The members of Damn Arkansan aren’t just creative musicians, combining new-age eccentricities with old-school country tones. They also have a sense of humor. With a new album coming out including some great songs with original lyrics that draw you into the sound and keep your interest peeked, they’re showing it all off. We sat down with the band to talk about their new album Save Yourself, and release party on June 22 at Smoke and Barrel in Fayetteville. Sample and download their new album Save Yourself at damnarkansan.com
Q: Tell me how the band got started.
A: Drew and I have been playing and writing music together since we were barely teenagers. A couple years ago the two of us decided to get together and make a record more or less just to see what would come of it. Based on a recommendation from our engineer, Chris Moore at East Hall Recording, we brought on Caleb Rose to play guitar. Turned out he also sang high harmony, so that sort of solidified our three part harmonies that have kind of become a staple of our sound. That record ended up being Damn Arkansan’s debut. When we decided to go back and make a second record, we brought in Drew’s cousin, Chris Fletcher, to fill the drumming duties. That was about a year and a half ago and that’s been the lineup ever since.
Q: How do you guys describe your sound?
A: This is always such a tough question to answer – I think for any musician, really. I honestly don’t know how I describe it. A lot of the words I usually end up throwing around are things like “alt-country, indie, rock, americana, roots rocks” and those sorts of terms, but ultimately I end up telling people to listen to it and tell me what they think. I don’t think we’ve ever really sat down and tried to write a song in a certain style, so it’s hard to say definitively what style comes out of us. It’s a pretty good mish-mash of influences that we all have from The Band to Wilco to Weezer and Pavement. So however you can imagine that sounds.
Q: What are some of the bands greatest accomplishments?
A: Most recently, we found ourselves playing our first music fest down at Riverfest in Little Rock, so that was a really great opportunity. And hopefully one we’ll get again soon. We also made the finals of the Arkansas Times Musicians’ Showcase down there and got to play with a lot of really great bands from all over the state. Last year we were listed in Paste Magazine’s article “12 Arkansas Bands You Should Listen to Now” with a lot of our good friends like Teenagers and Adam Faucett. It’s always nice to get recognition, but especially cool when you can share it with people you really enjoy playing with. We were nominated for a few NAMA’s, back when those were still around.
Q: Tell me about this new record and how it is different from the previous ones?
A: It’s a 6 song EP called Save Yourself, and it’s sort of a followup to last year’s release, Brave Mistakes. We actually intended for both to be released in the same year since they were kind of one idea to begin, but we ended up getting so busy last year we didn’t have time to finish until recently. I’m glad we took the extra time we did because what came out of it was, I think, a record about not being afraid to take chances. I think material wise, this album is pretty similar to Brave Mistakes, but it’s quite a bit more upbeat and I think more uplifting. Brave Mistakes was a record about some pretty major life changes and I think Save Yourself is the next step on that path – sort of “okay, I made these changes, now what do I do?” and being okay with the choices you make regardless of where they take you.
Like I said, both records were more or less written about the same time, so there is a lot of similarity stylistically, but I think taking the extra time with it really let us explore sonically where the record could go, which I’m not sure we would have been able to do had we put it out last year. I think there are some moments on the record that will surprise people as far as the sound, but that’s certainly intentional. We always want to be sort of pushing ourselves to try things that we haven’t done in the past and this record is pretty indicative of that to me.
Q: What can people expect from the show at Smoke and Barrel?
A: Well just to rattle off the details really quickly, we’ll get everything started around 9:30 or so, $5 at the door, and we’ll be playing with Family History, who always put on a great show. We’re gonna try to get a little time in between their set and ours to actually play the record for people so we can hang out and talk to them about it. We always end up playing until so late, we don’t get to spend too much time actually talking to people, so we wanted to have an opportunity to really see what people think of the album. Short of that, I think everyone can just expect a great time that night. Smoke and Barrel is kind of our home base and any time we play there it ends up being a blast for us, which I think translates to the audience. At least I hope it does.