by: Thomas D. Mooney
“There’s gonna be some changes.”
Stillwater, Okla.-based Taddy Porter are pretty up front. Those expecting Taddy Porter II, for the sophomore record, need not apply.
Their 2013 release Stay Golden really was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. The record was a lean, sharp, sometimes smooth, sometimes dirty contrast to their 2010 debut record. In many ways, Andy Brewer and company take you to places unexpected. It’s something a lot of young bands really don’t have the nerve to do. They’re not just here to serve somebody.
I’ve seen a young Taddy Porter play Blue Light weekday nights to less than capacity crowds, start the party Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights, to starting JTNL level Blue Light riots. And all the while, even I feel like I pigeonholed them as being a specific type of band: a great live rock band who at times probably relied more on raw talent and live energy than creating something new and fresh.
That’s what probably makes Stay Golden such a great record. It’s TP challenging their own status quo. It’s also what makes the record shocking to others. It’s a more cerebral record. It captures a diverse array of emotions. More often than not, TP use fine, soft brushstrokes rather than broad, coarse ones to paint their Stay Golden masterpiece. That’s a good thing.
But let’s not kid ourselves either. At their core, Taddy Porter is still a blues-rock band. They still give you nice groovy guitar riffs and howling vocals. It’s just in smaller, covert doses.
Taddy Porter is playing The Blue Light tonight (Friday, February 7).
New Slang: Stay Golden was released last year. It’s been a couple of years since your debut record. These 11 songs, were they all written since Taddy Porter or is anything from that time?
Andy Brewer: No. All the songs on Stay Golden, they were kind of written and put together while we were in the studio. Some of the songs on the record, we had ideas on and just took them to the studio. We laid down those tracks and pretty much the remainder of the record was written on the spot.
NS: How was that atmosphere? I’m assuming with the first record, you guys had been compiling songs and then went in and cut the record. How is creating something while there? Intense?
AB: It’s crazy. It’s kind of testament of where you’re at. I feel if you’re ready for it, you’re probably going to kick its’ ass. For us, when we were in there, we kind of fit the gear for the kind of sound we wanted and that’s what came out. We wanted to sound retro and more live than our first record.
NS: That’s something that a lot of people latch on to with you guys. Describing you as “a band that’s from the late ’60s or early ’70s.” I guess that works well if you have to describe Taddy Porter in a single sentence, but it really undervalues a lot of the stuff you guys went and did on this record. It’s not like you guys are a Led Zeppelin cover band and made a Led Zeppelin homage record or something. There’s a lot of other sounds that are in there. Motown, psychedelia, some Zombieseque things. How’d you blend these different influences together while still maintaining your own voice as an artist?
AB: Yeah. With this record in mind, we listened to the music we loved. Whenever we decided to do something a little different from rock groups, we started going to bands like The Zombies and guys like Link Wray who really had this surf rock sound. We got dirty and listened to bands like The Doors. But at the same time, we were listening to early Motown records. We went all over the place. We didn’t want to sound like something specifically. We took all these sounds together and put our own little spin on it.
NS: This record, people have described as being “softer.” Or something that they didn’t expect. Talking with some people, it felt like they were expecting guitar solo on guitar solo followed by more guitar solos. Obviously it’s not that. Certainly feels like it wasn’t that by mistake. There was some conscious effort to go in a different direction.
AB: Yeah. When our first record came out, it seemed very heavy. It had some big arena rock sounds and songs on there. That’s cool and all, but honestly when we went to do the first record, we didn’t plan on that happening. We didn’t really want that happen per say. We wanted to find someone who could capture what we did live. We got into it [the studio during the record of the first record] and trusted them to capture that. People did like that bigness to it. We were like “hmm, that’s what they’re going to want. What they’re going to expect. Let’s give them something different.” I think we were misunderstood by some from the get go. We just appreciate the music a lot and picked the best of the ’60s/’70s that we were into. Whenever you hear bands who also have that same kind of feel–Wolfmother, The Black Keys–you’ll hear a Zeppelin riff or a Sabbath riff or whatever. It’s groovy and great, but it won’t exactly be Sabbath. It’s their take on it. If you do the same thing over and over, it’s going to become stale. I’ve listened to bands make the same record over and over again. And I don’t listen to those bands anymore because I already know what’s going to be the next record.
NS: What’s your favorite moment on the record? What’s something you did different that just sticks out to you?
AB: We went to Mark Neill, he’s one of the producers who worked on the record. We got to go out to his place and he this studio built into his house. We got to know his kids. We went there every day and got to know his family. It was really comfortable. At the same time, it’s this place where Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of Black Keys did Brothers there. Dan Auerbach also had done his solo record there. That was good for me because it meant I’d be trying to figure out how these guys who I’m big fans of, how they got their sounds just right. It was a good spot for me. Was like a sound hound trying to sniff it out [laughs].
NS: [Laughs]. That’s something that’s probably under-appreciated. It’s something I’ve really learned about over time is just how important finding the proper guitar tone is. Finding these different tones for different songs, etc.
AB: Yeah. It’s essential. That’s the name of game pretty much. It’s the way you communicate with your instrument. It’s just like talking to somebody. If you’re guitar tone is wrong, it means you’re going to be misunderstood. That’s how I’ve always felt about it. It’s like when you were talking about the different genres from back in the day, listening to these records, you ask yourself how in the hell did they get this sound. You just rack your brain over it. You search the internet. You ask anyone you’d know who may know how. “Oh they got that sound by running it through a shoebox.” Or whatever it is [laughs]. It’s always something way simpler.
NS: [Laughs]. What was the most difficult song to finish on the record?
AB: I’d say the song “Evil” was hard to finish, for me. I’d say because I had a different idea for how “Evil” would sound. I wanted it to be more jagged or angular. It had these big parts that would go away and then come back and then go away. It was kind of hard for me. The way it turned out is cool, but it’s still not the one I really wanted. You really go to bat for the big things you want I guess. It’s OK. I’ll probably rewrite the song for the way I want it to be and then just play it for fun.