Photo by Emily Cole
Old wood, cheap whiskey in an antique glass, and dusty-bermuda grass dead and brown, in a hay-loft left over from last summer.
Imagine that smell. Then, translate that smell into a cohesive sound (you can do it), add the tin of a Fender Telecaster on the highest pickup, and real drums.
Got it? If you did it right, you’ve got Damn Arkansan.
The band is right around a year old, and they’ve already released a full length, and a single, and have become one of the more consistent bands in the current Fayetteville music scene.
Come this weekend, they’ll officially celebrate the release of another brand new batch of songs on a new EP called Brave Mistakes at Smoke & Barrel on Saturday, April 7.
We got in touch with the band recently, and they were nice enough to answer some questions for us.
FF: What have you been listening to lately?
Damn Arkansan: Superdrag, Weezer, Dawes, The Band, Nada Surf, The Dexateens, Swimming, Yo La Tengo, Belle and Sebastian
FF: Tell us a bit about the band. How did Damn Arkansan come to be?
Will: Drew and I played music together for years, since we were in our early teens, while we lived in Jonesboro. About 3 years ago we reconnected here in Fayetteville and decided to make a record, regardless of the fact that we didn’t have a full band. Through the process of recording our first record, we picked up Caleb Rose as a lead guitarist and backup singer. Most recently we brought in Chris Fletcher, Drew’s cousin and a great childhood friend of ours, on drums.
FF: Tell us a bit about the new EP. Where did you guys record it?
Will: We recorded with Chris Moore at East Hall here in Fayetteville. We had worked with him on our first record and he had a great feel for our style and a good grasp on what we were going for artistically. He also has an amazing 2-inch tape machine, and we really wanted to see what we would sound like tracking live to tape. The result is a record that we think captures our sound, especially our energy as a band, better than anything we’ve released in the past.
FF: How is the release going to work?
Drew: We premiered the record on 98.3 the Keg’s “Home Brew” on April 1st. Sound Warehouse will be hosting us on Tuesday with an acoustic performance and listening party. Friday, April 6th we’ll be taking the stage with the Memphis Dawls in Hot Springs at Maxine’s, one of our favorite places to play. We’ll follow that up with an appearance in Fayetteville at Smoke & Barrel with Adam Faucett on Saturday, April 7th. Our website, damnarkansan.com, always hosts our songs for free streaming and purchase (physical and digital) including all merchandise and our first record and single, “Legs”. You can currently access all Damn Arkansan music on all major online distributors from Spotify to iTunes.
FF: Tell us a bit about your songwriting process. Who writes the songs, and how does it happen?
Drew: Most of the material that comes out of Damn Arkansan is melody driven, a riff that gets stuck in your head out of left field while taking a shower or driving home from Jonesboro. Typically it begins with an idea that I’ll record on my iPhone. I usually let it sit a few days and refine it to a point when I feel comfortable playing it in front of Will. In the past, we’ve always collaborated on the refinement of that idea until it’s ready to bring to the band. The final stage is the collaboration incorporating everyone. At that point, the song starts to gain legs and the finalization of structure and vocal melody and harmonies get solidified. Playing it in front of a crowd is the ultimate test of whether or not it works.
FF: What inspires you guys to write?
Drew: It’s a hard thing: articulating life experiences with meaning in a musical context. As a songwriter, I really challenged myself to be honest with the material you’ll find on “Brave Mistakes”. Whether autobiographical or simply observing universal truths, the subject matter of this record spans from the departure of a ten year relationship to dealing with the situations we all find ourselves in that define and often redefine who we are as people and what we want in life. With this record, it not only shows that we’ve learned to be a band but also that we as people are figuring out how to deal with life through music. That application or injection of yourself into a song is what makes a song or record human.
FF: How do you guys perceive the music scene in Fayetteville these days?
Will: There seems to be a sort of reshaping of the scene here in Fayetteville right now. A lot of newer bands are coming up, which is exciting, especially since we’ve only been around for a year so we sort of throw ourselves into that category.
FF: What are some other local bands you think are doing good things?
Will: I caught a Swimming show recently and was more or less blown away. Those guys are legit.
How is the release party going to go down on the 7th?
Drew: We’ll be taking the stage with the very talented Adam Faucett and his band at Smoke & Barrel Saturday, April 7th. The show will start at 9:00 pm with only a $3 cover charge at the door. $10 at our merch table can get you a copy of “Brave Mistakes” and free Damn Arkansan pins, stickers and pull string tote bag. We like to haggle and are always happy to cut you a deal to include our first record, beer koozies and posters so be sure and stop by.