It seems that giving up has never been an option for Augustines. Although they have experienced trials and tragedy, they manage to focus on the present and relish it. Their music is reflective of this attitude.
With a true, gritty, mean-streets sound, they manage to blend Billy McCarthy’s Tom Waits-esque vocals with genre-bending electronic instrumentation. Where their incredibly successful Rise Ye Sunken Ships was a work of catharsis, their new, self-titled release, Augustines, is a triumph.
Augustines are Billy McCarthy on guitar and vocals; Eric Sanderson on bass, keyboards, and vocals; and Rob Allen on drums.
NYMM: What is new about this album?
BM: The first thing is that Rob is on this record. We’re a full band, whereas the first one was a recording project that became something bigger afterward. We didn’t have any intentions at the time of becoming a proper band. We wanted to do a little touring and get the music out to people. The project took off, and so we just kept pursuing it.
We went pretty big with the sound on this one, with a lot of choir and stuff. I come from a choir background. It wasn’t always by choice, but I took it in school and it was always around. While it wasn’t the sexiest thing to do, it kept me involved with music. I really wanted that on the record. We also wanted Rob to explore his contribution to our sound. Rob and Eric both have degrees in music and contributed to the orchestral side of things.
NYMM: Tell me about some of the songs on the album.
BM: “Walkabout” is an overarching theme in the record. There was so much catharsis in the last record about things that had to do with family and New York. This album is about leaving New York and figuring out what comes next. “Walkabout” is about how we work that out.
“Now You’re Free” is a song that was really exciting to write because I approached it differently. I worked on the melodies before the lyrics. I paid attention to what notes I was singing before I put words to it. Rob, Eric, and I played the song over and over again. It felt so good. It felt futuristic for us, like a sign of where we wanted to go. It led the way for the whole spirit of the record.
RA: Bill is still the primary writer, but we all write. We did a lot of the work in a church in upstate New York. Whenever an idea would come to the table, we’d start jamming on it and going through it and developing the ideas as we went. We’d experiment with different things, and those days would last from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
BM: We took one day off in five weeks.
RA: We got snowed in up there. It was a really bad storm with lots of snow. But we were in this large church surrounded by instruments and locked ourselves away. It let us really focus on what we were there to do.
NYMM: What experiences have kept you going?
BM: We got iTunes’ Alternative Album of the Year for our last record. Doing television for the first time was frighteningly exciting. Traveling is always great too.
NYMM: Eric is temporarily off tour, dealing with a loss in his family. What made you decide to keep going, and how are you pulling it off?
BM: Right now, we’re the gruesome twosome. Eric had to leave because of a family tragedy and it would be very understandable for us to back out of the tour completely, but we haven’t. We’re going back to our roots with an acoustic sound.
One girl drove five hours to see us last night. People care for what we’re doing and when you realize that, there’s a responsibility that comes with it. We have to be worth their time. It would be irresponsible to not give it everything we have, despite the circumstances. I always think about the fans when we’re backstage. They went and bought a ticket, put it on the calendar, and have taken time out to come see us, so we try to give them everything we can.
Photos by Jon Karr
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