Ancient Cities: Alone In The Universe
by Daniel Coston
Tangents Magazine: New album. Supermoon Blackout. Discuss.
Stephen Warwick: Supermoon Blackout is our new album, which comes out July 1st.
Justin Fedor: 'Supermoon Blackout' was exciting to record because finally we were a band recording an album instead of a group of guys becoming a band around an album. We hashed out arrangements and put our own touches to Stephen's songs.
Tangents: How was the band’s sound changed since the first album?
Warwick: The first Ancient Cities album is definitely more acoustic guitar based even though I was expanding my sound by adding electric guitar and synths. A lot of it still fell into that folk realm. Also, I didn't have a band when I began recording the first album, so everything was recorded at separate times. With Supermoon, we had been playing as full band for a while and wanted to capture that raw energy. Most of the songs were recorded with everyone playing together live. It’s a more fuzz-driven album for sure.
Fedor: With the band being established going into the recording, we were able to lose a lot of the extra layers and record our parts for what they were. It's raw and rocking ...
Tangents: You wear your psych-rock influences proudly. Do you come out at psych-rock via 60s bands such as Moby Grape or the 13th Floor Elevators, or later pysch such as Queens Of The Stone Age?
Warwick: I grew up listening to my dad's records, which are mostly from the mid to late 60s. So I'm definitely more influenced by that era of music in general, bands like The Zombies, Love, Moby Grape, The Doors, and into the early 70s like Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Grand Funk Railroad.
Fedor: I love modern and classic psych rock. My friends used to kid me and say we sounded like a Pink Floyd/My Morning Jacket lovechild. When MMJ backed up Roger Waters at Newport Folk Festival while we were there last year, they all said "See! I told you so"...I'm still not certain what that means, but I like it...
Tangents: How was the writing process changed for you both since the first album?
Warwick: I wrote all the songs for both albums, so I wouldn't say the process has really changed much since the first album. I usually record demos and present them to the band. Then we'll sort out where everyone fits into the song and go from there.
Fedor: Stephen writes the songs and presents an initial arrangement. He then opens the songs up for us to add our individual sound to it. It's a fun process which can be heard most prevalent in the title track 'Supermoon Blackout'...
Tangents: Both of you have your own projects. How much time are you both devoting to Ancient Cities, for the forseeable future?
Warwick: Ancient Cities really took over where my solo project left off. I was pretty uninspired with trying to write songs that fit into a certain a genre, and with the direction my writing was going I felt like it was time to start fresh. So, for now Ancient Cities is my main jam.
Fedor: When I moved to Charlotte, Stephen quickly became my favorite songwriter in town. We've been friends for over a decade now. I'm pretty comfortable here and I get to jet out on my own from time to time to continue my americana endeavors. Stephen's also working with me on arrangements for my own album. We work well together and have already enjoyed more success together than either one of us did alone. I'm not in the market for any more projects...
Tangents: Do the outside projects actually help with the writing of Ancient Cities songs?
Fedor: I actually want to stay away from americana for Ancient Cities. We experimented on the first album and tossed some banjo on for shits and giggles, but then everyone kept referring to us as a 'folk' band. I think this new album will shatter that spectrum...
Tangents: Justin Faircloth just joined the band on keyboards. What has he brought to the band?
Warwick: Yes! Faircloth joined the band at the end of the Supermoon recording sessions. We’ve been friends for about 10+ years, and I was always a fan of his band The Houston Brothers. So when we 5were looking for a new keys player he was our first choice. He has an great musical instinct vibes well with Ancient Cities. He knows when to take it to the next level and when to back off, and he plays with such energy and emotion.
Fedor: Having Faircloth join at the tail end of recording the album was a blessing. We had become pretty regimented with how we performed the songs and when he walked in, he instantly broadened our scope with new tones and chops that we hadn't imagined before. I think the track 'Actress' best shows his influence on a song. Beyond just his talent, his personality works with us which is vital for us to survive on the road as a band….
Tangents: Where did the idea of the whited eyes come from?
Warwick: Whited eyes is something I incorporated into the collage I did for the Supermoon Blackout album cover. It represents a sort of zombie mind-state, having no recollection of one’s actions, like the Mr. Hyde lurking in everyone.
Fedor: Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes...
Tangents: Psych question. Brit psych-rock, or American psych-rock? Or both?
Warwick: I like both British and American psych-rock. A lot of the British rock in general was derivative of the American blues, so you couldn’t really have Brit rock with out it’s American influence. But the Brits had this baroque pop element in the 60s that I really love, and America just couldn’t replicate that without it sounding contrived.
Tangents: Ancient Cities is…….
Warwick: Ancient Cities is good times.
Fedor: Ancient Cities is a rock band.