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Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 12:01 am

New Madrid makes the earth shake

Southern psych-rockers set to storm Bedrock 66

New Madrid will play Friday at Donnie’s.
PHOTO COURTESY NORMALTOWN RECORDS

 

The Bedrock 66 series remains Springfield’s best chance to see unexpected, exciting live music across a wide spectrum of sounds, from bluegrass to power pop to alt country and beyond. This Friday’s show promises to be an especially wild ride.

Rick Barton, lead singer of Boston-based “punk, country, folk and blues” openers Continental, was a founding member of Dropkick Murphys, while Chicago Celtic punk veterans The Tossers will be bringing their flailing, aggressive energy to the fore.

Perhaps most intriguing, though, is the inclusion on the bill of psychedelic rockers New Madrid [they pronounce it muh-DRID]. Hailing from Athens, Georgia – home of such disparate legends as The B-52’s, R.E.M., the Elephant 6 collective and Drive-By Truckers – New Madrid plays simultaneously tight and loose, trippy and poppy.

The band actually started a few years back as a recording-only project in Tennessee. “None of us lived in the same city together,” explains singer-guitarist Phil McGill. “We’d just kind of get together on weekends and record, then go away and listen to what we did – just getting together for two or three days at a time and play as much music as we could.”

The members of the band eventually all moved to Athens and started playing live, initially traveling a circuit between Athens, Nashville and Chatanooga, adding new cities sporadically. The first New Madrid record, Yardboat, came out in 2012 followed by Sunswimmer about a year ago. The difference in writing process between the two records was profound, according to McGill. “Playing live definitely has changed how we come up with material,” he says. “On the first record, there’s songs where I would just write ’em on guitar and then we’d get together and adapt them to be able to play ’em live as a four-piece band. The new record definitely has more songs that were made with the idea of us playing in front of people.”

Two of the seven songs on Sunswimmer clock in at around 12 minutes, but McGill says this was not a result of having played the songs extensively on the road before recording. “I don’t think we had ever played ‘And She Smiles’ live at all before we made the recording,” he says. “The length just kind of happened naturally. The only conscious decision we made was not to edit it down, because it felt so good for us all to play those parts together.” He says having the longer songs in their repertoire makes it hard when the band plays shorter sets. “We have to be careful to make sure we get to play more than four or five songs,” he says.

Touring the country has been an education for New Madrid. McGill observes that even more than regional differences, the size of the city can affect how a show feels. “In smaller cities, people are more appreciative, so that’s always really exciting. I was from a smaller place – Tennessee didn’t get a lot of things coming through – so I relate to that a lot. But I also love playing big cities where the energy’s just really great.”

As for what to expect at their show this Friday, McGill explains that they will be playing a wide variety of material. “With these shows we’ll be doing songs from our first two records, but we’re working on a new album right now so there should be some stuff that doesn’t exist anywhere except when we’re playing it onstage.”

Scott Faingold is a staff writer for Illinois Times and can be reached via sfaingold@illinoistimes.com.

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