Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes
One of my favourite things about music is the way it can make you feel an array of emotions, with a simple riff, lyric, fill, or vocal. From a contagious, soulful scream at the beginning of their single Don’t Wanna Fight to the groovesome hints of psychedelia sprinkled throughout Future People, Alabama Shakes‘ music makes you feel.

Having released their sophomore record Sound & Color on April 21st, we’re delighted to share our interview with this roots-rock foursome’s bass guitarist Zac Cockrell with our readers. Dive into our recent phone interview below, as we discuss pushing themselves, experimenting with different genres, his discman, and drawing together.

AMBY: Hey Zac, welcome to AMBY. It’s been three years since the release of your awesome debut Boys and Girls, and now the bands gearing up to drop your new record Sound in Colour. Tell me a bit about the album and just your overall experience creating the release.

Alabama Shakes: I think the main idea with this record was to just go in and push ourselves a little bit and create something interesting t us. I’m really happy with the way it came out and it was just a fun experience all around. It was our first time working with a producer and I enjoyed that and we all kind of really looked up to Blake, as far as he’s an incredible musician, so it was really cool to work with him. I’m excited to get it out and it’s been sort of a long time coming.

AMBY: I luckily had an advanced stream of the record and it’s kind of far out, but I mean that in a very awesome way.

Alabama Shakes: Oh yea.

AMBY: The songs on the album showcase hints of rock, soul, and even some psychedelia is thrown in there, so just what was the experience like of mucking about and kind of just experimenting with all of these different genres?

Alabama Shakes: Some of it was breaking out of just having a direction in mind. A couple songs like You and I, for instance, we had just demoed out on a mini-keyboard all of these keyboard parts and we pretty much stuck with that arrangement and we went in and sort of made it sound like a band. That was actually the first song we tracked, so it set the mood a little bit, like this is going to be a fun and really interesting record. There’s different cases song to song; some of them we ditched out while we were in the studio and we just wanted to make sounds that caught our eye and sounded interesting to us. We spent a little time sort of dabbling and thinking how it will work if it didn’t work.

AMBY: I read that you and Brittany used to meet after school to create music together. Were any of your ideas from back then put onto the new Shakes record or did you start writing material from scratch for this release?

Alabama Shakes: Yea, most of it was sort of from scratch. The song Give Me All Your Love was something that we had done at this point right after the first record, it was just sort of an idea that came up and we pretty well stuck close to that idea. Blake helped us out on the bridge part of it. We had an arrangement that was pretty cool but we didn’t love it, other than that it was pretty much stuck as it was and that’s a song we’ve liked for a long time so it felt good to finally hear it come to shape.

AMBY: You had a lot of success with the first record, Boys and Girls. In the back of your mind, did you feel any pressure that this record had to be as or more successful or was it more so just putting your music out there, doing what you love, and sharing it?

Alabama Shakes: I’d say definitely that. I think you can either be disappointed in it with expectations because we certainly didn’t have any expectations for the first one, it was just something we were proud of and we did, and the right people heard it. That really helped us with the first one. I don’t ever expect to be that fortunate or anything again. As long as we’re putting out something we’re happy with, I think that’s all we can ask for and see how people react.

AMBY: You’ll soon embark on a European tour where you’ll play Germany, London, and Manchester and then you’re off to some new festivals dates. Where are you most excited to visit?

Alabama Shakes: I’m excited to get back out and see places again. We’ve had some off time so I guess the easiest thing to say right now is Australia, so I’m looking forward to that. Last time we were there was in the middle of summer so it was pretty hot and I think it’s fall there now so I think the temperature is going to be milder and I am really looking forward to hanging out there for a couple of days again.

AMBY: Nice. Well this is a fairly extensive tour where as you’ll be out on the road for a few months, so when it comes to packing for a tour like this one, what are some quintessential items you need to bring with you?

Alabama Shakes: I got a Sony Discman for Christmas, so I like to find CDs and that’s nice to have. You don’t have to wait ‘til you get home to hear some music. I have a hard time getting by without my iPad; I got pretty used to having it. And… clothes! [laughs] I think that’s about it.

AMBY: [laughs] Yea, clothes are helpful.

Alabama Shakes: Nothing too crazy. We like to draw. We’ll bring some pads of paper and stuff. Just things to keep us entertained. I guess we’re all just kind of like children, we get bored; we’re all finger painting.

AMBY and Alabama Shakes: [laughs]

AMBY: Well the band get to go and play in cities all over the world, but if you’re fans wanted to visit Alabama and hang out with you for a day, what would be a couple of places or things you’d recommend them to check out?

Alabama Shakes: Probably just come to my house and hang out. I wouldn’t say I study it or anything, but I am kind of interested in architecture and there’s a pretty cool thing here in Aston, an architect Paul Rudolph, he’s a pretty well known modern king of style architect and he did two really cool houses here in our town. I think that’s pretty interesting, I like to show people those. If you’re here in the summer the river is pretty fun, but there’s not a whole lot going on entertainment wise. There wouldn’t be a good place to go to check out live music or anything like right down the road from me.

AMBY: I know on your Facebook page you recently wrote that I Found You, from Boys and Girls, is actually featured in the recent Mad Men series trailer. So if you could have your music featured in another TV series of film, which would you really love to see it in?

Alabama Shakes: Oh gosh. It’s hard to say, I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, well I guess I kind of do, but I don’t keep up with a lot of stuff. So, it’s a tough one.

AMBY: Something my staff and I really admire about the band is how you look like a bunch of friends – sometimes when you see bands, it can look either fake or put on, but not with you. To wrap everything up, we wanted to ask you, what would you say is the best part about being in Alabama Shakes?

Alabama Shakes: I think the best part probably is that we are all pretty close and we enjoy being around each other for the most part. Sometimes you do need your space but I think it’s a pretty fortunate thing to really enjoy hanging out with the people that you see sometimes more than you see your own family. I really like that part of it. We can always find something to do if we get super bored we can hang out. I think that’s probably my favourite part of it; hanging out with people I’ve known since high school. I think that’s pretty fortunate thing.

AMBY: That’s awesome to hear. Well, we really do wish you the best with this new record and thanks very much for your time.

Alabama Shakes: Yea, thank you! Hopefully we’ll see you soon. I think we’re heading up there at some point this year.

AMBY: You’re heading up here around summertime.

Alabama Shakes: It will be cool. Thank you very much.

AMBY: Yes, thank you!

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Thank you Alabama Shakes, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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