Futurebirds to fuse acoustic folk, indie rock at Old Town Pub
September 30, 2011
Steamboat Springs — For a six-piece band, Athens, Ga.'s Futurebirds doesn't make a whole lot of noise.
With eerie, echoing reverb and Appalachia-inspired strumming, the folk rock band impresses upon audiences the importance of the pauses, the spaces between the sounds.
"The sparseness of music can be just as awesome as the noisy part," said Thomas Johnson, who plays guitar, mandolin and banjo. "We like to be able to do both. It's important to not force anything into a song."
Right now, Johnson, his five band mates and their manager are squished into a seven-passenger van on a 26-day tour across the West, one that will take them through Steamboat tonight.
They play a free show at Old Town Pub, where they played a show last fall with indie rockers Dead Confederate.
While enjoying the fall weather in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Wednesday, Johnson said the band enjoys making the stops in small Rocky Mountain towns.
"Honestly, places like Steamboat are cool because they're in-between stops," he said. "You get a good meal and a hotel, and a lot of bands we hang out with stop by there.
"It was fun last time; we had a great time."
The free show starts at about 9:30 p.m.
The band formed in fall 2008, when almost all the members were 22 years old.
They were all musicians in one form or another, playing in various Athens bands that ranged from the good to the bad to the ugly.
But as songwriters and multi-instrumentalists, Johnson said, the band realized while recording their first album that they had something different when they played together.
Now ages 24 and 25, the musicians alternate writing songs, usually on band retreats to lake houses or other remote areas, and they sing in two-, three-, four- and five-part harmonies — the neo-acoustic and almost psychedelic results of their efforts.
These days, they play about 150 shows every year all across the country.
"I think it's a good vantage point to take on this time in our lives," Johnson said about living the life of a touring musician. And it's not just because all 20-somethings want to be rock stars.
"I just think a lot of people that we know are starting out their careers and doing all these monotonous jobs, stuff they're not really inspired by," he said. "Instead of doing that, we have had the opportunity to do something we're really into and that we really love.
"It's fun to be young and on the road."
While often placed in the indie rock genre, Johnson said a hint of rootsy bluegrass comes through, influenced by the band's love of the great outdoors, especially mountains.
Their array of acoustic instruments and raw voices helps sculpt images of water and land while the echoes in the vocals are like a shout across an empty valley. That eerie effect is no accident.
"Being outdoors is a part of all of our lives," he said. "We're always just outside. And the mountains are mysterious; they're huge fantastic things.
"We're not trying to make (our music) sound like anything, but that mysterious part of life is something you can really explore and use."
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com