Twang and reverb. Toss in some cold beer and dark liquor, and that’s about all I eat. Bad News Darlin’ from Atlanta’s Andrea & Mud satisfies my taste for both with songs that ride roiling hillbilly waves right into the honky tonk without botherin’ to check the shit kickin’ at the door. The follow up to 2018’s Easy, Sleazy and Greazy finds the duo exploring similar territory with hardcore back alley country songs that are guitar-driven, dance hall ready, and lyrically glowing with a neon darkness that it is sure to appeal to fans of psychobilly, cowpunk, and alt-country. Andrea Colburn and Mud Moseley call it surf western, and it’s the soundtrack of the Hillbilly Underground.
Let’s talk about this brand new record that you just put out, Bad News Darlin’. I happen to be a big old school rockabilly fan, and you’ve got a lot of that on there. You’ve got surf, some blues, a little ’60s girl group shakin’ action going on– but at its core, to me anyway, Bad News Darlin’ just really feels like a hillbilly record. It’s got some of the same flavor, but it’s a little bit different than your last album, Easy, Sleazy and Greazy.
AC- You think the new album sounds a lot different?
I think it sounds a lot honky tonkier. Easy, Sleazy and Greazy certainly had its hillbilly homicidal tendencies, which I loved, but this one seems to have a lot more twang, a lot more of a Texas Troubadour vibe to it.
AC- I think you’re definitely right. I’m glad that you noticed that too because I feel like when we were writin’ the first album and startin’ to play together, we did have a little more of a rockabilly vibe. I mean, Mud was even playin’ the hollow-body Gretsch, which had more of a rockabilly sound. We found ourselves a little more with recording that album and just playing that album. We just had a very natural progression to play a little more of the surf music ’cause of his guitar. He started playin’ the tele and the tremolo…
MM- And the country stuff. I was kinda gettin’ out of playin’ straight rockabilly stuff and rockabilly bands. This just seemed more natural. When we write songs together, we more or less write country songs.
Tell me about the writin’ process together. Was that something that you guys were able to leap into immediately when you first met and started playin’ music together? Or was it something that had to evolve over time?
MM- We were able to get to it quick– but it’s turned into something different. We had originally started sharin’ songs and we basically finished each other’s songs. The next step in the process is that I would come to Andrea with an arrangement and she would write lyrics for it. Or we’d do songwriting exercises where she’d give me a phrase and I’d write music to it. But now, we almost always write separately and then come and finish each other’s songs again. There’s some that we write together from the get-go, but not all of them. They used to involve a lot of red wine, but Andrea doesn’t drink anymore… And I hate that crap (laughs)!
AC- (Laughs) We used to be conscious about trying to write differently just to keep ourselves changing. So it would be like, I came up with lyrics or a melody and we’d write the song or we’d go off just a phrase and we’d write the song, but yeah, we try to keep it different. We try to always make some new changes.
Andrea, you’ve been writin’ and playin’ music, I’m assuming before you got to Georgia in 2012 and you kind of had an alt-country thing going on. When did you feel yourself really gettin’ immersed in the deeper end of country music?
AC- Well, I’ll tell you actually, I did start playin’ guitar when I was 14, but I’m gonna say I didn’t actually start playin’ music ’til I moved to Georgia in 2012. I just really got into it at that point. Just everybody in Georgia played music and I was like, “Oh, I love this!” And I didn’t really technically like country music until I moved here because I had a bad taste in my mouth from some stuff on the radio…
Oh, well you can’t listen to that. You can’t listen to that radio country music. That’s no good (laughs).
AC- Exactly! And then when I realized, “Oh wait, there’s some good stuff, ” I just really got into it then. That’s really what it is. Georgia did it to me. And now I found the good country music!
You two had been runnin’ around each other in a circle before you finally met at a Star Bar show, right? What was it? The Legendary Shack Shakers?
MM- Yeah. I think that’s when we actually met. We were wearin’ almost the same clothes. It was pretty weird. I was wearin’ overalls with a Pokey LaFarge shirt on, and she was wearin’ the same Pokey LaFarge shirt with a different color overalls on!
AC- Isn’t that cute?
Mud, what were you doing before that point? You talked about playin’ in rockabilly bands. Who were you running around with? Was it anybody I’d know?
No, but it was kind of like a culmination of people from The Sideburners…
Who I do know.
MM- We had played around with that bass player and I was just desperately trying to start playin’ some, basically, hillbilly music with somebody around here. ‘Cause I had just moved into the area from when I was going to college– from Dahlonega down to Clarkston. I was just desperate to start playing some music. And I ran into somebody that introduced us, actually, at a Southern Culture On The Skid show. He called me a week later when I was at work like, “You wanna start a band?” And I was like, “Yeah! Yeah, let’s do it!” And it turns out he was actually a good drummer. Usually, when people do that, they just kinda wanna play in the basement for a while, not really write anything, but it was fun. Lasted for a little while. I think I kind of had to move on ’cause I had too many responsibilities.
You guys have made a great record and you did it with Damon Moon, who I believe you worked with on your previous record as well. I’ve loved everything I’ve heard come out of his studio [Standard Electric Recorders Co.] What got you guys hooked up with him initially?
MM- We were shoppin’ around to land on a studio during the last album. We recorded that at three or four different places, but the bulk of it ended up bein’ with Damon because he was easy to work with. He kinda got the vibe and pushed us to do stuff that ended up [to be] what we wanted. He came around with the celeste on “Pepperoni Sue” on [Easy, Sleazy and Greazy]. I was like, “Oh man, this is perfect!” This time it was this instrument called the optigan, which is kind of hard to hear on these songs, but it’s like this cool, like fake strings behind some of the stuff on “Little Blue Truck” and I think in “Birmingham [AL 8:30 AM]” and there’s like tubular bells… He just gets it. He’s a little more like a Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood than we would have done ourselves, but it totally lends to what we’re doin’. We like it, he’s easy to deal with, he’s got the right equipment and, treats as well. So we keep going back!
Reverb is a very hard thing to manipulate when you’re puttin’ it on album. You either have too much of it or not enough. I really feel like you guys were able to nail that mix for the songs. And it’s able to give you that surf western vibe that’s being touted as your sound. Is that how you feel things movin’ forward?
MM- Yeah, absolutely. Specifically, in guitar stuff, I think I’ve nailed my tone down how I want it. I may end up cuttin’ some trouble out of it, but reverb-wise, I’ve got it. And then also in the studio, yeah, he’s using some analog reverb tanks and they turned out good. We don’t have any real, like legit hall reverb on there– like where you re-amp it in a concrete room, but some of it was re-amped to get the sounds of rooms. Most of it was spring reverb. Whenever I play, I play through a ’63 reissue reverb tank, the Fender one. That one’s cool. Sounds great. It’s got the surf tone, and that’s somethin’ I’m tryin’ to push into the country stuff without goin’ too rockabilly.
I’m glad you brought up the optigan. I saw that in the liner notes of the CD and I didn’t know what that was! But I did want to, Andrea, ask you about another particular instrument on the album. You play the saw? Where did you pick that up?
AC- Well, the hardware store! No, I’m just kiddin’! I don’t know actually, ’cause you know that’s like an old-timey Appalachian or mountain thing and not many people play it anymore. I think I had heard it on a song years ago and had always just been like, “I just really want to play the saw.” And then I met someone in Atlanta. He passed, unfortunately, but he helped me out with learning how to play and teachin’ me, Terry was a lot more experimental with it, but he got me really into it and I just really liked it. I usually only bring it out for one song during a show, but people always love it. And I’m always surprised! A lot of people tell me they never even knew that you could play a saw. They’d never heard anybody play it. It’s a cool thing.
What is the plan right now? Because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and lots of folks are having issues deciding how and what they are gonna do to get back into playin’ live and doing more. Have you guys got a game plan?
MM- Unfortunately, we’re not really sure what we should be doing right now. We’re still pushing all of our content, online stuff, stuff that you can grab without actually coming in contact with us. We’re gonna continue to push that for sure. But with live stuff, the industry’s changing at the moment and we’re gonna have to figure out some way to adapt to it. We are having a couple of live shows in smaller places, just as the duo, coming up soon. I think the first one is this Saturday [June 20], but we’re gonna have to have to figure out the changing industry. I think the industry is about to get concentrated up top here soon with most of the smaller bars closing. So we’ll see. I think we’ve taken the right steps to move into the direction to be in the category to move into those little bit bigger places. We’ll see.
I have read in interviews where you’ve both invoked the Redneck Underground up there in Atlanta, and you’ve begun referring to the Hillbilly Underground with this new album. Are you in effect beginning a new movement?
MM- We’re tryin’ too!
AC- Yeah! The Hillbilly Underground. I’m glad that you mentioned that for the Redneck Underground, ’cause we’re not always sure… I guess if you weren’t around in Atlanta or in the area around then, then you don’t know about it. Some people don’t, I learned about it from some of the men that were in it, some of the guys, and we just love it! I love the term. I love the whole thought of it. So yeah, I think so. I think we would like to. It is underground, right? So we’re not ever gonna be like mainstream– and that’s fine. I think that’s probably what we want. But yeah, we’re all hillbillies, right?