Interview: The South

Interview: Simon Hadley.

At first glance, the South is a boastful, yet, slightly idealist moniker. On closer inspection, it’s entirely justified. Rock and roll is, after all, in this young trio’s blood. Hailing from Dallas, Texas – the home of Buddy Holly among others – Texas is also the birthplace of: Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top. Blues-rock pioneers.

Like their Tennessee brothers, the Heavy Eyes – more of them later – the South’s early collection of smoky, easy-listening blues is steeped in tradition: soulful licks that wail and howl, to the sound of timely organ flourishes and world-weary lyrics.

Let’s start with the obvious: Who are the South?

RL: Right now, there are only two of us: We’re in the market for a new drummer. Sam, the bassist, and I [Ryan] have been best friends since we were 3 and 4 years old. We met in preschool and developed together into the people we are today. We grew up on the classics, and that’s why we have such a love for the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. We’re on the exact same page, and we’re looking for that third person who shares the same musical interests as us.

Your previous band, the American Spirit, had a rugged, ‘90s-esque sound. What made you make the jump from grunge to blues?

RL: I’d say that we just love the groove that you get into when playing the blues. No other type of music is quite like it. We crank the amps up and just ride a riff for hours in the garage. It kind of puts you in a trance almost. It’s really incredible.

Being a blues-rock band from Texas is saddled with pressure. Do you think your moniker will make it difficult to live up to blues fans’ expectations, or is it simply a case of being proud of your roots?

RL: We are very proud of our roots. Honestly, we don’t care if we live up to expectations of the standard blues fan. We make the music we want to make, and say the things we want to say, because it’s who we are. If people enjoy it, and want to get on board, I couldn’t be happier. But if they don’t like what we’re doing, they can find another band to listen to [laughs].

For the outside world, blues is synonymous with Texas. Were you aware of artists such as: Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top growing up? Also, how important is it to Texas to have a thriving blues scene?

RL: Absolutely. Stevie Ray and ZZ top were among our favourites growing up. Our dads listened to them as well, so naturally, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. And honestly, from where we’re from [Dallas] the blues scene is so incredibly underground, that it almost doesn’t exist anymore. Most of the music coming out of Dallas nowadays is hip hop or hardcore metal bands. It’s a really sad thing. That’s why we’re moving to Austin; where more of the old styles of rock ‘n’ roll are thriving.

Your self-titled EP has a very mature sound; making it even more impressive to think that you’re barely out of your teens. How supportive have family and friends been since the South really took off?

RL: Our families have always been very supportive of anything we’ve ever done musically. Have they really gotten the point of the long hair and bell bottoms? Not so much [laughs] but they still support us no matter what.

Passive Recordings recently promoted your support slot with Planes and Planets in Carrollton. For those of us who aren’t aware of Passive Recordings, who are they? Also, are there any plans to work with them in the future?

RL: They’re really nice dudes trying to promote good music and local artists. I always support people that try and spread local music to people that don’t take the time to go out and find it. At this point we don’t have any set plans to work with them in the future, but we’re always down to work with anyone doing something for the good of music.

You recently covered ‘Voyek’ by the Heavy Eyes, and they’ve been pretty vocal in their support. How did you find out about the Heavy Eyes, and are there any plans to tour with them in the future?

RL: We found the Heavy Eyes on YouTube about a year ago, and we can honestly say that they were the band that totally got us obsessed with the heavy blues genre. Since then, we’ve seen them live and had a couple chats. Totally nice dudes and their music deserves to be listened to. And no, not really, but we definitely wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if it arises. We’d love to play shows with those guys.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

RL: The classics of course, like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. But for the most part, we listen to underground stoner and hard rock [bands] from today, as well as the past. We love listening to bands that never got enough credit such as: Pentagram, Blue Cheer, and Red Dirt. Here’s a list of the other bands that have been taking over our lives for the past year or so: Graveyard, Witchcraft, Kadavar, Witch, Electric Wizard, and the Sword.

El Camino by the Black Keys is being touted as the best rock album of the year. Are you fans of the Black Keys? Also, how important have they been in bringing the blues-rock sound to a wider audience?

RL: We dig the Black Keys. Some of their new stuff sounds like it’s a little bit more geared towards the public, but it’s still good. I especially love their old music. Their album Thickfreakness is very good. I think they’re pretty important in that respect. It’s nice to see that rock ‘n’ roll is making its way back in the charts.

Finally, when we can expect the follow-up to your self-titled EP?

RL: We don’t really have a set date for the release of our next record, but I can tell you some of the basic details: It’s going to be called Hallow’s Eve and its going to have a distinct Halloween sound to it. We’ve already begun writing songs for it, and ‘Mrs. Absinthe’ will re-appear on it. I’d say you can expect it to be released sometime next summer.

Listen to the South’s self-titled EP below: