Houston Calling

SXSW preview: Superdrag

February 18th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Alt-rock fans are undoubtedly familiar with Superdrag, the Tennessee band that broke out in the mid-90s to attract a major label deal and national radio play. You probably remember the band’s 1996 hit “Sucked Out,” but Superdrag went on to create even better albums (one which includes the classic line, “I want rock and roll, but I don’t want to deal with the hassle. I know what I know, but I don’t want to feel like an asshole.” (from “Keep it Close to Me”)) before calling it quits in 2003. The band reunited in 2007, played the Bonnaroo and Monolith festivals in 2008, and is on the verge of releasing its new album, Industry Giants, the week of South By Southwest.

Superdrag vocalist/guitarist John Davis recently answered a few questions for Houston Calling.

Houston Calling: Superdrag has had its ups and downs as a band, from major label to indie to a split and reunion. What prompted you guys to get together to play more shows? It’s the original line-up, correct?

John Davis: Yes, it’s the 4 original members. In my view, it always seemed inevitable that the band would reform eventually. I always felt like we had more work to do.

HC: Did you guys ever play at SXSW back in the day? If so, does anything memorable stick out?

JD: Our first visit was in 2001. We got to meet Ray Davies, through a mutual friend; we hung out for awhile and then he got onstage with us at the end of our set and sang “I Need You”. He was the Keynote Speaker that year. He was actually familiar with some of the records. He said, “Don’t give up, man, you’ve got a lot of good material.” That was pretty memorable! Naturally, it was all downhill from there. The next year, we “headlined” a seven-band bill at the ARRCO showcase, all the other bands went over their set times, we ended up with 20 minutes to play, then the right side of the stage lost power (included the P.A. system) and everything went to shit, basically. Cosmic retribution for the Ray Davies thing. Then one of the bouncers yanked Mic Harrison’s beer out of his hand (bad idea), so we just about had to fight the entire bar staff. Hoping to keep it more positive this year.

HC: What are you hoping to get out of this year’s SXSW? What are you most looking forward to at SXSW?

JD: Honestly, we just want to make as many people aware of our new record (Industry Giants–out March 17th) as we possibly can. And we want to play our best and rock as hard as we can as many times as we possibly can. I think we’ve got 4 or 5 gigs down there.

HC: Obviously you guys had the power-pop thing down on your early albums. What do you consider to be your primary musical influences and how do you think they play into your songs?

JD: There are so many. When we started the band, we were heavily influenced by My Bloody Valentine, Sebadoh, The Jesus & Mary Chain’s Psychocandy, Stereolab’s Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements, The Stooges, Sonic Youth, Big Star’s 3rd, Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur (Jr), the list goes on.

HC: Do you think your surroundings in the mostly conservative South played into your decision to make your spiritual solo albums? I read in Magnet magazine recently that you said: “I felt like a phony getting up and singing some of the stuff … I didn’t feel like I was being honest. When that realization hit me, I didn’t feel like I could go on.” Have those feelings changed now that you’re back doing Superdrag songs again?

JD: Some of the songs are still off the table.

HC: What lessons did you take away from your time on Elektra? Any advice for young bands just starting out?

JD: Nobody knows more about what your songs are supposed to sound like or what they’re supposed to say than you do.

HC: How has digital technology changed the way you record and/or write your music?

JD: I still make demos with a 4-track cassette recorder and an SM58. Obviously, 99.9% of everything is recorded in ProTools now. The new Superdrag record was recorded in ProTools. My first solo record was recorded on 2-inch, mostly 16-track, but ARIGATO! was done in ProTools. The studio (606) had 2 Studer tape machines that sat there untouched.

HC: What can you tell me about Superdrag’s new album, Industry Giants, which comes out the week of SXSW?

JD: I think it might be our finest hour as a band.  If it isn’t, after having been away for this long, then what’s the point?

HC:  Are there any bands in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s SXSW?

JD: Whitechapel.

Here’s a video of Superdrag’s “Sucked Out”:

Superdrag plays its official South By Southwest showcase on Friday, 3.20.09, at Pangaea (409 Colorado St.) at 10pm. The band also plays parties in Austin during SXSW, including one at ATJ Backyard (1204 Salina St.) on Friday, 3.20.09.

Superdrag’s new album, Industry Giants, will be available March 17th. Visit the band online at www.superdrag.com.

Check back very soon for more previews of bands playing during SXSW.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings · SXSW

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 WV via KnoxVegas // Feb 20, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Do no miss these guys! A truly great live band.

  • 2 AbeRentschler // Feb 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm


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