While Ned Durrett and the Kindly Gents have been around the music scene for a while, this weekend sees the re-launch of the group as Ned and the Dirt, replete with a muscular new album that sees the band stretching its wings musically and Durrett moving tentatively beyond the earnest romantic longing of his early songwriting efforts. Jasper caught up with the young bandleader this week via email to ask a few questions about their latest recording effort, the full-length Giants, which the group will be releasing tonight, 5/17, at New Brookland Tavern. Where’s Wolf, Foley, and Ben Patat (of Lilies and Sparrows) are also performing.
J: So the first time I saw you perform was quite a few years back at The White Mule, and you had just released a rock/pop-focused solo album. How did you go from there and that to this new record as Ned and the Dirt?
ND: I think the difference between the two records and simply an obvious growth musically. Our band added Trey Lewis on lead guitar and from there we realized we had the tools to fill in the songs with the rock n’ roll sound we had been waiting for. My music has become music that’s seen some stuff in its life, instead of the wide eyed acoustic teen it was before.
J: Tell us a little bit about the recording process with Kenny McWilliams at Archer Avenue Studios.
ND: Working with Kenny was one of the best decisions we’ve made musically. The man is brilliant and on top of that he’s unbelievably easy to work with. We spent two straight weeks in his studio and by the end of it we all felt like we were friends. I even texted him a couple days after recording to tell him a missed him. It was a moment. If I had all the money and resources in the world I would still come back to Archer Avenue and record my next record there too.
J: There seems to be an interesting balance of adventurous indie rock, Southern rock guitar riffage, and more conventional pop/rock stylings on Giants. How does this balance work? Is it difficult to get these different elements to coexist?
ND: I think the styles on this album all come from our band being into all different kinds of music. We’re always listening to new bands and trying to stretch our comfort zone musically that I think the main way that we can make sense of it all is by making a physical manifestation of our understanding of these different genres. I think when you listen to “Giants” you’re able to dive right into our minds and how we hear these different genres of music.
J: As a songwriter, how do you think you’ve grown over your years at USC?
ND: My songs are more complex and my lyrics have become more introspective I think. When I first starting writing songs, they were all about a young look at love, that fluttering feeling it gives you and the ache that comes from losing it. Now my songs are about love, marriage, talking to people that aren’t there, being afraid of not being able to fully reciprocate love, etc. I’m covering more topics and those topics are being covered in a much more profound level. I hope that I have this same thing to say about myself 4 years from now.
J: Where can people get the new record if they can’t make the release show?
If you can’t make it to the release show you can buy our album on any major online distributor, or you can go down to Papa Jazz and pick up a physical copy if you want. We also have a Bandcamp page where people can go to pay their own price for the album! Either way, we just want you to have our music.
J: For a taste of the new record, check out the advance single “Physical Proof” here.