Drivin' N Cryin' have been an Atlanta institution for over twenty years now and their new material sounds stronger than ever. Hot on the heels of their new EP Songs From The Laundromat, Scene Point Blank got together with bassist/vocalist Tim Neilson to discuss the band’s plan to record and release four EPs over a span of one year as well as to talk about their early scene in Georgia and his time in predecessor act The Nightporters.
Scene Point Blank: I heard that you are thinking about just continuing to record EPs rather than full records. Have you thought more on this? Do you think this could be the new direction in recording? I think it’s a great idea: shorter recording times and quicker turn around on the product.
Tim Neilson: I’m totally on board with the EP idea. Given the public’s short attention span and the general limited budget resources for recording, it just helps us to actually get something out in a timely manner without having to spend 3 years trying to get a whole album together. Also, instead of building the whole project from bass, drums, basic tracks and building it all the way up, we can finish a handful of songs in a handful of days. And so it’s kind of like: short attention span; immediate gratification; consistent momentum; something always coming out. So, yeah, I think it makes sense. We’ll see.
Scene Point Blank: There is a lot of activity around these days with respect to marketing by different bands, i.e. packaging the digital with the cd and a t-shirt or the “Pay $1500.00 and we’ll play in your backyard.” Will you be offering up something like this or stick with coming up with your own twist?
Tim Neilson: Sounds like you’re talking about Kickstarter. Kevn did Kickstarter (for his January 2012 released album A Good Country Mile), and we’ve done Kickstarter-kinds-of-things, where he offered lots of different packages – autographed stuff, artwork, poems, stuff like that. We might do something along those lines.
But, as to the first part of the question, what I’d rather do for promotion is definitely do lots of vinyl. 45s and 10-inches would be amazing, because I used to go out and buy 10-inches when I was a college kid. Just the big packaging alone is great for getting autographs and hanging on the wall, or cleaning your weed or whatever. And then you include a digital code coupon that comes with the vinyl record and you get the best of both worlds. I rarely listen to cds myself. It’s either straight off of Pandora or iTunes or I’ll put on a record.
Scene Point Blank: Your band has been around since ’85 and you formed in Atlanta, which was a pretty amazing time in that city’s revered musical past—which has been strong for years. What was it like from your perspective, forming the band and growing up there? The musical community was loaded with talent. Was it a tight knit group?
Tim Neilson: We were young and there was a cool scene because there were clubs and stuff close to where we lived and hung out. Especially this neighborhood called Pershing Point, which was at the corner of West Peachtree and 17th. There were a bunch of apartment buildings there, it was really close to the 688 Club, it was close to the Bistro which was on West Peachtree and close to Margaritaville. This was where all the punk rockers hung out on Sunday afternoons and drank cheap beer. They had bands there too. Then there was Emory and The Dugout and stuff right over there. It was cool. But I don’t know how it is now. I don’t live in downtown Atlanta anymore. But that was the place to be. I had a scooter gang and there were a lot of parties. The Blue Rat art gallery was there. I lived there for a while. They always had gallery openings where Drivin’ N Cryin’ or the Nightporters would play. Stuff like that. So, yeah, it was a cool scene. We were kind of rivalling the Athens scene which, looking back, really was probably cooler than ours because they had R.E.M. and the B-52s and Pylon and that kind of stuff. But Atlanta had the Nightporters and The Brains and whatever.
Scene Point Blank: Another notch in your historical belt was your association with 688 Records and the nightclub that spawned the label. What was that like?
Tim Neilson: I started going to 688 before I lived downtown. They used to have teen shows. Back when I was 15-16 years old, they’d have matinees where I saw The Go-Gos, Iggy Pop, The Professionals (Steve Jones and Paul Cook from The Sex Pistols). And then there would always be shows at The Agora and we had fake IDs. The Nightporters kind of were starting to be able to play at 688 and do well. Then, when Drivin’ N Cryin’ got together, we were kind of an overnight sensation with the press, fanzine writers, Creative Loafing, etc. So we immediately had really good turnouts at 688 and were headlining in no time. We then became kind of a house opening band for all the national acts that came through for a period of time. Then we signed with 688 Records which was really cool-you know—the opportunity to make a record and make life-long buddies with Fred LeBlanc, the Fleshtones, Mike Hendry, and more.
Scene Point Blank: So your first EP release, Songs From The Laundromat is set for release on June 12th. This one is set up to be a rocker, with these EP releases exploring the genres that you and the band have wandered through in the past. What will be the theme for the next release?
Tim Neilson: The working title for the next EP is Songs About Cars, Space & The Ramones. The one after that? I think it’s going to be more of a psychedelic-garage deal, but you never know. SACS&R is about ready to go. [We] just need the artwork.
Scene Point Blank: I love the sound of the EP. “Clean Up, Dirty” and “Ain’t Waitin’ On Tomorrow” really ooze the Southern rock feel and sound. And the tune “REM” is a great homage to the band and their distinct sound. Were they a major influence on the band?
Tim Neilson: Well, I’ve known Peter Buck and R.E.M. for a long time. My old band, the Nightporters, opened for those guys. We were always kind of friends with them when they were first coming up. The first time I saw R.E.M. was opening for The Police at The Fox in Atlanta. Michael Stipe was a spastic dude with long curly hair, freaking out on stage. They were funky. They were garagey. Later on, when we started making records, Peter and Mike Mills started mentioning us in Rolling Stone magazine as being one of their favorite bands. They mentioned Scarred But Smarter as being one of their favorite records. So we just developed a friendship with them and then they asked us to do a tour. We opened for them on their Green tour when we were out supporting Mystery Road. Then Kevn and Peter did a solo record that we all played on. So, yeah man, a huge influence. When I was at Georgia Southern, I was a DJ at the college radio station there in 1982. I had Murmur and I would drive up to Atlanta on the weekends and buy records at Wax n Facts and I would bring R.E.M. records back to south Georgia and play them on the radio for the first time. [They were] also a huge influence because they were local guys that actually made it big. The best videos on MTV were the ones they were doing, and MTV was the vehicle that everyone had to use back then to get it out there. I loved their very strong music and visual imagery.
Scene Point Blank: The EP ends with the tune “Baloney,” which grabs you and pulls in for a complete 32 seconds with a solid punk feel to it. It sounds like you had fun with the EP. Is this tune meant to be a teaser for the genre of the next EP?
Tim Neilson: Yes. There’s your next teaser.
Scene Point Blank: What are your plans around touring to support the release: short tour or long?
Tim Neilson: Whatever they (WME, our booking agency) come up with for us. We do a lot of weekend stuff around the southeast. We would love to get out there on a package deal with someone else cool. Or even better, cooler than us. [Laughs.] That would be great! You know...Drive By Truckers, Alejandro Escoveda, Black Berry Smoke. Yeah, whatever. We’ll do it.