Two Southern cities with seemingly little in common — Orlando and Athens, Ga. — are more musically plugged-in together than you might think. For the past three years, Brad Register and Curtis Brown, members of Orlando's Summerbirds in the Cellar, have been providing their musical services to Now It's Overhead, an Athens-based atmospheric indie rock outfit with electronic overtones. Though these collaborators have been separated by more than 450 miles during this time, recent developments have inspired Register and Brown to rethink the logic of remaining in Orlando.
The Summerbirds are currently touring as the opening act for Now It's Overhead, with Register and Brown performing with the latter as part of the actual band. Additionally, multi-instrumentalist Register has already moved to Athens and now shares a house with Andy LeMaster, principal songwriter with Now It's Overhead. While bassist Brown still resides in Orlando, he's considering the move as well.
It all comes down to the hardships of working with separate bands based in different cities that swayed the Summerbirds. "A lot of things led up to that decision too. A lot of personal things. I just think it would be easier if we're going to work with Andy, especially around the house, trying to — over the course of the next year, hopefully six months — finish these songs up," explains Register.
This informal partnership has obvious benefits for both bands — those unfinished songs he alludes to are from a forthcoming Summerbirds album that LeMaster will likely produce — and Register explained how the musicians originally crossed paths. "We met them at the Social, we played a show together. At the time their bass player and guitar player were Coley and Steve from Maserati. And Coley had other obligations for the next tour and so Andy called our friend Erica to see if she knew any information about us," says Register.
After signing on and completing the initial tour with Now It's Overhead, Register remained in touch with LeMaster and eventually tasked him with producing the Summerbirds' spacey full-length debut recording, With the Hand of the Hunter It All Becomes Dead (recently rereleased on vinyl). LeMaster is a well-known producer in his own right, as, along with partner and former Sugar bassist David Barbe, he co-owns Chase Park Transductions studios in Athens. The facility has recorded, among others, the Drive-By Truckers, the Glands and R.E.M., and was a perfect fit for the Summerbirds.
This arrangement not only proved to be a creative catalyst for all involved, but confirmed to Register how an outside producer could help further refine the Summerbirds' songwriting process. "He not only sang on the record, but really helped us with the structure of the songs. He was a definite influence in the direction we went with in some of those songs. I had no idea how much of an influence he was going to be until we got up there," says Register.
Now It's Overhead's third full-length release, Dark Light Daybreak, is due out Sept. 12 on Saddle Creek. Register played on several songs, and LeMaster is pleased with its overall organic approach. "The album started differently from the others in that once all of the songs were written, we all got together as a band to work up arrangements of them. Previously, it had been more of a thing where I started in the studio. I sort of intentionally wanted to inject a little more of a live element," says LeMaster.
He acknowledges the chemistry between the Summerbirds guys easily transfers to the rest of the band, and the impromptu studio setting also contributed to the overall vibe during the Dark Light Daybreak sessions. "It's a little more aggressive in a way, song-wise. We allowed ourselves to be a little heavier with the instrumentation," says LeMaster.
He continues: "It is very satisfying to me when you're able to take a very electronic-sounding instrument and make it have a voice that comes off as very human and organic. … There's something cool about pushing something in the opposite way than it is normally perceived."
While these experiences with LeMaster and Now It's Overhead seem to be the main reason behind the Summerbirds' displacement from Orlando, Register may offer a somewhat simpler motive. "I love Athens. We have a lot of fun when we're there."[email protected]