SXSW 2012: Alabama Shakes Ditch Their Day Jobs, Downplay Bob Lefsetz, Refuse To Eat Gumbo

by (@unclegrambo)

You’re forgiven if you haven’t yet heard of Alabama Shakes. After all, they don’t have a song on the radio, they haven’t made any music videos, and they don’t even have an album in stores for you to buy (yet). However, what they do have is a TON of internet buzz, as their soulful, southern roots rock sound has propelled them from the club circuit in the deep South into a place where they’re on the verge of entering the national consciousness. “Did you see Alabama Shakes yet?,” is a question that’s on everyone’s lips in Austin this week for the 2012 SXSW Music Festival, and we were lucky enough to be able to snag some time to sit down with Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard and drummer Steve Johnson the other afternoon.

We began by asking them to describe their sound for audiences not yet familiar with their music, and Brittany was quick to respond. “Well, I’ll tell you a little bit about what we like,” she explained. “We like Lee Fields & The Expressions. We like Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. We like Otis Redding. We like AC/DC. We like Black Sabbath. We like My Morning Jacket. We like Kings of Leon. We kind of put all that together, plus more.” Kind of like a rock and roll gumbo, right? “I don’t like gumbo, though,” Brittany quipped.

As the band were recording their debut LP, Boys & Girls (due out April 9th), they were all working day jobs. “It took us a year just to record it,” Brittany told us. “It’s not because we went into a studio and sat there for a year and really thought hard about it. We would do five songs in a day, wait three months, pay bills, live our lives, and come back another day and record three more. It was a lot of hard work, but something that we enjoyed.”

We also pressed them for their thoughts on the controversial curmudgeon/music industry critic Bob Lefsetz, whose Lefsetz Letter was instrumental in getting the word out about them, but who also was semi-skeptical of their long-term outlook as a band. “I don’t really know who he is, I don’t care for him,” Brittany explained with a sly grin. “Nah, I’m just playin’. He’s alright. He’s just a person who talks. There’s lots of people who do that.” Ain’t that the truth!

Alabama Shakes VH1 Interview At SXSW 2012

Bonus Clip: Here’s a performance of their song “Hold On,” so you can get a flavor of what they sound like:

[Photo: Jen Marigliano/VH1]