With the Drive-By Truckers set to hit the studio in August to record the band’s tenth studio album, co-frontman Patterson Hood said fans have plenty to look forward to in the near future.
Now a paired-down five-piece band, following the departure of guitarist John Neff, the band has been playing a few select shows throughout the spring and summer months, while Hood and guitarist Mike Cooley wrap up solo tours of their own. With a focus set for recording the band’s newest album since 2011’s Go-Go Boots, Hood said he couldn’t be more excited about the new direction.
“We are going to record a new record in August,” Hood says. “We’ve got a bunch of new songs, and I think it’s going to be really good. The band is in a good place right now and we’ve been playing really well. We plan to rip the album out pretty quick over a short period of time.”
The new record will be recorded in Athens, Ga., with the band’s longtime producer and record engineer David Barbe. Most of its songs have been written by Hood and Cooley, but, Hood says, there will be a lot of collaboration from the entire band once they get into the studio together.
“There’s not an overriding theme to these songs on this record, at least there’s not one that’s apparent yet,” Hood says. “We are not delving into any specific subgenre on this album. It’s really just a bunch of good songs played by the band as we are right now.”
Besides Cooley and Hood, who have always provided the backbone to the Drive-By Truckers throughout its history, the band’s current lineup includes Jay Gonzalez (guitar, keyboard), Brad Morgan (drums), and Matt Patton (bass).
Patton, who made his name with the Dexateens, joined the band after bassist Shonna Tucker left in 2011.
“Once we found out that he was an option, we were pretty excited, right off the bat,” Hood says. “He’s an incredible musician, and he’s a super cool guy. Those are some key things we need in this band. He’s a great showman and is a lot of fun on stage. It’s been a really good match for us.”
In addition heading into the studio to record a new album in August, the band is set to re-release a remastered version of its first album, Alabama Ass Whuppin’, on July 16. The re-release will give Truckers fans a chance to get a hold of this out-of-print gritty live album that was recorded live in Athens and Atlanta, Ga., in the fall of 1999.
“We didn’t know if this was ever going to happen,” Hood says. “Those tapes have been missing for 10 years. After we got them back, I listened to the raw tapes, and they sounded so much better than the record sounded, I was amazed. It was never really mastered properly so I’m very excited about it. It’s from a time in our band that was before most people know about us. It’s kind of from our punk rock days.”
Hood says the band is having a good time breaking out some of that album’s songs again, on their current tour.
“We’ve been pulling out more songs from that era, some of which haven’t been played in years,” Hood says. “Of course, I am really looking forward to having a bunch of new songs out there before too long. We haven’t started playing any of those new songs yet, but we’ll start incorporating one or two of them in our shows before too long.”
With the new album on the horizon, Hood says to expect a full-on tour starting early next year. Veterans of the road, Hood and Cooley have collaborated for nearly 30 years. While their relationship in the band may have seen some bumpy times, Hood says it continues to strengthen, as the Drive-By Truckers move forward.
“I think there is a chemistry between us, or else we wouldn't continue doing it,” Hood says. “We get along really great now. That didn’t necessarily happen when we were in our 20s. Right now, I think it’s been better than we have ever been. I love his songs. He’s one of my favorite songwriters, and I am thrilled to get to play them.”
While the Drive-By Truckers is notorious for its grueling tour schedule – in the past, 200-plus shows a year was the norm – Hood says while they still love to tour, they don’t hit the road as hard as in years past.
“We don’t play 200 shows a year any more,” Hood says. “Those days are over. I’ve got kids and a wife that I want to keep. It’s something we did, and I am real proud of what we did, but I don’t ever want to go back to that. You do get tired of travelling so much.” On the other hand, “I never get tired of playing. If I could play 200 shows a year and not have to travel, I would do it.”
For now, Hood looks forward to the rest of this summer’s tour dates, and then getting back into the studio. With its current lineup, Hood believes exciting times are on the horizon for the Drive-By Truckers.
“There have been a bunch of long-term but revolving cast members in our band,” Hood says. “All of them are great, and I am very proud of all the different eras of the band. I couldn’t be more proud of the one we are in right now. It's a particularly good one. It’s like the sports car version – it’s quick on its feet, it’s lean and mean. I am really enjoying that right now.”
The Drive-By Truckers are set to take the Telluride Town Park stage on Sunday, July 14, from 3:45-5 p.m.