Hudson Bell's latest album "When the Sun Is the Moon" (Monitor Records) is a sprawling, fuzzed-out, majestic mess of American pop. With most of the songs barreling well past the five-minute mark, Hudson wrestles hook after hook out of his SG, then throws them against a wall of distortion. Recalling the likes of Neil Young, J. Mascis and Doug Martsch, somehow Hudson manages to build a stunning and endearing melody out of the mounting cacophony.
Raised in Baton Rouge and schooled in Oxford, Hudson now calls San Francisco home. But a national tour is bringing him and his virtuosic backing band (John Slater, bass/piano/organ and Brian Fraser, drums) back down south. Corey Alley of Hudson's Oxford band, The Usurpers, is also along for the ride. They will play an early all-ages show at W.C. Don's this Sunday.
Your music is certainly "indie," but it also strikes me as distinctly Southern. And that's not because you play blues scales. There is just something about your approach. Do you still feel connected to the South? And do you think your time in Baton Rouge and Oxford left an impact on your songwriting?
Maybe it's my accent? I'm not sure if any one place had a specific impact on my songwriting, but maybe just moving around to different places in general. All of my family still lives in the South, so I'm definitely still connected. My mom's mom actually lives in Jackson.
Were you consciously trying to set a particular mood with songs on "When the Sun Is the Moon?" It certainly creates one. It's like having the ability to press play on an Indian summer.
No. I knew it was going to be guitar heavy, but I'd say that the mood probably has to do with the fact that we recorded it in the daytime and on the weekends.
For the contemplative gearheads, what are you playing through to achieve that luxurious fuzz?
I play through a bunch of stuff, but the main pedal I use to cut through is a late-'60s Univox Super Fuzz. I use four distortion pedals though, so I change it up, using different combinations for different sounds.
Some pretty good reviews are starting to pop up on sites like Pitchfork and Dusted. Would you say the album is a grower as opposed to a shower?
Actually, I think it may be a groshower.
What's with the chart inside the album cover? Some kind of Eno chord bingo?
In the past I'd written songs in random tunings and forgotten to note the tuning or what exactly I was playing within the tuning, making it impossible to play songs again that I'd only played once when I'd written/recorded them onto 4-track. So I finally came up with my own system of sorts to remember what I was tuned to and what my fingers were doing. The colors are nice to visualize as well.
Are you still writing on paper? I've seen your words in the "Minus Times."
Yeah, I always have some stories I'm working on, both in my computer, and in my head, but really, they don't get hashed down into a finished piece until I have someone persistently asking me for something.
What music are you packing for the van?
Everyone else has an iPod, and I don't, but to tell you the truth, I don't really like to deal with the music on road trips, so I will be very undemanding. But I do have a few random CDs I'm bringing stacked here like Jefferson Airplane's "After Bathing at Baxter's," Incredible String Band's "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter," Animal Collective's "Sung Tongs," Ash Ra Tempel, Kaleidoscope "Faintly Blowing," Destroyer's Rubies etc., a few books and things, though I'm bummed right now that all of my Waylon is on vinyl.
Well, I think I heard the other guys talking about peyote and some church in New Mexico?
Hudson Bell plays an all-ages show at W.C. Don's on Sunday, March 12. Wes Williams is a member of ¡los buddies!, which is one of the opening acts.