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Interview:
Drive-By Truckers dump on Trump with new album
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK



Drive-By Truckers' Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood began writing songs for the group's latest album, "American Band," as the tumultuous presidential campaign -- particularly on the Republican Party side -- heated up.

So coming up with song topics was like shooting the proverbial fish in the barrel.

"American Band" is the most pointed and politically charged entry in DBT's musically rich and lyrically evocative 11-album catalog. Cooley and Hood go at it with unbridled and unapologetic ferocity, as evidenced by song titles such as "Darkened Flags On The Cup Of Dawn," "Surrender Under Protest," "Kinky Hypocrite" and "Once They Banned Imagine."

And Cooley, 50, reports that the "American Band" material only makes more sense since the election was held in November. As he notes, "The good news is your album's still relevant. The band news is you're album's still relevant."

Cooley says he initially expected "American Band" to be an aural souvenir of a hard-fought and bizarre election rather than protest songs against the current administration. "I'm still blown way," the singer and guitarist says by phone from St. Louis. "I almost feel a little naive now, thinking (Donald Trump's election) wouldn't happen. When we pressed 'record' on this thing, this was before anybody had voted in primaries and we were thinking, 'Oh, people will start voting and this'll be over.' But, y'know, the first time a store opened its doors at midnight on Black Friday and a riot broke out, we should've known somebody like (Trump) being taken seriously as a presidential candidate was just around the corner. I've been watching all the standards fro all the forces that shape our tastes and opinion just get lower and lower and lower until our entire society became this cult of eternal childishness. And that's what we've got in our president now."

DBT, however, didn't set out to make a political album, Cooley says. It was more of an organic result as he and Hood began gathering their songs. "Some of the stuff came together over a number of years," he says. "It wasn't until we got together and realized we were on the same page that we knew we both had enough of these kind of songs. And then you've got to think, 'Do I want to pull the trigger on this?,' 'cause once you go there you can't go back. But what else were we gonna do -- write a bunch more songs? No."

Along with mostly favorable reviews for "American Band," Cooley says audiences have been supportive of the new material as DBT has played it live. "It's been good," he notes. "I think most of the chit-chat and backlash is all on social media, which I've never paid any attention to, and I trust myself not to drunk-tweet a response and embarrass myself. And there's no way to know if any of the negative stuff is from people who were ever really fans in the first place or it's just something they jump on to run their mouths about. I think for the most part our fans are pretty much on board with us -- and most of the country is, too, when you think about it."

Despite his stated opinions, Cooley isn't looking for Trump to tweet, positively or negatively, about "American Band," even if it might bring more attention to the band. "I don't want my name to come out of that butthole-looking thing he talks out of, ever," Cooley says. "He's certainly free to run his mouth about anything he wants, but I'd rather have an impact on the people who were duped into thinking this (jerk) should ever be taken seriously on any level whatsoever. I'd rather have an impact on them than him."

"American Band" is DBT's second album with just two writers, Cooley and Hood, after the 2011 departure of bassist Shonda Tucker. Cooley says they've grown comfortable into the new system. "It's amazing that this works at all, because (having multiple writers in a band) usually doesn't," Cooley explains. "We made it work wtih a third writer more than once, and THAT never should've worked, either. But we've gotten into a groove of pacing the shows and knowing what to follow each song with, and working in the studio is great like that. We pretty much go back and forth. We each get to take a turn playing on somebody else's song for awhile, then go back to being on the hot seat. We've never really known any differently."

Drive-By Truckers and Kyle Craft

Friday, Feb. 3. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

Tickets are $25.

Call 313-833-9700 or visit majesticdetroit.com.


Web Site: www.majesticdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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