Augustines Are on the "Beginning of a Long Journey of Reinventing"
Do these guys look like a brooding bunch? Well, yeah!
Identity crisis isn't generally a factor that pops up so early in a band's career. So it's somewhat unusual to find Augustines (formerly known as We Are Augustines) undergoing a name change after only a single album. It's not a drastic makeover to be sure, but it may offer opportunity to reintroduce themselves two years after their dramatic debut, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, which aroused the interest of fans and critics alike. A stirring, bellicose, anthemic-like set of songs riddled with passion, petulance, and anguish, it stamped an immediate impression on an unsuspecting public. Sounding like a kinetic blend of Springsteen and Echo and the Bunnymen, the onetime Brooklyn-based trio was formed during a time of personal turbulence, circumstances that had a profound effect on vocalist and guitarist Billy McCarthy and bassist and keyboard player Eric Sanderson.
Drummer Rob Allen came onboard, they rebranded themselves, and reconvened last November to record their sophomore set, due next January, an album they simply titled Augustines. With producer Peter Katis at the helm and their emotional wounds apparently healed, the trio decided to opt for a more optimistic approach.
Still, though their darker days may be behind them, they still tend to be a somewhat tenacious bunch, as New Times found out during a recent conversation with Sanderson.
New Times: First off, why the change of name? I know Augustines was your first choice, but do you worry that changing it at this stage may confuse some folks?
Eric Sanderson: As you know, Augustines was our original name. The name was taken from us just before we released Rise Ye Sunken Ships, and we scrambled to modify the name yet still preserve its original intention. Little did we know that soon after, the name "We Are" would become fashionable. It was really hard to see the We Are phenomena evolve. Every time we saw another We Are band pop up, it fueled our fire to get our original name back. It wasn't easy, but we prevailed. So you ask, did we worry about creating confusion. No, we didn't; we believed in the name when we chose it originally, and we believed in returning to it.
Your debut album was so intense, so passionate, so outspoken. Where did those emotions come from? What was it that drove those songs?
It is well-documented where our first record came from. For anyone who's not aware, you can find countless interviews where we explain it. I don't have much to say, other than we lived through something that was incredibly intense and real. Now we are coming from a new place, a place we worked for decades to reach.
Can you give us an idea of some of your early influences? And maybe who you admire nowadays?
Honestly, the list is too just too long. Each of us has been playing music our entire lives. We are students of culture and the arts. Everything we live through and see is our influence. I admire any artist that believes in what they do and produces high-quality work.
You seem like a very passionate and deep-thinking group of musicians to begin with. Was that spawned by your individual backgrounds? Do you brood? Do you obsess? You give the impression that you take life very seriously.
We obsess the same way any person that dedicates their life to a craft does. I understand why you would feel we are brooding, but I prefer the term impassioned.
I read in your bio that the new album offers more optimism and uplifting sentiment than what was reflected by the first album. Is that true, and why? And will fans recognize the new music as part of your signature sound?
During the creation of our last record, we were going through an incredibly difficult phase of our lives. We dedicated all of our energy to overcoming that phase. This new record is a statement of where we believe life can go, that it doesn't always have to be full of suffering. Our sound is our sound, and that carries through everything we do. It is what makes us, us.
Your first album won you a big fan following and drew critical kudos... In other words, it set a high bar. Is it a challenge now to come back and meet that bar. Is it scary or intimidating knowing you have to live up to certain expectations?
The only expectation we have ever cared about is whether we are creating the best possible work we can make. That was the same sentiment for the last record, and it will be for our future records.
What was producer Peter Katis' role on the new album? The way he's described in your press releases makes it seem like he became a mentor of sorts.
Peter was certainly a rock during the recording. He is a healthy, hardworking, and incredibly talented man. He has navigated how to live life by doing what he believes in. Any person that does what they love, and does it well, is an inspiration. Peter certainly is that.
So what lies ahead? What are the challenges? Where do you see the band going now?
As I'm doing this interview, our headlights illuminate the otherwise blackened eastern Washington sky. We are on the road now. It's the beginning of a long journey of reinventing ourselves once again. We will be traveling the world playing our songs, sharing stories with people that we meet, and gathering as much inspiration as we can.
We're looking forward to it. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Augustines with Frightened Rabbit at 8 p.m. Friday, October 11, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Visit cultureroom.net.