in Birmingham; luckily, transportation will provided by Paco. The band will also play a two-night stint at The Roxy in Atlanta for New Year’s Eve with Band of Horses.

“We toured with Band of Horses years ago and they became friends and mentors of the band,” King said. “So really it was by the grace of their good nature alone that they invited us come play in ATL. We are so stoked for those shows. I'm thinking matching baby blue suits and disco balls everywhere.”

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