SXSW Interviews: The Great Nostalgic

Make no mistake about it, The Great Nostalgic are easily one of our favorite up and coming local bands.  What with an appearance on our album’s of the year list in 2009, labeled as Austin album of the year, and major exposure here, it’s easy to see we dig their music.  In our quest to let the world know more about TGN, we recently sat down with leading man and primary songwriter Abram Shook to discuss the current state of his band.  You’ll be happy to hear that they are still going strong and getting ready to release their sophomore LP on the world.  Follow the jump for more.

ATH: So we were obviously big supporters of your debut LP and think the world really should have latched onto it.  What’s in store for listeners and fans on the upcoming effort “Hope We Lived Like We Promised”?

Abram: I’ll be the first to admit that Hope We Live Like We Promised asks a lot of the listener.  We really wanted to experiment with style, songwriting, arrangement, and instrumentation with this record.  While some songs like “Wilderness”, “Hustlers and Junkies”, and “Ink Spots” share a common thread with our s/t debut, a lot of songs touch on new influences.  The album was written for the vinyl listener, and meant to be heard in three distinct “sides”, where groupings of songs share common ideas.  Conceptually similar to a series of short-films that intersect at points, and spin off in their own direction at other points.  Touchstones for us while recording were albums like Love and Rockets – Earth, Sun, Moon, David Bowie – Aladdin Sane, and The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle.  The album is a lot to digest in one sitting, but we hope it invites and rewards multiple listens.

ATH: Give us a little info on what the recording process was like for the upcoming album.  Where did that go down and who all was involved?

Abram: For recording we worked with Stuart Sikes (Walkmen, Cat Power, Modest Mouse) up at Elmwood studios in Dallas.  We really like working with different engineers and different studios because it gives us a unique outside perspective on our songs.  It also helped to get out of Austin and separate ourselves from local distractions.  Overdubs, vocals and horns were tracked locally at Shine studios with Justin Douglas whose upstart label King Electric Records is helping us put out the album.  There’s some guest vocals from Dana Falconberry, Gina Dvorak, and Lauren Mcmurray as well.

ATH: What’s your goal for the new album?  Play the Erwin Center?

Abram: Our goal for the new album is to start writing the next one :).  We’re actually doing a little bit of European press for Hope We Live…, we’ll see what that does for us, we’d love to get overseas.  We hope to play some great Austin shows, and do regional stuff as well.  And we are in fact already working on new things.

ATH: Being a band that’s seen a lot of rotation in your lineup, how do you keep things fresh and tight live?  What are some staples (songs) of your live show that you rely on to get the crowd interested?

Abram: With so many artists and projects in Austin it seems that everyone is always going a hundred different directions at once.  Longevity in this day and age is a hard thing to come by, especially when you’re trying out a sound that is a bit different.  The bands of old that I look up to would take 3 or 4 albums just to hit their stride, but people don’t have time for that anymore.  I think we’re trying to be a bit less serious these days and just have fun playing live again!  “Young Lovers” from our first record always seems to get heads nodding so thats usually in the lineup.

ATH: As a band who’s already survived a few SXSW experiences, what advice can you offer young musicians looking to get into the festival?


Abram: Play a lot of shows, but not too many.  I always have to remember that I want to have fun and see shows too, and if I book too many shows I usually miss out on all the good stuff.

ATH: Being a part of the Austin scene, give us a couple up and coming bands that you think the world needs to pay attention to.

Abram: The world is a tough nut to crack.  The “industry” side of music is crazy right now and changing from day-to-day.  I think a new paradigm will eventually emerge, but it may take some time.  I’m really loving Hard Proof Afrobeat, that’s a band that needs to be seen live to be fully appreciated.  Local imprint Western Vinyl always puts out real classy stuff, of course I’m a huge Dirty Projectors fan, but I’ve recently been turned onto Callers as well.  Saw Burgess Meredith during free-week and had a blast.

ATH: A year from now, where do you see Great Nostalgic?

Abram: A year from now I hope TGN will still be going strong with new songs and new ideas.  Individually we got a lot going on as well; Our bassist James has his first solo gig coming up.  Rachel is working hard on writing a set of songs that she hopes to record this year.  Vince is now drumming for locals My Education, which is taking him to some great places.  I will be putting out some music under my own name this year, as well as heading up an Austin musician collaborative project called Single Cuts.  Busy indeed!!

As always, thanks for keeping it real Abram.

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