Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers

Thayer Sarrano

Fri, March 4

Doors: 8:00 pm

$35

Drive-By Truckers - (Set time: 10:15 PM)
Drive-By Truckers


An overview of our journey from post-election blues, into the heart of Memphis and onward into 2020 with a new album.

Drive-By Truckers is kicking off the new election year with The Unraveling, our first new album in 3 1/2 years (the longest space between new DBT albums ever). Those years were among the most tumultuous our country has ever seen and the duality between the generally positive state of affairs within our band while watching so many things we care about being decimated and destroyed all around us informed the writing of this album to the core.

While a quick glance might imply that we’re picking up where 2016’s American Band album left off, the differences are as telling as the similarities. If the last one was a warning shot hinting at a coming storm, this one was written in the wreckage and aftermath. I’ve always said that all of our records are political but I’ve also said that ‘politics IS personal’. With that in mind, this album is especially personal.

Our 2018 single “The Perilous Night” acted as a sort of coda to the polemic of the last album and the original plan was to zigzag in a different direction, but alas the past few years have seen an uptick in school shootings, church shootings, racial violence, suicides and overdoses, border violence, and an assault on so many things that we all hold dear. They’re literally putting children in cages. Writing silly love songs just seemed the height of privilege.

My partner Mike Cooley and I both worked through deep pools of writer’s block. How do you put these day to day things we’re all living through into the form of a song that we (much less anybody else) would ever want to listen to? How do you write about the daily absurdities when you can’t even wrap your head around them in the first place? I think our response was to focus at the core emotional level. More heart and less cerebral perhaps.

Eventually the songs did come, some in mysterious ways. A day-long layover at an exit outside of Gillette, Wyoming resulted in “21st Century USA”, the song that for me opened up the floodgates, enabling me to write my portion of the album.

I wrote “Babies in Cages” in the living room of my wife’s parent’s house and quickly demoed it on my phone. A portion of that original recording acts as the introduction to the version on the album. Cooley wrote “Grievance Merchants” about the proliferation of white supremacist violence we’ve seen in recent years. Our family’s babysitter’s best friend was murdered on a train in beautiful progressive Portland, Oregon in one such incident. The political is indeed very personal.

“Armageddon’s Back in Town” takes a whirlwind joyride through the daily whiplash of events we are collectively dealing with, while “Slow Ride Argument” offers an unorthodox but hopefully effective method of the prevailing of cooler heads. Perhaps it should come with a disclaimer though.

Meanwhile “Awaiting Resurrection” dives headfirst into the void of despair and painful realities these times are tolling. It’s a song unlike any in our band’s history, yet somehow quintessentially DBT to the core. A call to deal, unblinkingly, with the horrors surrounding us all, but to also survive, with perhaps even a hint of optimism.

“In the end we’re just standing, watching greatness fade into darkness /
Awaiting Resurrection”

If the writing was a long and brutal process, the recording was a joyous celebration. Another of our band’s many dualities, perhaps.

We convened for a week in Memphis, Tennessee at the historic and wonderful Sam Phillips Recording Service. We tracked, mostly live in the studio, aided by long-time producer David Barbe and famed engineer Matt Ross-Spang. Initially recording 18 songs in 85 hours of near around the clock sessions, the band essentially spent the whole week in an artistic marathon, housing ourselves at the Memphis Music Mansion (AirBnB), surrounded by historic photos and a mid-century vibe that seemed to even seep into our dreams each night. (My bedroom was, fittingly, The Big Star Room, named after the seminal Memphis power pop band that I have always held as an all-time favorite).

Recording in Memphis has been a life-long dream for this band. Both the city, with its dark social history and amazing musical heritage, and the studio which is a time machine set to its early 1960’s origins and inhabited by the spirit of its genus founder, affected and inspired the creation of this album in ways that go far beyond the tangible and technical.

Sam Phillips left my hometown of Florence, Alabama and moved to Memphis, working in radio before opening the legendary Sun Studios (Memphis Recording Service) where he essentially discovered Rock and Roll, recording the first records of Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, and of course Elvis Presley. When he sold Sun, he built his dream lair, the, then state of the art Sam Phillips Recording Service which opened in 1962. If Phillips’ love of ‘slap-back’ echo had given those early Sun records their legendary sound, his new studio incorporated three different echo chambers into its design, giving the studio a very unique and wonderful sound that we incorporated into this album.

I can’t impart enough the impact that recording there had on this album. We were all beyond inspired by the surroundings and the sounds coming out of the speakers from every playback or the sound of the echo chambers reverberating down the halls. Every day we got to hang out with Sam’s son Jerry who took us up to Mr. Phillips’ old office on the third floor. Unlocked in time, it was still exactly as it had been the last day Sam spent there. His jackets still hanging in the closet and the bar still stocked with his favorite whiskey. There, with Jerry, we toasted our recordings and the spirits that still inhabited that sacred space.

In honor of finally getting to record in Memphis, I wrote “Rosemary with a Bible and a Gun”, a sort of stream of conscious love song to that dark and mythical city on the banks of the Mississippi. Although the song isn’t a literal story of such, it was certainly informed by the brutal times Cooley and I had in 1991 when we followed Sam Phillips’ example and moved from Florence to Memphis in search of dreams that for us were still to be over a decade in coming. I heard the song in my head as a sort of Bobbie Gentry inspired southern gothic and we further explored that by adding gorgeous strings by Kyleen and Patti King (arranged by Kyleen). It seemed the perfect way to kick off this album.

Our sessions were rounded out by a guest appearance from Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi All Stars) who came in and played an electric washboard through an Echoplex and wah-pedal into an amp for “Babies in Cages”. The song, recorded completely live, in one magical take, perfectly captured the mood and tone of the week we spent there. (We even kept the scratch vocal since it had so much live bleed from the take). The following day, Mick Jagger came by, but alas we weren’t able to record with him, although his presence certainly added to the already surreal vibe of the week.

A few months later we reconvened in Athens, Georgia at Barbe’s Chase Park Transduction studios where Matt and David mixed the album on Barbe’s vintage 1975 Neve console. As a band that got its start essentially making albums as field recordings on mobile gear, it is indeed a treat to get to make our albums on 2” 16 tracks tape in historic studios and on beautiful vintage gear. We finished the process by having the legendary Greg Calbi master it all at Sterling Sound in Edgewater, New Jersey.

In the end, we whittled the album down to the nine songs included, saving several key songs for a foundation to the next one that will hopefully occur sooner than later. Lilla Hood designed the packaging utilizing a stunning photo by Erik Golts of two young lads watching a sunset at the Oregon coast, lettering by famed graphic artist Aaron Draplin, and once again beautiful artwork from our long time collaborator Wes Freed. We plan on touring extensively throughout the next year taking these songs around the world.

We hope to see you there.

- Patterson Hood
Thayer Sarrano - (Set time: 9:00 PM)
Thayer Sarrano


Thayer Sarrano is forging her own path into a southern- psych-dreamland, bottling up ghosts and bringing them to life through her ethereal desert rock hymns. The tones tremble and bend, layered in swirling atmospherics. The angelic voice will pull you in close to share devastatingly beautiful and heart-breaking secrets, while shadowy figures dance in the background. This is music that envelops the listener and may transport you to another world or time. A magical place that is melancholic and haunting, yet bursting with heavenly light.​

With her latest release, Shaky, the multi-instrumentalist sounds more than ever like her roots, her places of origin. She grew up
in a monastery, and the swamplands of coastal southern Georgia. Classically trained as a child, she always wrote instrumental compositions and poetry, even at a very young age. With chanting forever embedded in her subconscious, she awakened further, now to grunge of the 1990s. Songwriting came when she landed in the vibrant musical community of Athens, GA – where she is now based. She began to collaborate with friends, forming her own band, while establishing herself as a studio/touring session player. She has worked with Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven, T. Hardy Morris, of Montreal, Dave Marr, Kuroma, and David Barbe, among numerous others. In 2009, she released her debut album, King. This collection of songs prompted the magazine Americana UK to dub her "The New Queen of Shoegaze." Sarrano displayed her skillful musicianship, recording the entirety of this sparse, raw album live in her living room, in just one day. In 2012, she released her follow up LP, Lift Your Eyes to the Hills. It featured more complex arrangements, and included the single "The Bend," written for the Groninger Museum, located in the Netherlands. The success of that single prompted her consistent touring of Europe in the years that followed and into the present. Sarrano herself produced the record, along with Hank Sullivant (Kuroma, MGMT). The album was released independently, as part of a charitable campaign for Nuçi's Space, in conjunction with Camp Amped, a teenage retreat for aspiring rock musicians, to which Thayer remains passionately devoted. Of this album, Flagpole Magazine commented: "Featuring heavily spiritual themes, it could have collapsed under its own weight, but Hills manages to maintain a startling lightness of being." Now, with Shaky, we see Sarrano at her bravest and most vulnerable.

Written in an unstable period of much loss, Shaky remains a record of grace and perseverance. The honest, painted lyrics weave personal experiences with the mystical. But to Thayer, it's all real. "I feel like I have to make this quilt out of these patches of visions I've collected," she says. "And then suddenly the song is finished, and I realize it's all true." We start to believe her that these seemingly abstract visions are really happening. And, in this other world, we see pictures to which we can relate. In the title track, we catch snatches of the elusive: "I trace your echo / I follow your lead / You're shaky, shaky / But you settle me." In the song "Crease," there are images of dissolving relationships: "Your memory unties my cells. / It breaks the line from your heart to mine." In the song "Glimpses," we find a quest for something existentially greater: "There's a world at the same time as this one. / It's bright, it trembles, it glistens." In the track "Lost Art," there are apparitions of beautiful ethereality: "Their hands are open, call to the wild / Layer landscapes, breaking the sky / I remember them from when I was a child / It's the same little image from inside my eyes."

Dovetailing the thick twang of the country with the airy, echoing, spacious feeling of an empty church, Sarrano has carved out a pocket in which her otherworldly music has room to breathe. Or perhaps the pocket was already there and Sarrano stumbled upon it, becoming a vector for something deep and soulful and strange. Regardless, once you've stepped into that pocket with her, you're bound to want to return.
Venue Information:
9:30 Club
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
http://930.com