From the percussive intro of “The Shot” and bluesy guitar riff and call-andresponse vocals of “Coat of Arms” to the haunting ambience of “Los Angeles” and the straightforward Southern alternative rock of “Tonight,” Birmingham’s Gum Creek Killers have created something that successfully blends the stylings of five local musicians.
The group started as a challenge presented by photographer and Grey Haven founder Caleb Chancey to Duquette Johnston (Verbena, Cutgrass, Duquette Johnston and the Rebel Kings).
“None of us had spent a lot of time hanging out together outside of musical interactions, but instantly, it was a real tight family bond. It was just easy and really natural. We all have different musical styles. It started as a one-off show and it’s been going for the past year,” Johnston said.
Since the aforementioned “one-off show” (part of the 2010 Birmingham Arts and Music, or BAAM, Fest), the band has released their Coat of Arms EP for free download on Noisetrade.com, played Wiggin, MS’s Wigginstock (which also included Glossary, 13Ghosts, and Micah Schnabel from Two-Cow Garage), toured the Southeast, played four dates at this year’s South by Southwest, opened for Justin Townes Earle and Centromatic, and played as the backing band for the newest Wooden Wand record (which recently had a song featured on a Paste compilation).
The band consists of guitarist/vocalist Johnston, vocalist/Fender Rhodes player Janet Simpson-Templin of Delicate Cutters and Teen Getaway, and drummer Brad David, guitarist David Hickox, and bassist Matt Whitson from Broken Letters. Their barrage of varying musical influences keeps them from becoming another typical indie/alternative band and allows them to venture into unchartered territory.
“I don’t think there’s a specific influence. I think each individual has different tendencies, but everyone plays just what the song needs. I mean, it’s a true band,” said Johnston.
Coat of Arms includes one song written by Johnston (“Tonight”), one song written by Simpson-Templin (“Los Angeles”), and two written together (“The Shot” and the title track). Plans for 2012 include a full-length album that will expand on the collaboration found on the EP.
“We’re writing a whole new batch of material. We’re going to spend the next few months fleshing out songs and ideas. Shooting for spring and trying to do shows,”Johnston said.
The group has offered a new type of writing experience for Johnston.
“The unique thing about Gum Creek Killers to me is it’s been a long since I’ve been in a band where you can trust everyone in the band and step back and open up to taking time and letting the band form songs while keeping the momentum moving forward; but letting it not be me ‘swinging the hatchet,’ so to speak,” he said.
The Gum Creek Killers has also allowed Johnston to see and stress the importance of musical collaboration in the thriving Birmingham music and arts scene.
“I’d love to see more collaboration.
A lot of the bands are doing it now and everyone really supports each other. I love to hear people make a record that I’m at first jealous of because it makes me want to make a better record,” he said.
This collaboration stretches beyond just music and, according to Johnston, has an opportunity to shape the city for better days.
“I think it’s a killer music scene. People are really working to change the city as a whole and it’s being pushed by creative people, by musicians, by visual artists, and that’s everything from photographers to sculptors, whatever. To me, I love to be part of the change and push and movement,” he said.
“Seeing different genres mixing together, I just don’t hear that happening in other cities. People are more competitive, where in here, it’s like what helps one person out helps us all out, and gets more people turned onto music coming out of this state. Right now, there’s incredible music coming out of Birmingham, but also out of the state of Alabama as a whole,” he continued.
To get more information on The Gum Creek Killers, visit www.gumcreekkillers. com, where you can download the free EP (which is also available at www. noisetrade.com/gumcreekkillers) and connect with the band. You also become a fan of the band on Facebook.
The band will be playing with Futurebirds and Grass Giraffes at Bottletree Cafe on Saturday, December 17th. Doors for this 18-and-up show open at 8 P.M. and the cost is $10.00.