Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
One of the mightiest things to live for is the untold promise of the next record that you might get your hands on. There's hunting involved, crate digging and scrounging. There is the very distinct possibility that some faceless, nameless, unbeknownst group of people might have spent a few weeks recordings 10-12 songs that could mess your around for just short of an hour and then you'll voluntarily allow them to do it all to you again, as soon as you can flip that circle of vinyl and throw the needle and table back into motion. It's drug-like and it's a fix that stops people in their tracks. The room where I listen to most of my music is a cluttered mess, with stacks and stacks of LPs and piles of compact discs, associating with the library of books that I've collected over my three decades of life. It's a cove of words and melodies - the ones that I hold most dear. The record player that I play most things on is a gift from our original/founding engineer, a piece of equipment that he found the way that he found most of the audio equipment and gear that all of our sessions are recorded with and on to this day. It's a turntable that's just what it is - operable and reliable. The speakers and the receiver were cobbled together in an afternoon, lucked into, really, as a go-for-broke determinism sent me hopping all over town, to all of the second-hand stores that I could find to get some kind of system going. All of the acquisitions were made with a hope that their innards hadn't been eaten out and destroyed by the teeth of mice over the years. Lo and behold, when the pieces were brought home and put together, they were compatible and they fired up after only a little coddling. The room that they're housed in is an added on room in our house, a former porch that looks out over the boulevard. The greatest feature of the room is that, late at night, in the leaning pine trees outside the front windows, a neighborhood owl or two hoots its hoots and makes itself known. It's a soothing sound, a friendly bird just stating its presence as the records breathe and I pay close attention to nuances and subtleties.
Athens, Georgia, band Futurebirds are one of those bands that reward the kind of desperate and hopeless infatuation with sound. They too would hope for a resident owl and they too - all of the many of them - would so aggressively feel the need to piece together a sound system. It just has to work for there's a lifeline in its existence. There's a part of junkie-dom associated with the placing of a record down under the needle and the arm and letting the rest take care of itself. Not to undermine any comments that are about to be made about this great band, but the feeling that I have about them is based on one day - an afternoon that turned into an evening - and as far as anything should be concerned, the day and night in question, were about as good as they could have been. A session occurred earlier in the day and it was good, really good as you can plainly hear, but the live performance that happened later changed everything forever. The band was great and now will always be great, all for those 40 minutes, in a medium-sized city, in front of a piddling crowd. It didn't matter, for there were these many men, these many lead singers, and they created from thin air, some of loveliest songs that I, the owls, the naked rooms of the world over, could ever be lucky enough to hear live. Sometimes these live moments bring out exaggerations, long-winded soliloquies and empty proposals, but Futurebirds held us for a good 40 minutes and we stand by them like we stand by no other and we agree with them that, "No one gardens at this hour." Except the owls.
*Essay originally published November, 2010