Birmingham Weekly: The first album was an impromptu thing recorded in a couple of weeks. Was the new album Sea of Cowards recorded in such a short time period, or did you spread it out because you guys were on tour with other people?
Jack Lawrence: We started around July of last year, maybe, just recording when we would get off tour. We would have a few days here and there where we could get everyone together here in Nashville. We started it that way, so it was a longer period of time, but as far as the actual time put into the album, it was about the same. I guess around three weeks total.
I’ve only heard the single from the new CD, but it seems to continue the driving, macabre tone of Horehound. Is this album a move forward from the first one?
Yeah, I do. I think it’s a little more aggressive this time. The first album was just us coming together, not knowing anything about how we were going to play together, how it would sound. It’s just us in a room and [Horehound] is what happened from that. But this one we had toured, we had been playing for a while, kind of being able to play off of each other more.
You originally only intended to release a 7” single, and then before you knew it you had a whole album and toured behind that and now you’re touring behind a second album. When does the side project become a main project?
I don’t know. You kind of just do it and let it happen. We all have other bands, so it’s hard to say. But this one feels like a real band. It did start because we wanted a 7” inch that captured Allison on the last show of [our tour with The Kills] and came up here because Jack had just finished his studio, so it’s all just been a happy accident, but right now, this band feels real. We’re doing interviews. We’re touring the world. It feels like more than just a side project to us. Maybe to other people too. It’s hard to be in the eyes, or the ears, of the listener. We’re not out to trick anyone, we’re not out to say this band is this or that. You know, you put stuff out there and if people like it or want to listen to it, it’s good. We’re not out there to manipulate anyone or anything. We’re just really inspired by one another, so all of this music is created very easily for us, and we’re happy to do it.
I’m wondering how much time and energy you have to put into each band in order to keep each one functioning smoothly?
We all put a lot of energy into everything that we’re doing. I think we’ve always been like that. I think you have to. You have to really love what you’re doing and want to create art to be able to be in anything, even if it was only one band. You take it seriously. This isn’t a joke for us. This is what we do. We’re the type of people that like to stay busy and stay involved. It’s great to be swamped, and every day you’re working on something whether it’s The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs or The Greenhornes for me. Alison, in between all of this, has been writing a Kills record too, so she’s been bouncing back and forth from studio to studio. So we do it for art.
The new record was recorded at Third Man as well?
Yeah, we did it at Third Man.
So what’s it like working in that studio? I’ve heard it’s just a dream, that it’s got everything you could want as far as producing a record by yourself.
It’s kind of the fifth member of the band. It does sort of shape you and you go with it. There’s also limitations to the studio. It’s small. There’s only one tracking room and one control room. You don’t have a lot of separation. We’re all in the same room recording. Big studios, you know, you’re all in private somewhere. And we still record on tape with 8-track. There’s no Pro Tools [a popular digital recording platform], there’s no freedom of having unlimited tracking, but it’s good to put some limitations on a studio, I think.
It keeps you honest?
Too many bands are making perfect music. Well, not perfect to my ears, but they want to make it perfect to the listener and it just gets a little stale after a while.
We have a musician in Birmingham named Dan Sartain who recorded a single at Third Man Records. I was curious if you’ve met him.
Yeah, I’ve met Dan a few times. He came up and did a 45 at Third Man, and me and my wife took the pictures for that one.
So what’s next for you after this tour? Is it back to The Raconteurs? Do you have any other projects?
The Greenhornes are going to get ready to do a few shows this year. We have a record that’s finished, and we’re just trying to get that out. I want to say I’m excited to play Birmingham. I’ve never played there.
Well, Birmingham, I hope you are as excited to see The Dead Weather as Jack Lawrence is to see you. They may not possess the name recognition of their individual bands, but this is an under-the-radar supergroup. You would pay twice the price to see The White Stripes or The Raconteurs, and at a less intimate venue. The Dead Weather will appear in the Workplay Soundstage on Tuesday, April 27, at 8 p.m., with opening band The Ettes. Tickets are $25.
Sam George writes about popular music and other topics for Birmingham Weekly. He is also an editor at the music web site bham.fm. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.