Bad Books, O’ Brother, & Death on Two Wheels: An Accidental Side Project, Playing a Denny’s, & What to Wear on a Rock Boat

On the evening before Thanksgiving, local label Favorite Gentleman took over the CW Midtown Complex (The Loft, Center Stage, Vinyl) for The Stuffing– an all night throw down featuring nearly every band considered to be a part of the Favorite Gentleman family. From indie-rock headliners Manchester Orchestra to close friends of the label like Dead Confederate, it was a community of bands who, thanks to work of Favorite Gentleman’s Jeremiah Edmond, collaborated for a holiday event like no other.

Rather than puttering out a play by play of the entire night we sat down with the three of the most anticipated acts of the evening.

Formed in the early parts of 2010, Bad Books is what happened when members of Manchester Orchestra and Brooklyn singer/songwriter Kevin Devine, long-time tour mates, began writing songs together. It just so happened that the end result – a jangled pop not far removed from the 90s style Elephant-Six recordings – was worth diverting time from constructing both individual acts’ upcoming and highly anticipated albums.

I sat down with Kevin Devine at the end of both his solo set and the Bad Books set. Seemingly unfazed, Devine talked about how Bad Books came to be and what the future has in store.

(Click Here for Kevin Devine Interview)

O’ Brother play to their own style; sure it’s a grandiose noise, but even the loudest moments quickly sink into a delicate lull, even as guitarist/frontman Tanner Merritt belts over a crashing melody there is comfort behind it all. Maybe it’s the stage décor of strung together lights and cloth draped over the stage that perpetuates the music of O’ Brother as haunting as much as it is a dreamscape.

Never the less, I sat down with the whole band: Merritt, guitarist Johnny Dang, his bass wielding brother Anton, guitarist Aaron Wamack, and drummer Michael Martens. We talked about their upcoming full length and the time they played in a Denny’s Restaurant (can we even call that place a restaurant?).

Purge: I noticed you guys have dream catchers at your merch table. What brought that on?

Anton: I work at an after school program and one of the arts and crafts is making dream catchers for thanksgiving. I thought it would be a good idea for who ever wants it. So we made twenty and gave them away.

Aaron: It’s kind of a joke ’cause everyone thinks [Anton and Johnny] are Native American but they’re Vietnamese.

Purge: There’s flyers all over the place tonight of a website to watch you guys work on the new album.

Tanner: We’re launching a new website called Beneath Your Garden Window for the new album. It will be constant video updates of us in the studio and artwork updates as Aaron (he does all of our artwork) finishes it and he’ll be updating it, as live streaming video of us in the studio. They’ll be a Ustream thing so you can watch and chat with us while we’re in the studio.

Purge: This will be a great way to connect with fans.

Anton: [pointing to his brother Johnny] We have been in bands for ten, twelve years, or whatever, and have never released a full length. This is a big thing for us and we want everyone to have a part in it as much as possible.

Aaron: We think people will feel more connected if they can follow the process of creating it until the end. The point of the website is to change and come together as the album comes together.

Purge: Dreams played a major role as a theme behind The Death of Day. What kind of areas and ideas are being explored for the album?

Tanner: It’s going to be a very natural perspective. Everything is going to revolve around (metaphorically) aspects of nature and how we’re all a part of it. It’s still coming together thematically.

[A voice yells from the other room, “It’s about Avatar!”]

Tanner: It’s totally about us being in the bodies of aliens.

Michael: [laughing] The record is actually coming out in 3D.

Tanner: It’s called blue balls.

Purge: O’ Brother has always avoided that cliché of soft then loud, coming off rather seamless where even the softest parts are loud and the loud parts have soft elements to them. You never fall into that pos-rock pitfall.

Tanner: I think the point of the new record will be to do that even less. The EP was up and down within songs and what were trying to do is have the ups and downs in between songs, to create a more eclectic piece of work, having different songs sounding completely different rather than having within a song with so many parts.

Johnny: In the Death of Day every song is pretty dynamic — a roller coaster — but this I feel like every song is different in its own way.

Purge: Bands always tend to have two versions of themselves: one live, one in the studio. You guys have seemed to create just one by recording you’re the EP straight through live. Was that important?

Anton: For the most part we are a live band and we wanted to capture our live sound as much as we can with that EP. With the new album I think there will be songs we want to track live and try and capture that, but at the same time we are trying to experiment with layering in other songs.

Purge: What’s been the band’s proudest moments so far?

Michael: The Atlanta shows at Variety Playhouse with [Manchester Orchestra] and Thrice where huge for us, Especially the second night because it was one of the best shows we’ve ever played, and all of our families and close friends were there.

Johnny: I think were coming onto the stage where it’s going up at this point making a full length and then next year will be even more busy.

Purge: What’s been the strangest show you guys have played?

Tanner: There have been too many to count.

Anton: We’ve played in a Denny’s restaurant.

Johnny: It was the first time we played Orlando, Fl. It was with All Get Out.

Purge: Why does all this make some kind of weird sense?

Michael: We got paid in Grand Slams.

Aaron: It was during business hours. Apparently they were doing something with Denny’s and music so they wanted to start having, at certain stores, live bands. A show fell through at a venue and we picked up this show at a Denny’s. It was one of the weirdest things we’ve ever done.

There we’re families eating while we were playing.

Johnny: After a nice time at Walt Disney they go to Denny’s to eat dinner and we’re there with monstrous amps.

Death On Two Wheels have long been a band worth keeping tabs on in Atlanta. The band, by association more than their actual music, is positioned as the entrenched in the line between classic rock and its modern variations. In ways this is questionable placement, but also the results of writing songs bearing the strength and attitude of a Hell’s Angel at Altamont and, at the same time, capturing of sultry voice and wit — the same elements made up Burt Reynolds’ seduction techniques in the ‘70s.

I got to catch up with frontman Trae Vedder to see how things are lining up for the band as well as hear what it’s like to open for the great Social Distortion.


Purge: Death on Two Wheels Recently got to open for Social Distortion down in Austin. How was that?

Trae: That was a dream come true I really don’t know what else to say about it. [laughs] We played with Lucero so it was two birds with one stone. We had seen Lucero in Memphis and they said ‘We think we’re getting a Social D tour’ and we were able to jump on one of those.

I talked to Ben [Nichols, frontman of Lucero]  that night. ‘I feel like we’re raining on your parade that we’re even here.’ But getting that one show was awesome.

Purge: How was the crowd?

Trae: Great, very receptive. I guess it was a quarter full at that point.

Purge: That’s not bad for a Social D show.

Trae: Yeah, we played at 6:30. Super Early so thanks to everyone who was there. It was a blast. Just to be there and see all of Mike Ness’ gear and a lot of nice trinkets on stage. There was bobbing head dolls and boxing gloves. I don’t know who signed them.

Purge: You obviously pull from older forms of rock and roll. Who’s been an influence on you just for voice?

Trae: I definately think all the records our fathers listened to was an inspiration to this band. I’m really into old stuff like Deep Purple and Steppenwolf. As far as voice goes modern stuff like Dave Grohl is great. Joe Cocker is a show I saw at the [Fox Theater] that always sticks in my head.

Purge: It’s been quite a while since the release of Separation of Church and Fate. Is a new album in the works?

Trae: This will be our last show of the year… we’re doing the Rock Boat in Janurary, but aside from that we’ll be working on the second record in Janurary/February.

Purge: Wait… you’re playing a rock boat?

Trae: [Laughs} Yeah it's a cruise. We'll be on there for four days playing once a day and boozing it up the rest of the day. It's going to be an interesting ride. Paul [Doss - guitarist]  was saying he’s going to play every show in a Hawaiian shirt and booty shorts.


Purge: Favorite Gentlemen works more like a community than a label, choosing to work on growing bands. How has it been for Death On Two Wheels?

Trae: We’re still technically the newest band to be a part of the family. We were always friends and knew all those guys. We kind of came up at the same time Harrison Hudson was doing his first record and [Jeremiah Edmond ] was producing it.

We’ve been friends for five years and then joined up this past year. It’s been great. We toured with O’ Brother earlier this year. It’s always great to see your friends grow as you grow, or if your struggling you go to them for help. I know we’ve done that a lot, since we joined Favorite Gentlemen we’ve gone through an assortment of members. We feel great about this line-up and it all came together through the powers that be of all the connections at Favorite Gentlemen.


It’s always good to have that backbone. Of course some of the bands are doing better than others but that’s kind of the beauty of it. For the most part we are all broke and starving and ready for it. It’s good to have that support and be out there roughing and huffing it.


Purge: There’s no band that seems to be waiting for their time. Everyone is working actively, hustling.


Trae: That’s the beauty of it, just watching everyone work so hard and being inspired by that. If you’re ever getting a little weak on what you’re doing you have to catch up because every other band is doing great. It’s very healthy.

Photo Credit: Tim Song