Concord America makes music like their shirts are on fire, but they really want to finish the song before putting it out. The three-year-old Atlanta trio blend prickly late-'80s underground clamor with distortion-drenched anarchic garage grime for a hook-lined blowout infused with carpe diem. In that time they've grown from a scrappy upstart to a buzz band on the brink of a breakout just like one of their influences, The Black Lips.
"The Black Lips are awesome and kinda turned us on to the whole garage side of the rock scene," says singer/guitarist Ben Presley. "I would say our music is from a bit different realm, but I definitely love and am influenced by their attitude."
Just a few years ago, Presley was working at a pizza parlor when he realized his other project wasn't working out and decided to jam with co-worker John Restivo Jr. The chemistry was immediate, and John's younger brother Vinny was brought in to play the bass. There was a fourth member when they cut their eponymous five-song EP a few months after starting, but they'd trimmed back to a trio when they recorded their full-length debut Shag Nasty in 2012.
Shag Nasty is a punchy, ecletic album, showcasing the band's still-evolving identity. 3D Glasses" opens like a '50s-flavored rock song and concludes in an expressionistic psych-blues freak-out. "Shag" is a surprisingly sweet love song despite the fact that Presley proposes that he and his lady drop acid and crawl beneath the sheets, while the bratty "Kids" channels the Strokes circa "Last Nite."
However, their best track is the impetuously breakneck "The Slip," a track their producer/buddy Trey Rosenkampff says is the finest thing they've ever recorded. In this song about driving a Lamborghini and partying, Presley sings a catchy vocal hook that modestly recalls J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), while the guitar races with twangy reverb in a manner reminiscent of the Meat Puppets. The whole thing crackles like a high-speed motion-picture chase.
"When we wrote it, we didn't think any of our songs were fun," says John. "So we wanted to have a song that was particularly upbeat, and that certainly covered it."
The music on Shag Nasty reverberates with an unbridled energy that seems just short of flying apart in a fusillade of shrapnel. One might believe this was by design, but after a few minutes of the mania that is a conversation with this trio, you might conclude it's implicit to their natures.
"We just like to talk over each other all the time," says John early on in the Bluetooth-enabled conference call as the band rolled down the road. He wasn't kidding. At one point, you could picture them slap-fighting in the backseat while Dad threatened to turn the car around.
"Vinny, he's alright. I can't stand him, but we're cool," offers the loquacious John.
"His shoes smell terrible," counters Vinny. "We have to throw them out every time we go on tour."
"Why would I put on new socks when the ones I have on are perfectly good," John asks.
Presley sighs, "They literally argue like this all the time."
While some bands linger around their hometowns, Concord America quickly got round to touring. In December of last year, the band signed with Nashville's Madhouse Management after playing with manager Jessi Tichenor's old band Plastic Visions. She knew the people at Columbia label Post-Echo and got them a one-year contract.
Post-Echo then put them in contact with Andrew Schwab, who directed their hilarious video "So Gay" about a much put-upon hotdog cart employee in a sad wiener suit who flips out and attacks a rival cart owner. The video came out shortly before May's seven-song Suns Out, Guns Out EP, which generated a lot of positive buzz for Concord America, thanks to it's even louder, rockier sound.
"Our manager knew Franklin [Jones, Post-Echo co-founder], and we ended up meeting up and hanging out with him, having some pizzas," says John. "We always wanted to work with the kind of guy you could go out and have pizza with. They've been good friends so far and have done a good job."
That said, the band's still weighing what to do when their contract's up in February. They've been doing a lot of writing and will head into the studio over the next month to record for the next album.
"It's going to be in the same vein where it's more of a loud, modern kind of sound, but I think that with the song structure, we're trying to make things a little more complex," says Vinny.
"We're also going to slow some things down a little bit, get a little less-produced, lo-fi sound," Presley adds.
"We're really focused on writing and recoding the record first," pipes in John. "Then we'll see what we have with it and shop it around a little bit and see what the options are."
Mostly, they're looking forward to spending some time at home in Atlanta after spending the last six months crisscrossing the region — and to a lesser extent, the country. They've moved toward Atlanta's perimeter from downtown, which has taken them away from the scene but paradoxically made them more popular.
"We lived downtown a few years ago and played downtown a lot more, probably a little too much," says Presley. "We've been touring lately and have cut back on the number of hometown shows and actually a lot more people come out now."
John opines, "You really have to get big elsewhere for local people to give a shit about you. And if you do make it big in your city and you don't get out and do other things with it, you're going to fade out pretty quick."