Dead Confederate frontman Hardy Morris is a hard guy to pin down. Just this year he's been a part of Diamond Rugs, a lo-fi supergroup featuring Deer Tick's John McCauley and Black Lips' Ian Saint Pé. He's also written and recorded a new solo album (due out early next year), and recorded additional albums with Dead Confederate and its offshoot, atmospheric rockers Peyote People. It's all a product of greater comfort in Morris' artistic skin and an indulgent creative spirit. "I've been just kind of going with whatever comes and embracing my ADD," Morris laughs. "I don't really care about being one specific thing: Raw bar band, mopey dark rock, acoustics and sunshine. I don't care. I like all kinds of stuff."
This week, the group's two-night stand at the Earl offers a chance to look back on its career, while moving forward as well: Dead Confederate's performance on Friday, December 28 will feature a front-to-back reprisal of the group's 2008 debut album, Wrecking Ball (Razor & Tie). The songs were recorded at a dark time in the band's early history, when its members were still struggling to define themselves as musicians, channeling all of the inner-band conflict into a moody and droning languor. Though Morris and the band's other songwriter, Brantley Senn, split the album's 10 tracks, there's continuity in its downbeat and distortion-laden amble. Everyone was living in the same house together back then, enduring the same struggle. But situations change, and 2010's subsequent release, Sugar (Razor & Tie) broadened the group's horizons, while brightening up its sound. Naturally, as the group marches on, more changes are in store.
"We've never been very good at staying in the same place for too long," admits Morris.
Called Into the Marrow, Dead Confederate's new album (due out early next year) was recorded with producer David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers, Bob Mould) at Chase Park Transduction, where Senn has been working as of late. Morris hears some Southern flavor for the first time, although it may just be that he's the last one to notice. Many critics have linked Dead Confederate to the greasier side of Southern rock, though Morris connects the newfound twang to the Truckers and their ilk. "Of course I say that, and remember the first track is 12-minutes long," he adds.
While Senn has been exploring production, Morris has been writing feverishly churning out a majority of the new album's songs. He also wrote all the music for Peyote People, which will be a focus of the group's second night at the Earl (along with a sampling of new Dead Confederate numbers). Peyote People's EP was the product of free studio time provided by one of Senn's recording workshops. The approach was that of an open-call hootenanny that resulted in a heady free-for-all musical exchange. Numerous friends and bandmates dropped in, including buddies like pedal steel player Matt "Pistol" Stoessel, who Morris calls DC's sixth member.
"We [said] the more the merrier and it came out really cool with three guitars and a bunch of spaciness," he says. "Then one night we were leaving the studio, I said something about us being the Peyote People and it just kind of stuck with all of those atmospherics going on."
It's been a long slow climb from Senn and Morris' college days, playing alongside each other in the Redbelly Band, to here, and Dead Confederate's evocative take on Southern music has opened some intriguing doors for everyone in the group.
"Everybody's at a point where we're free to be pretty creative because it's not like I feel I have to beat down people's doors to get a show. It's not like I have to prove my cred or that I'm a rocker," Morris says. "What we're doing is just being creative and having fun. That's what Peyote People was and the new record has a loose ... I-don't-give-a-shit attitude too," he adds. "I want it to sound like the last record I'm ever going to make."
Of course, that's the last thing anyone would expect ...