Published on January 23rd, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Matt Megrue and Loners Society Reveal ‘King City Sessions’ on Autumn + Colour
Last spring, Charleston-based songsmith Matt Megrue and several members of the flexible roster of his main project Loners Society entered Ocean Industries Studios on James Island alongside local bandleader and Americana combo Wrenwood to track a live-to-tape episode of the King City Sessions. Megrue and Boone had already teamed up to record and release their own stuff under the label name King City Records.
Next month, on Feb. 11, the final mixes from the Loners Society’s session will finally see the light of day when indie label Autumn + Colour officially releases the collection as a mini album titled King City Sessions. It’s a hook-laden, slightly twangy demonstration of Megrue’s country, power-pop, and Americana-rock leanings.
Megrue chatted with Metronome Charleston this week about the making of King City Sessions, their band’s digital release party scheduled for Jan. 30, and their plans for the rest of 2014.
Metronome Charleston: How did you and the band prepare for the King City Sessions at Ocean last spring? Did you go in with a super-tight set, or was there some looseness and flexibility as you headed in?
Matt Megrue: I would say that there was definitely a looseness and flexibility to it. What we really wanted this record to be was an honest representation of what that set of songs sounded like on that particular night with that particular lineup — sort of like a glorified bootleg recording. What we didn’t want was a “live” album full of overdubs, re-tracking, and crazy edits.
Some of my favorite Pearl Jam shows are straight off the soundboard. There are some old Brian Fallon [Gaslight Anthem, Horrible Crowes] shows that have surfaced where you could tell someone was just recording the show through a mic in someone’s living room, but the feel was there. That’s the most important thing. We were having so much fun that night, and I just hope that comes through on the record.
Metronome Charleston: Who played and sang what during the King City Sessions?
Matt Megrue: For that show we had Dan Rainey on guitar, Dallas Corbett on bass and backing vocals, Brian McMickle on drums, and Charlie Thompson on the pedal steel. I stuck to my usual guitar and vocal duties.
Metronome Charleston: How would describe the sense of collaboration during the sessions — not only between the musicians, but between the engineers and attendees?
Matt Megrue: Well, once the engineers got everything set up and mic’d, they were in the control room monitoring everything, so there wasn’t as much direct collaboration with them during the show. As far as collaboration with the audience, there was definitely a lot of back and forth. Most everyone there was either a friend or a street team member, so it was really one of the most comfortable, relaxed environments we have ever played.
Add to that, the fact that there were a few kegs of beer, and that loosened my lips pretty quick. I think the live album is somewhere around 22 or 23 minutes? We probably cut at least 10 minutes of in-between song banter. So to the listener, you’re welcome!
Metronome Charleston: It’s funny; “La Grange” doesn’t sound much like ZZ Top, and “All You Need is Love” doesn’t sound much like the Beatles. What’s the story? These aren’t cover?
Matt Megrue: So “LaGrange” … I didn’t even think about the ZZ Top song until someone pointed that out to me a few weeks ago. LaGrange is a small town in Georgia I used to drive through visiting my grandparents’ as a kid. So there was that. And I just needed something that rhymed with “change.”
With “All You Need Is Love,” there was definitely a Beatles relationship in my head when I wrote that song. I have typically used that phrase, and unfortunately, rather cynically, whenever something bad happens, like, “Yeah, all you need is love, right?” That song centers around government, politics, and how horribly returning soldiers can be treated. So there is this part of me that wants to be naive and to think, “Hey, all we still need is love and that can fix everything,” but there’s the cynical side that says, “It’s going to take a lot more than that.”
I know I can be cynical. It’s a part of me that I have recognized and I am working on. I would like to be less cynical going forward. Maybe next record.
Metronome Charleston: Listening back to the final mixes of the King City Sessions and the full song order and packaging, what are you most pleased with or proud of?
Matt Megrue: There are definitely a couple of things that I am really proud of with this record. The first thing was to not lose the feel from that night through overproduction, and I think we managed to do that. The second thing that really started to hit home once we started getting album reviews back was just how versatile our songs can be. There was one review where the writer kept referencing that we consider ourselves a rock band, and this show sounded more like a country-western or Americana set. That was awesome.
This set, for the most part, was a one-time shot. This might be the only show we have played where we did an acoustic arrangement of every song. We also got to play songs like “All You Need Is Love” and “Jersey Devil,” which we hardly, if ever, play live just because it felt like it fit the mood and the vibe of the night.
Metronome Charleston: How and when did the Loners Society hook up with the Autumn + Colour label, and what does the deal with them on this new release mean for the band’s association with your own imprint, King City Records?
Matt Megrue: I am friends with everyone in the Atlanta-based band Look Alive. Their guitarist Cody Wellons and I played in our first band together when we were 12 years old. So they signed with Autumn + Colour, and then Cody was kind of like the intermediary between us and Autumn + Colour. The next few Loners Society records won’t be released on King City Records; however, I’ll still be looking to put out other people’s records on the King City label. My more immediate goal is to get some of [Charleston band] Wrenwood’s stuff released.
Metronome Charleston: Tell us about this “digital release party” set for Jan. 30. Will you be at a computer, raging and partying on camera?
Matt Megrue: We will be at a computer, raging and broadcasting live into your living room. This is the first time we have done anything like this, so we hope it goes smoothly. The format should be pretty loose. We’re going to do an acoustic set, and hopefully, we’ll have some people watching who ask us some questions and who we can interact with between songs. The coolest and most powerful thing about this show is that people can watch it worldwide. That’s a pretty exciting prospect.
Metronome Charleston: What are the band’s big plans for 2014 — touring, recording, and collaborating?
Matt Megrue: I think that 2014 is going to be a busy year. We signed on with a booking agency out of Brooklyn, so we’re getting our spring and summer dates together right now. We’re going into the studio the first weekend of March to track drums and bass and anything else we can get down for our next studio EP. We would love to have it out by the fall, but we’ll see. It seems like I typically have to tack an extra six months on to my overly ambitious timelines.
From the production and label side, I’ve talked with Wrenwood about possibly producing some tracks for them for a studio record, and I definitely want to get their live set from the King City Sessions night out. They’re a band I really believe in, and I’m lucky enough to have two of them [Dallas Corbett and Dan Rainey] in this band, Loners Society.
Metronome Charleston: What is your main goal as a songwriter this year?
Matt Megrue: My goal as a songwriter this year, as it is every year, is to challenge myself to write more. I self-edit way too much and way too early. I’ve got to find a way to get past that. I need to get better about dropping what I’m doing to get an idea down. I did that a lot in my younger years and got out of that habit. I need to get back into it.
I’d love to self-record a really sparse acoustic record this year. Just acoustic guitar, pedal steel guitar, and maybe some light percussion. I have a few songs I’m working on, so we’ll see if it ever comes to fruition.
Top photos by John Gaulden Photography.
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