Thomas Hardy Morris seems to be getting more prolific with each passing day. The Dead Confederate frontman spent last year dividing time between a new project called Diamond Rugs, a group that contained members of Black Lips, Deer Tick, Los Lobos and Six Finger Satellite, his main band Dead Confederate and also somehow found time to begin his first solo project, a much more subdued alt-country affair, T. Hardy Morris & The Outfit. Diamond Rugs released their excellent self titled debut and toured extensively throughout the country, bringing their rowdy, booze-soaked, sloppy-in-the-best-way-possible brand of rock to the masses. Check out the Morris penned "Country Mile":
T. Hardy Morris & The Outfit played their first few shows, including a gig in Athens, GA at the beautiful Georgia Theatre opening for Deer Tick that I caught. I was pretty "in the cups" and ready for Deer Tick to come out when The Outfit took the stage and I was immediately taken aback by the raw beauty of Morris' new songs and arrangements. As more material has emerged in the months since, that goosebump evoking feeling has continued with each new track I've heard, and it's very exciting to hear a songwriter known for being in such loud, aggressive bands strip things down to a more basic level.
Morris' voice can fill with a unique sense of ache that lends itself very well to the beautifully morose material he has been writing with the band, whose debut Audition Tapes drops July 30th. Listen to the gorgeous song "OK Corral" here and check out a performance of the record's title track from the aforementioned Georgia Theatre show below:
Dead Confederate stayed plenty busy themselves, recording both a rollicking EP entitled Peyote People (released in December) and a full length called In The Marrow (released in April) while still playing shows here and there. All this activity seems to have brought out something in Morris, as his songwriting across the board has been excellent in each of these projects. In this writer's not really all that humble opinion, In The Marrow is Dead Confederate's strongest and most varied work to date, with dark, bubbling cauldrons of psychedelic reverb ("Slow Poisons") standing alongside plaintive country songs ("Big City Life"), fantastic Built To Spill indebted numbers ("Bleed Through") and more direct, straight up rock songs ("Vacations"). You can stream In The Marrow via Spotify, complete with a bonus track:
So much quality coming out in so little time has surely put Morris on a few more radars, as he seems to be flourishing creatively with the added outlets for his songs. I spoke with Morris via email about the new Dead Confederate record, how being in three bands have affected his writing process and his busy plans for the rest of the year.
DF: I see that In The Marrow was recorded at Chase Park, in Athens. Talk for a minute about The Classic City's musical atmosphere and how it's different from other places and why y'all still call it home.
HM: This was the first record we made in Athens, so it was different in that aspect for sure. At the end of the night, we got to all go home or go to a show rather than all be stuck in one tiny hotel room. There are benefits to both situations, but for this record, the hometown vibe worked and felt right. As for why we live here... It's dirt cheap, there's great bands, cool things happening and it's just Athens, it rules.
DF: Indeed it does. This record sounds more varied to me, it definitely still has that signature DC sound but it seems like that sound is being pushed further out and the boundaries tested. Was that a conscience decision or something that came out about organically?
HM: We've always written kind of all over the place, so no it wasnt a conscience decision. We just had a bunch of songs, we took our favorites and recorded those and then finished and mixed our favorites out of the ones we recorded. We went with our favorite songs more than with which ones "fit" together. That's probably why it feels more varied.
DF: What went into the decision to split up Peyote People and In The Marrow? Were there any songs that were on both lists for awhile? It's interesting to me to hear what helped you decide something like that.
HM: We actually recorded Peyote People after we had finished the album. We had just finished mixing In the Marrow and were just gonna do some demos and we tracked a couple songs and we were like, why not just release this stuff? So we did a few more songs and put it out.
I didn't want to put any of the Peyote Ppl songs on the album because it was a whole different thing. I wanted each session to be it's own thing.
DF: Continuing with that train of thought, talk for a minute if you could about how everyone's side projects effect DC's sound. Or is that even the case at all? For instance: "Big City Life" seems like it'd fit right in with The Outfit...
HM: That song actually was on a demo reel of solo songs, but it always had a little bit of a DC vibe to me too. Walker and John always liked the song so we decided to try it with the band and of course it sounded huge, so it became a DC song.
DF: What's it been like having the three bands going on at once? What are Diamond Rugs' and also The Outfit's plans for 2013?
HM: It's fun. It keeps me busy and keeps me playing music and as a musician that's what you're supposed to do I guess.
I dont know what our plans are for Diamond Rugs. I had margaritas with John (McCauley) today and we didn't talk about it. It'll happen if it happens.
My solo record comes out this summer (July 30) and we are planning to record and release another DC album or EP before the end of the year.
DF: How does having the different outlets affect your writing? Do you know certain songs are meant for certain bands?
HM: Yea, having the different outlets helps me categorize the songs. I can usually tell pretty quickly where they're going to wind up.
DF: I know everyone else plays with other people, how does everyone get their heads back in DC mode? Or is that easy?
HM: It's easy because we've played together for so long. It's kind of like family. Hanging with your friends is fun and all, but family is another thing ya know?
I think the side projects and all are good for us and it keeps things interesting.
DF: What are DC's plans for the rest of the year?
HM: Tour, record and release something before the end of the year.
DF: Cool man, good luck with everything and I'll see you at The Knitting Factory in May. 706 for life.
Dead Confederate is about to hit the road this spring with Roadkill Ghost Choir (who we also dig very, very much. Check out our profile of them here), take a gander at their tourdates and more on the band's website here. T. Hardy Morris & The Outfit will be out and about this summer as well, check out tour dates, album ordering info and more at their site here.
Also be on the lookout for our coverage of Dead Confederate's show with Roadkill Ghost Choir on May 23rd here in Williamsburg. Should be quite a doozy.