Diamond Rugs is the raucous indie rock supergroup comprised of John McCauley (Deer Tick), Ian St. Pe (Black Lips), Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Brian Dufresne (Six Finger Satellite), and Robbie Crowell (Deer Tick). Earlier this year, the band released the self-titled debut LP, an album I called a hard-grooving, rowdy, rock and roll treasure with played with balls-to-the-wall, drunken energy from a deceptively tight, hardworking band. I ended my review by describing Diamond Rugs as a killer rock and roll record without an expiration date, and it will be one of the best and most enduring records released in all of 2012.
Over the weekend, I interviewed Hardy Morris (guitars, vocals) through email correspondence in anticipation of the band’s first-ever run of tour dates. The tour will include a rare appearance at Zombie Shop in Nashville on 10/29, as well as a prestigious gig at Carnegie Hall on 10/27 in support of John McCauley. I spoke to Hardy about the recording of the album, whether or not there will be a follow-up, and how the band feels about the record being tagged as an “ode to beer.”
You probably know Hardy best as the frontman for Dead Confederate, the excellent Athens via Augusta, GA outfit that released the strong albums Wrecking Ball (2008) and Sugar (2010). Hardy assumes lead vocals on four of the fourteen songs on Diamond Rugs (“Big God,” “Country Mile,” “Motherland,” and “100 Sheets”), most of them edging towards the heavier side with muscular swamp rock moods crossed with classic country. In my review of the album, I described its varied styles as a “mongrel work of bastardized beauty akin to the band’s adopted home of present day Nashville.” Diamond Rugs blends styles ranging from ‘60s garage to jangling country to distortion-heavy swamp rock to grunge-punk to classic Sun Records harmonies and rhythms. It’s a gritty, fun-loving record of heartbreak-and-booze rock and roll.
The Silver Tongue: You guys recently announced your first official tour as a band. What excites you most about playing live with Diamond Rugs?
Hardy Morris: It’s a damn good time. We had a ton of fun making the record, so when we get together to play live we make sure we try and have as much fun as possible. We don’t get to play live much because of everyone’s schedules, so when we do, we make it count.
TST: Do you have a favorite song to play from the album? Would I be wrong in guessing it’s your outstanding “Country Mile?” How did you guys pull off that badass, fuzz-drenched sound?
HM: That is a fun one to play. A lot of that fuzz is Robbie’s bass tone. I like playing “Call Girl Blues” a lot too cause it just get to play the groove.
TST: Speaking of “Country Mile,” the sharp turns all over that song and the wholly different vibes within sections of that song are just fantastic. You created an entire rock and roll ecosystem of so many interesting, shifting parts that go from heavy darkness to rootsy shuffle to psychedelic noise and back again. How did that one come together?
HM: I actually came up with the parts sitting in the Dead Confederate van when we were on tour with Deer Tick. When John originally called me to come over for the sessions, he said something about the band being called Stoner Drama, so I figured we needed a stoner rocker, but I like that it has the country part to help it fit with the other songs. All the parts definitely expose my A.D.D..
Diamond Rugs – “Country Mile”
TST: When you’re making a song like that or any of the other thirteen on the album, how did you guys work out the division of labor and the directions the songs would take? Was there an authoritative voice based on who contributed each song, or did it tend to be more spontaneous?
HM: For “Country Mile” I had all the parts and melody, but had to write the lyrics. Myself and Bryan (drummer) wrote em right before we recorded it. It was mainly little stuff like that that we did together- bridges, lyrics, etc.. Other than that, one of us would go to Adam’s kitchen and write a song; Unless we already had a song, in which case we would play it and everyone would be like, “Hell yea! Lets record that puppy” or they’d say “Umm..got anything else?”
TST: In many (typically glowing) reviews of the album, a common denominator is the classification of the album as an ode to beer. A prime example would be VICE, who loved the record and said, “I see what you’ve done here, Diamond Rugs. You made the soundtrack to Beer. Nice job. I can’t wait for the sequel, This is How to Not be a Boring Pussy.“
Of course, songs like “Gimme a Beer” and “Hungover and Horny” fuel that association, as do songs with thematic ties like “Call Girl Blues” and “Blue Mountains.” Do you guys fully embrace that tag, or do you sometimes feel it compartmentalizes your accomplishment? [I'm just curious in the sense that one of my favorite albums of all time is Exile on Main St., but I feel it would be selling The Stones short to call an 18-song masterpiece "The Rolling Stones' ode to junk" (even if it was an inextricable component of its creation).]
HM: There were a lot of empty beer cans at the end of the night. Fun was the fuel for the session so if people “Hear the Beer,” I think that’s good. That was how I labeled my CD of rough mixes: Hear the Beer. I will say I think its funny when critics say there is a “lack of focus” to the record and stuff like that, because there was absolutely NO focus or plan to any of it. We weren’t even a band, we didn’t really know who was gonna show up or not. There was no vision. That’s whats cool about it to me. Since when did rock n roll start being so focused and planned!? Board-room rock..phht.
TST: My understanding is the band is going to play Carnegie Hall in support of John’s solo performance there? What do you make of an opportunity like that?
HM: I’d be glad to be playing these songs with these dudes in a truck stop, so I’m happy either way. But it will be cool to play a legendary place.
TST: As a guy who at one point was just your average kid from Augusta, GA, do you ever bruise yourself from pinching too hard when you think about playing venues like Carnegie Hall and Letterman?
HM: Nah. It has all been so gradual, and it’s not so strange. It’s what I do.
TST: Is the Diamond Rugs album a one-off? (I sure hell hope you say, “No.”)
HM: We are planning to record again.
TST: Finally, I’m a big fan of Dead Confederate and have listened to both Wrecking Ball and Sugar a ton over the past handful of years. I came across an interview from July of last year saying you guys were working on new stuff. What can we expect in the near future from the band?
HM: We made an album that is getting mastered as I type this, and we just recorded some new songs that we are going to be mixing this weekend. It was all of Dead Confederate plus friends from around town here in Athens. When we all play together we are called the Peyote People, but I’m pretty sure it will come out as Dead Confederate.
Diamond Rugs Tour Dates:
Sat Oct. 27 – New York, NY Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall
Sun Oct. 28 – Durham, NC The Pinhook
Mon Oct. 29 – Nashville, TN Zombieshop
Tue Oct. 30 – Atlanta, GA Terminal West
Wed Oct. 1 – Birmingham, AL WorkPlay Theatre
Thu Nov. 1 – New Orleans, LA Tulane University
Sat Nov. 3 – Austin, TX Fun Fun Fun Festival
Diamond Rugs – “Blue Mountains” (NSFW Video)
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