Quaildogs breathe life into a distinctive brand of alt-country that recalls the genre’s heyday as a potent '90s niche, while at the same time reveling in classic, freewheeling rock & roll. Having managed to keep together a steady and unfaltering six-piece lineup since their 2011 inception, the band has developed a unique camaraderie and sound that has earned them opening slots for a diverse set of acts including The Handsome Family, Futurebirds, Moon Taxi, Roadkill Ghost Choir and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band—and all this before having released a proper debut full-length.
Which brings us to The Getting Old Factory. The intermittent, drawn-out recording sessions for the Atlanta band’s first LP—which took place during the summer of 2014—mirror one of the album's primary narratives: "The idea that if you’re a well-intentioned, hard-working person, you can make good in this world doesn't necessarily exist anymore," says guitarist Michael Barnhart. On the title track, singer/guitarist Rob Josephs juxtaposes the readily available blue-collar work of his father's generation with the bleak employment situation of recent years, which he and Barnhart experienced firsthand as they both lost their day jobs and struggled to find work. "I didn't take it well," Josephs says. "It was hard times."
But The Getting Old Factory (out Sept. 15) is an encouraging, uplifting record that transcends these grim realities. The group cut the album at Atlanta’s famed Glow in the Dark Studios, with Alex Lowe (Aretha Franklin, Cee-Lo, R.E.M.) mastering the final mixes at Red Tuxedo Studios. The sound that materialized exemplifies a work ethic hellbent on overcoming hurdles rather than succumbing to them. Its bedrock of battling hardships gives significance and purpose to Quaildogs' lively tunes.
On "The World Still Looks the Same," Josephs wearily croons, "Nothing to lose and even less to gain, weather the storm but he prefers to feel the rain" before an elated wave of violin swells into a rocking, triumphant outro. "Why Bother" is similarly embittered and cynical, but eventually develops into a rollicking motivator for change. "A lot of our songs, if you read the words, they're sad,” Barnhart says. “Sad ideas, sad events. But the music makes them sound happy. Sometimes you need a little sugar to make the medicine go down.”
The group's crowd-pleasing capabilities date back to Barnhart and bassist Lee Berg's teenage years, during which they played covers at middle-school dances and their high school's homecoming. While studying the music industry at Loyola University in New Orleans, the pair first met Josephs—but they didn't form Quaildogs officially until several years later, as Josephs ventured to New York after graduating. Once there, he circled the open-mic circuit for a short while, but by 2010 he’d had enough and appeared unannounced on Barnhart's Atlanta doorstep, guitar in hand. From there, a collaboration more than a decade in the making began to take shape. Berg, Banhart and Josephs easily sourced the rest of their crew from local musician pals—first Paul Brandon, who now handles mandolin, guitar and lap steel, then violinist Graham Terban and finally drummer Marvin Moate. They played their inaugural show in July of 2011, subsequently releasing a trio of lo-fi EPs.
In some ways, The Getting Old Factory happened organically. The original goal was to record a fourth EP, but the band soon realized the project had grown into a full-length. This led them to filter out the bluegrass-style numbers that had comprised their earlier work, fine-tuning the more straight-ahead country-tinged rockers as they refined their sound to create a wholly cohesive work. They've found sure footing in the culmination of that effort, and now—with a steady stream of club shows and festival appearances on the horizon—Quaildogs can lay claim to a fresh signature sound and a sharply focused sense of purpose.