Back to the Birmingham, Alabama scenes; Dirty Lungs are readying their self-titled album in mid July on Communicating Vessels, debuting the mattress burner, “I Suck in Bed”. From Southern porch circle feel good strummers on the new album like, “All My Cats”, to the nugget smashing aggression on the following premiere, Dirty Lungs attack from an array of angles. And what's more, our conversation with frontman Carson Mitchell confirms the burgeoning movements happening about Birmingham, described as the 'Seattle of the 90s or the Lower East Side of the 70s.'
Not just another love song, “I Suck In Bed” rips the sheets rights off, messes up the room, and turns the former sleeping quarters into a fort of chaos. The guitar controls are set to search and destroy, as Mitchell leads the band through harmonized chorus that kicks out an action of anarchy best enjoyed at the speed of 45 RPM. Dirty Lungs have not come with bouquets of roses or singing telegrams for the Upworthy set. The guitars gnash their metallic tones against the other, as the raw primal howls of “ahhhhs” disturb all occupants in nearby approximation, causing the track to melt down like an unidentified aircraft landing to rest. Stay with us after the premiere of “I Suck In Bed” for our interview with Michell.
How did you guys strike up a bond and become a band back in 2006?
Raj and I met back in 2003, when I was still in High School. Literally, the first time we met was to start a band with some mutual friends called Biscayne that ended up being very popular in the Birmingham scene for several years. It was at my folks house, and after a few handshakes, we started making music. Nothing has really changed since then.
What was the Birmingham scene like, say compared to the Birmingham cultural landscape of 2014?
Birmingham's pre-Bottletree scene was a very different experience. In fact, you were lucky if you could find a hole in the wall with a decent PA (I provided those many, many times), let alone a stage or lights. There was one pretty decent club in the shadier, more industrial part of town known as the Boiler Room. Some great acts played there, including a Misfits reunion show that was huge. It's funny, because I'll never forget Biscayne playing with All-American Rejects there about 2004, way before they were massively popular. It was so surreal to see an actual full-size tour bus parked outside of this old, converted warehouse. I'm sure they were as shocked by the place as I was from seeing them there. By the way, they were terrible then too.
How would you both describe the wild roads and stories that became your upcoming self-titled for Communicating Vessels?
I would say, as far as recordings go, this album was pretty uneventful. Not to say we didn't have a blast, we always do, but working with our very, very close friend Michael Shackelford made it more like a normal practice or hangout than any kind of unique experience. I think that reflects on the record though, because we aren't exactly the most calm individuals and going on tangents (be it musical or extra-curricular) is something we pride ourselves on most of the time, but having a rock in the studio like Shack definitely helped keep us on point and focused at the task at hand. I will say though, we did a whole lot of skateboarding in the down time, and some of that will be seen in our upcoming video for “I Suck in Bed”.
In our debut of your single “I Suck in Bed”, you explode the classic psych nuggets style as a bit of self-commentary on bedroom performance. How do you revive the freak-beat sounds in today's digital heavy environments, and make it work?
[Laughs] Well this song was written by me in my bedroom when I was single, bored as hell, and watching wayyyyy too much Star Trek. The title actually came later via Chris Scott and we all laughed, so that stuck. It's really just a jab at how many songs are about love, or in the modern day, sex in general. As far as the sound of the song goes, I feel like the analog days of the past, and specifically the 60's garage sound is just one that has always appealed to me because it embodies the passion of rock and roll. The idea that you can play, say, or do anything you want because we live in the modern era where society is becoming more and more open to the ideas of the 'self.' I really wish that the digital age still had the energy that technology instilled in people during the late 50s/60s because everything was so new, the possibilities seemed endless and that reflects in the music of the time. These days though, I think everyone is so used to instant access, constant updates, and easier/quicker ways of accomplishing things that a lot of the blood, sweat, and tears have been lost. We tried our best to make this record have the emotional impact that I feel analog tends to elicit by utilizing different forms of compression and even running tracks through amps and re-recording them in hopes to get the 'tubes on the tape' or some approximation. I know in the future we really expect to utilize actual analog recording because with our style, it's almost a necessity.
And then you have this twangy, hop-along number, “All My Cats”, that keeps elements of the spaced out variety inside the form of a barnyard hootenanny. How do you all make this kind of magic?
For me, personally, it comes from my love of the Beatles. I always felt they were the best band ever, namely because they never limited their style, but always played to their strengths. Those guys have nearly 200 recorded songs and maybe four of them aren't that great (and in perspective, still better than most), so I've always pushed Dirty Lungs to try and have that kind of versatility, even if it's within the same song. I think the funniest part of that song is the fact that when we first were jamming it, I fought internally about if it was too cheesy to play in comparison to our songs, but once the final section was perfected, I felt it was experimental enough to compensate for the 'hootenanny.' Also, we really love cats, so the lyrics are pretty accurate. Some people say they feel like the end section is the cats actually coming into the room with us… you make the call.
Who else should we be keeping our ears open for in Birmingham? Everyone seems to be “ruling it” out there, we're still kicking ourselves that we couldn't be there for Happenin Fest last Memorial Day weekend. You all are surrounded by some good, talented folks it seems.
The list of great bands and artists in Birmingham has gotten so long that I can't even keep up anymore. Plains, Eleven Year Old, Wray, Dead Fingers, Them Natives, MackOne, One Hundreds, all of the Comm Vess artists… I don't know where to start or end, because anything I forgot could just as easily be at the top of the list. The talent is deep and covers nearly every genre you can imagine. I was born here, and I recently purchased a house here because Birmingham is the place Dirty Lungs want to be, it will be the Seattle of the 90s or the Lower East Side of the 70s. People will wish they had known about it sooner in 15 years. Please print that if nothing else.
Dirty Lungs' self-titled will be available July 15 from Communicating Vessels.