by J.D. Reager
Tomorrow night, Saturday, March 2, the Young Avenue Deli will host the CD-release show for one of Memphis' best emerging bands, Dead Soldiers.
Dead Soldiers is a "supergroup" of sorts, combining members of well-regarded local bands such as the Unbeheld, Cremains, and the Memphis Dawls to form an Americana powerhouse that combines elements of outlaw country, bluegrass, and southern rock. The band cut its official debut effort, the forthcoming All the Things You Lose, with the help of local producer Scott Bomar, who recorded Dead Soldiers at his Electraphonic recording studio.
Co-founding members Ben Aviotti and Michael Jasud spoke to the Flyer this week about the band's history, the new record, and more.
Memphis Flyer: Most of the members of band were in metal bands before Dead Soldiers - what inspired you guys to start a country band?
Jasud: We like country! But honestly that was just kind of a starting point. I think I had just been listening to a lot of roots music and wanted to try something different. I randomly got really into bluegrass just looking for new music probably five or six years ago. Then I got into old-time country after getting into some more contemporary stuff and tracing it backwards.
Aviotti: Mike and I started writing some songs outside of our bands at the time and it got progressively more serious as time pressed on.
Was there a learning curve involved in learning a new style of music?
Jasud: For me there was. Of course, playing music has always been one big learning curve for me. I think it would be boring if I didn't feel challenged. But I was never really a singer before this, and the voice truly is an instrument that I've had to learn to play. Different styles definitely call for different skills. But ultimately I have never solely been a metal fan. I love metal and I am still passionate about it. Any artist is inspired by everything in their lives past and present, consciously or otherwise. It's all in there. Metal is part of my palette, so is hip hop, and so are movies and comic books and my grandmother. It's all in there. For whatever reason playing metal made sense and felt honest. And so does Dead Soldiers. Beyond that I have minimal control at best of what comes out of my head.
Other than a few line-up changes, how has the band evolved since you put it together?
Aviotti: Complexity of arrangements and lyrics has definitely evolved.
Jasud: I aim to just be the kind of band that establishes right off the bat that we are always going to keep trying new things and not have a lot of boundaries to what we can actually pull off without it seeming weird or forced. So we can follow our instincts without worrying about fitting into an abstract idea of what we think we've established that we're supposed to be.
What was it like to work with Scott Bomar?
Aviotti: Scott was really open to whatever approach we had to each song. He's just true to the moment as far as getting sounds that you want. We had a pretty ambitious project over a relatively short period of time, and he was incredibly deft at incorporating all of the different instrumentation that each song had. We had quite a few guests on the record including Holly Cole, Jana Misener, Al Gamble, Mark Franklin, Paul Taylor, and our former mandolin player Nathan Raab. Scott was really great about hearing what we wanted out of each song and approaching it accordingly. Not to mention he's just a great guy. Never trust an engineer that won't drink with you.
What else does the band have in the works?
Aviotti: We're doing an album release tour the latter part of March, a short tour in June, a few festival dates over the summer, and another short tour following that. We're looking into a vinyl release of the album, a video, a new instrumental EP, and we're several songs into writing our next record already.
Jasud: I'm ready to get started on the next one!
Dead Soldiers CD-Release Show
w/ the Mighty Souls Brass Band
Saturday, March 2, 9 p.m.
Young Avenue Deli