Fat Possum’s new act Seratones hail from Shreveport, Louisiana, which is smack bang in the middle between Jackson, Mississippi, where The Rolling Stones were “sat in a bar, tippling a jar” and Dallas, Texas, where Tommy from Butthole Surfers’ ‘Pepper’ lost his leg.
Today they release a fine debut album ‘Get Gone’ (stream it below), and it riffs thrillingly on the gutsy soul and distorted genius of the US’ vast and wonderful musical history. Referencing everything from old favourites like Curtis Mayfield, Prince and Donny Hathaway to Facebook, Bossa Nova and the Bible, singer AJ Haynes leads the pack. She has a bit of a Minnie Riperton vibe about her vocally (not forgetting that afro either), and as a performer for over a decade now, her voice is seriously impressive. She’s able to flit from a soothing coo into something altogether more raucous in an instant.
Ahead of Seratones’ debut UK shows this summer – which include a place on the bill at Reading & Leeds Festivals – we got AJ to write us a track-by-track review of ‘Get Gone’. It serves not only as a neat introduction to the band, but also as a way of getting a feel for the world they live in. It’s a place populated by James Brown riffs, Ruth Padel books, boozy bourbon summers, Stax classics, Nirvana classics and the kind of songwriting nous that doesn’t come around all that often.
Stream the album in full here, and read AJ’s thoughts on it below:
Read AJ Haynes’ track-by-track review of Seratones’ ‘Get Gone’:
Chokin’ On Your Spit
I’ve always loved the phrase “follow your first mind”. The first thought, best thought ethos really reverberates within this song and throughout the record. We wrote ‘Chokin’ On Your Spit’ completely on a whim after a late night of cramming our equipment and tired bones into our 10x14ft practice space (decorated with tattered posters from old punk shows, defaced/collaged band posters — there’s a Beavus Novoselic and Kurt Clinton —and perverse phrases sharpied on the walls). We had just won recording time at local studio Blade Studios and were working on writing new material when we weren’t working full-time to pay the rent. It’s a shit-talking gospel song with a simple message — you reap what you sow.
We wrote this after coming back from CMJ. I got an eyeful of Times Square and had been spending way too much time on Facebook on the road — I found them both completely seductive and revolting. A sexy trainwreck. As consumers, we are so quick to get all riled up without first checking our sources. We want it and we want it now. “Get me off and turn me on.” When Jesse came up with this really simple and hypnotic drum intro, the rest of us responded in this very intuitive and primitive way. I wanted the lyrics to juxtapose that weird post-post-modern manic media consumption and consummating desire.
‘Tide’ is a song that wants to keep going. It’s been shifted and shaped so much since we had the original idea. You know that introduction for Aretha Franklin’s tune “Daydreaming” with Donny Hathaway whirling magic before the voices come in? In my mind, this song sits between that sound and the immaculate line “Til human voices wake us and we drown” from T.S Eliot’s ‘Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock’. Every time I sing it, I fall in love with it a little more.
Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Superfly’ and Bast inspired ‘Chandelier’. This was another song that really wrote itself. It’s so fun to play! It definitely has some undeniable swag. Connor’s guitar parts in the song immediately reminded me of a prism light fixture shaking around, thus inspiring the “shake like a chandelier” line.
We wrote ‘Sun’ in a small DIY spot in Highland. The Dalzell house brought us acts from all around the world; I’ve definitely drank a 40oz on the porch after seeing everything from Israeli metal to soundscape multisensory experimentation. We played the night before and left our gear overnight. We decided to just have band practice before packing up our equipment and came up with ‘Sun’ on the spot.
‘Get Gone’ is as about sex, death, and bourbon. It was inspired by a lot of Buffalo Trace and Pops Staples’ entrancing tremolo. Being from Louisiana, people are quick to assume our music is blues. Were we inspired by Blues artists? Of course. We spent countless boozy summers spinning Howlin’ Wolf , Arthur Crudup, Elmore James, and R.L. Burnside… but ‘Get Gone’ is more of an incantation than a blues song.
Adam’s bass line is this lovely stabilizing force holding together the interstellar madness. ‘Trees’ is one of the first songs we wrote and has never ceased to be my favourite song to perform. It demands so much of me vocally, but is totally worth it. I was reading Ruth Padel’s Mara Crossing at the time and was also in a phase where I constantly wanted to climb trees, thus inspiring the lyrics.
‘Kingdom Come’ is a re-telling of the David and Bathsheba narrative, from Bathsheba’s perspective. She was powerless, forced to lay with the same man who killed her husband. Given King David’s position of power, what else was she supposed to do? Accept death or live to fight another day? If I could re-write her story, I’d have her burn everything down. I always imagine the drum beat Jesse plays to be her preparing for battle. And it’s fun to dance to.
Don’t Need It
This is the first song we wrote as Seratones. We were all so excited to have a project that was completely new and collaborative, so all of our influences were easy to meld — from the grunged out intro, to Stax-esque verses, to the backbeat bridge, and the call & response James Brown riffage and rage until the end. We wanted to make music that had all the things we love.
Take It Easy
One of my earliest memories is of an evening spent on a beach in Yokosuka, playing with sparklers and watching fireworks over the ocean. ‘Take It Easy’ always takes me back to that place. It’s a very playful, coquettish song that makes you want to sway. I love Connor’s double solo. It’s just too good for one round, so we let him run with it. The end of the song is inspired by Prince’s vocal riffs from ‘Adore’ – one of the best love songs ever written.
I’m really proud of our arrangements with this song. We were struggling with it for a while, trying to balance the sweetness and simplicity with interesting changes. I’d say that it was probably the most challenging song on the record. I tried to channel my inner Astrud Gilberto. Keep Me is most vulnerable I’ve ever felt in a song.
See Seratones live in Europe this summer at the following dates:
8/22/16 Hamburg, Germany @ Molotow
8/23/16 Berlin, Germany @ Berghain Kantine
8/24/16 Cologne, Germany @ Blue Shell
8/25/16 Charleville-Mézières, France @ Cabaret Vert
8/26/16 Leeds, UK @ Leeds Festival
8/28/16 Reading, UK @ Reading Festival
9/1/16 London, UK @ Lexington