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Deadstring Brothers - Interview

  by Carl Bookstein

published: 24 / 9 / 2009

Deadstring Brothers - Interview


Carl Bookstein chats to Spencer Cullum, the guitarist with Detroit-based country band about his band's latest album 'São Paulo' and its hard-turing schedule

Out of Detroit, Michigan by way of London, England, the Deadstring Brothers play a blend of country rock and blues soaked rock ‘n’ roll. Their third and latest album, 'São Paulo', is a fine realization of their rocking roots focused sound. The Deadstring Brothers play guitar based rock well versed in influences like the Rolling Stones, the Faces and the Band. The Deadstring Brothers are Detroiters singer/ guitarist Kurt Marschke and drummer Travis Harrett and from London the Cullum Brothers- Spencer on guitars and Jeff on bass. 'São Paulo' features first rate musical arrangements encompassing Hammond organ, slide guitar and pedal steel. Strong musicianship is backed up by solid songwriting. The Deadstring Brothers utilize traditional American music filtered through a 1970s classic rock consciousness. The band draws equally on the melancholy of country ballads and the abandon of rock and blues. 'São Paulo' is a rich mix of these styles combining for a rewarding result. Songs like the title track and 'Can’t Make It through the Night' connect with the listener as the new album showcases excellent guitar work, a powerful rhythm section and pleasing country rock sound. The Deadstring Brothers future looks bright indeed. Shortly before they were due to begin a UK tour, Spencer Cullum talked with Pennyblackmusic about the Deadstring Brothers. PB: How did the Deadstring Brothers first come to play a blend of music featuring country rock while living in Detroit, a city better known for loud rock ‘n’ roll as well as for Motown? SC: Well, I’ve been going back and forth from Detroit for the last three years with the Deadstring Brothers and I personally feel there is something unique about the circle of musicians in Detroit.There is a really high standard musically but it also has this north American 'shit or bust' approach in the playing that’s unlike any other cities in the US - whether it is Motown, country, rock n roll or garage rock. All types of music is around in that city. At the end of the day it all boils from the same pot! PB: Do you feel the new album 'São Paulo' is an evolution from the first two Deadstring Brothers albums and how so? SC: Yes. It feels a lot more 'loose' and 'balls out' than the other albums - the production work from Dan Currie sounds great. We all took the approach of that early 70s, drive the amps, hit it in the red, bust out the booze, and press record bish, bash, bosh! PB: On the title track, the lyrics speak to a coming darkness and an end that is growing close. Is this darkness personal to the band or simply part of a story song? SC: I think this album is pretty open lyrically and not just in that particular song. The band have had a ton of ups and downs with van troubles, visa issues and members dropping in and out, so we just really tried to make it sound as honest as possible musically and lyrically. PB: Listening to 'São Paulo', it seems one can hear the influence of 'Exile on Main Street' by the Rolling Stones. How important was that seminal album to you? SC: 'Exile On Main Street' is an important album to the band, but there were a lot of great albums in that vein and of that era that are a huge influence to the group. That whole early 70s rock 'n' roll crossed with traditional American music really shapes the Deadstring Brothers. It always sounds like we sit around as a group and play 'Exile' over and over until it’s embedded into our brains and soul. I love that album but I don’t think it’s the only focus point for the band. Although being compared to that album is a good album to be compared with - shit, it could've been 'Voodoo Lounge' or 'Bridges to Babylon' - that would've sucked! PB: What other bands and artists were primary influences for the Deadstring Brothers? SC: The usual - The Faces, the Band, the Burrito Brothers, the Kinks, Traffic, old Motown, old delta Blues. PB: How did you and your brother Jeff end up joining the band? SC: We met the Deadstring Brothers about three years ago in London. I joined on pedal steel for some US and UK tours and then my brother, Jeff joined on bass a couple of months later. PB: Is songwriting a rewarding process for you? SC: When they sound good, yes. PB: Is putting together the music on your albums a collaborative effort with the Deadstring Brothers? What do the different members of the band bring to the table? SC: This album, myself and Kurt co-wrote most of the song's with Jeff and Travis coming in to lay down a thick one on the bass and drums. If any member makes a mistake we take him outside for 40 lashes! That’s what I like to bring to the table. PB: Thus far, are the Deadstring Brothers feeling more satisfied with either their live or recorded work? Or, have both been fulfilling? SC: Recording wise, we're heading in a direction that we're really pleased with. As for playing live, we're going to keep touring and busting our nuts to try and get the name out there. PB: How do you feel about the UK tour you are embarking upon? SC: Hell yeah, it is my neck of the woods so I’m happy - we’ve got a great line up and a Hammond organ that'll probably give us a hernia by day five. There are also some great bands that we're playing with around the UK - the Ryan O' Reilly band who I’m playing steel guitar with at the London show), and also the Scuffers and Two Fingers Of Firewater. They are good fellows and great bands. PB: Thank you.

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Deadstring Brothers - Interview

Deadstring Brothers - Interview

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