Cypress-Fairbanks rockers Potbelly are set to release their second album, simply titled Potbelly, this weekend with two shows. More polished and musically diverse than the band's first release, Turn Off the TV. Go Outside!, the new album owes part of its fully fleshed-out sound to most recent lineup addition Austin Bradshaw.
According to bandleader Erik Smith, Bradshaw can play guitar, keys, "just about anything." Smith credits Bradshaw's addition as the key to Potbelly's move toward a more modern alternative-rock sound. In fact, they're scheduled for 94.5 The Buzz's Sunday-night local "Texas Buzz" showcase as part of the Potbelly release festivities.
The nine-track album took a year to write and produce. It begins with a familiar reggae thump, works its way through some introspective, pretty pop-rock and then rushes to the barn in an electric frenzy of punk-rock anger. With songs that deal with the range of emotions that go along with a bad breakup, it is not necessarily an album that's easily digested in one or two hearings, but rather a "grower."
Chatter caught up with front man Erik Smith, who at 33 describes himself as "an older guy," during his vacation last week.
Chatter: How long have you guys been at this, and how did this band come together?
Erik Smith: Erin Massey [bassist] and I went to Cypress-Fairbanks High School together. We've gone through a few personnel changes since the last album, adding Erik Vaughan on drums and Austin Bradshaw on second guitar and keys. But as Potbelly, we'll have four years behind us in October.
C: What is your musical background?
ES: I was in a hard-core punk band for a few years until my neck couldn't take it anymore. That's when Erin and I started getting together, just two dudes jamming. I was looking for something maybe a little more mainstream, definitely something to chill it back a bit.
C: This album is something of a new direction, more alternative rock, even a bit of power-pop and punk.
ES: We've always had those basic elements, but adding Austin Bradshaw on piano and second guitar really increased our range and flexibility. We're definitely working to be more musical, and he's a big key to that. We still have that slight reggae bounce in some of the songs, but it's less pronounced these days.
C: It was a huge surprise when Potbelly nudged out longtime winners D.R.U.M. for best dub/reggae act in 2010.
ES: That's actually pretty funny, since we were never billing ourselves as a reggae or dub band. We considered ourselves more alternative rock.
C: How do you think your surprise win happened?
ES: We worked it pretty steadily. We would have listening parties and get people to use their phones and vote right there. And we have a wide circle of friends, and I'm sure lots of them voted for us.
C: The songs on the new album seem to deal mostly with breakup rage, breakup emotions.
ES: I went through a divorce and I write most of the lyrics, so there is a lot of stuff from that life experience in these songs. A breakup will almost always involve some anger, some uncertainty, mixed emotions, high stress. I just let that take my writing where it took it. Hopefully people will like it.
C: What are some of the musical influences behind this album?
ES: Nirvana, Sublime, Misfits and Queens of the Stone Age, all that's in there somewhere.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
C: Will you tour this album?
ES: Being a touring band is essentially out of the question. We're all older now; we're in our thirties, so we've got jobs, children, bills, so it has to be a good gig for us to go out of town these days. It has to make sense. We're not going to run up and down the roads playing for nothing.
C: How would you describe your live show?
ES: We just want people to have a good time, enjoy themselves and the music. It's pretty simple.