- Chris Waldorf
- Those decent Animals on the water in British Columbia (L to R): Jonathan Nicholson, Richard Weld, and George Baerreis on tour this summer
Charleston trio A Decent Animal — singer/guitarist Jonathan Nicholson, bassist Richard Weld, and drummer George Baerreis — survived their first major cross-country tour with Sub Pop act Band of Horses last month and scampered back into town relatively unscathed. They gigged in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and around the West Coast in support of their recent six-song mini-album, The Rabbit Hole EP. Charlotte-based Sioux Sioux Studio recording engineer Chris Walldorf (also the drummer for the N.C. bands Pyramid and Sea of Cortez) was on hand for roadie duty. City Paper got the low-down directly from Weld (the bearded one) and Baerreis (the noisy one) this week:
CITY PAPER: Most Charleston rock bands seem to stick to the region, maybe gigging out around the Carolinas and Georgia for the occasionally long weekend. However, A Decent Animal made efforts to go all the way the New England and the West Coast recently. Why go through all the trouble?
RICHARD WELD: We really want as many people as possible to hear our music. That is a pretty basic answer. We love to play. We love the music. We think maybe if enough people hear them, then we will be able to just go around playing our songs for people all the time and maybe we won’t have to sling booze anymore. Basically, we feel guilty about getting people drunk every night at our jobs, so we feel that if we can keep playing all the time instead of working, we will be doing something for the greater good. Plus we are always looking for good food and they have some of that out West.
GEORGE BAERREIS: Because it’s fun. That’s really why I started playing in the first place. I enjoy it. Oh yeah, and we want to take over the world.
CP: How did A Decent Animal land the opening spot for Band of Horses this summer? Did they seek you out, or did you guys corner singer Ben Bridwell and threaten him with unsavory mischief?
RW: We pretty much had to threaten him with unsavory mischief. He really wanted to take this clown operation called PM Donald on the road as the opener, and we knew it would be a career killer for all of the fellers in the band if that happened, so we paid him $100 to take us instead.
GB: Well, here’s the thing: all three of us tend bar locally, so I think it was a question of what kind of service he wanted after the fact.
CP: When you performed in the Northwest, did you bother to tell anyone that your were from South Carolina, or was it obvious to everyone?
RW: South Carolina isn’t obvious to anyone on the West Coast. It’s like the Dakotas for us — people say, “Oh, you are from Charleston? I have a cousin who lives in Carolina!” Carolina, eh?
GB: They knew. There was lots of pointing and snickering. I think the smell gave it away.
CP: How did you travel around — by van, car, caravan?
RW: A gold, rented, bitchin’ Kia Sedona. One sweet ride.
CP: Were there roadies and managers — or unemployed friends from home — tagging along?
RW: We made Chris Walldorf, the guy who owns the studio in Charlotte where we record, come along. He is a drummer and we made him come out on the road as our keyboard player! He won’t talk to us anymore and he burned all of our master copies. Then Phil Estes [Weld’s bandmate in Genrevolta] came on board for a few days. He just ate all our tofu and drank all our beer. Jerk.
GB: Waldorf is just an all-around swell guy who made a little noise with us.
CP: Did anyone in the print media out West publish any review or previews on the band? If so, what were their impressions?
GB: Nope, we’re way too underground for all that noise.
RW: A few. They seemed to like us okay.
CP: How long were you all away from Charleston as a full band?
GB: I couldn’t rightly say, what with all of the legal drugs I smoked in Vancouver. We never did find that methadone clinic, sadly…
RW: For 10 magical days and nights.
CP: What surprised you most about the audiences at these Band of Horses gigs?
RW: The sheer numbers. They are very popular out there. But I think the East Coast has figured it out, too.
GB: These were definitely the best rooms I’ve ever seen, especially the Crystal Ballroom in Portland. That place was amazing; world-class sound, trampoline floor … of course, it didn’t hurt that we were treated like royalty there. Before we took the stage I asked them for a sandwich and some chicken wings and they were waiting for me when we finished our set. Brilliant.
CP: Did anyone in the clubs mistake any of you as members of Band of Horses? If so, did you play along?
RW: In Victoria, this guy came up to me at the merch booth, leaned in close like we were old friends, and asked me, “Hey man, why didn’t you play ‘St. Augustine?’” I told him because that’s a Band of Horses song and I’m in A Decent Animal, not Band of Horses. He said, “Oh! Good show! See you later!”
GB: Of course we didn’t play along — we aren’t liars.
CP: It’s tough for an opener to win over the attention of a headliner’s audience — did the Band of Horses audience get what y’all were doing on stage? How were their reactions, or lack of?
RW: We were blown away by how well we were received by the audiences out there. People really watched our sets and paid attention. I really think most of them like us. We had lots of people come talk to us after the show, telling us how much they enjoyed what we were doing. I think they got it. We had to rise to the occasion set before us by Band of Horses so we really put everything we had into the performances. I am excited to bring that same energy out at the show at the Pour House. I really feel like this tour brought out some good qualities in us.
GB: I think we reached a lot of those kids. In Vancouver, there was a balcony right next to the drum riser, so I could hear what they were saying in between song. While most of it isn’t fit to be printed — “My dick, blah-blah-blah … your dick, blah-blah-blah” — they definitely dug us.
CP: Logistically, what’s the biggest challenge for a full-sized, independent band as they travel from one city to the next like this summer’s tour?
RW: Trying to keep the smell of George’s beef jerky sticks from making me sick when I’m driving the Kia.
CP: Did you have guarantees and contracts and riders demanding beer and greasy grub?
RW: Not really. We just mooched off the Band of Horses the whole time. I figure the amount of their Maker’s Mark we drank really saved them from some vicious hangovers and intra-band arm-wrestling matches.
CP: There are some new tunes on your Myspace site — some with horns and weird noises. What’s the deal with these new tunes and when will the recordings be available?
RW: Oh, we are trying to make things as complicated for ourselves as we can. The new stuff is getting close. There should be something out this fall.
CP: How has the band’s sound and style changed since recording the Rabbit Hole stuff?
RW: We have George now.
GB: We’re a bit louder and dress more snazzily.
CP: What’s the plan for the big Pour House show on Aug. 3?
RW: To truly melt the faces off all in attendance. We are really excited these days and I think anyone who comes out to the show will see that. Plus, we are bringing two amazing bands in from out of town. Morning State from Atlanta and Sea of Cortez, featuring our ex-friend Waldorf on drums, from Charlotte. They’re members of Pyramid and the Fence Lions. It was great to play the West Coast but nothing really compares to the home town shows.
GB: I’m thinking we’ll play this one naked.