This month's edition of the Thursday Night Opry—in which local bands perform acoustically, gathered 'round a single microphone just off the altar at Trinity United Methodist Church—features American Hologram, City Hotel and Cusses.
Prep for the July 3 concert has Eric Britt, of American Hologram, on his best musical behavior. “The thought of being in a really quiet place, where everybody’s going to be respectful by default, in a church, has made us nervous,” he chuckles. “So we’re doing a lot of practicing to get our harmonies right.”
Britt’s Americana trio also includes Craig Tanner and Britt Scott. “Most venues we play in, everybody’s coming in to drink and have a good time,” he says. “Whoever’s listening is listening, the rest are drinking or doing whatever they do. But with the Opry, everybody’s going to be there to take a look and see what you sound like. We’re excited about it, especially to be playing with these other bands.”
City Hotel, of course, has always performed onstage in classic string band formation. In fact, the quartet launched Trinity’s Opry series back in January. For American Hologram, however, it’ll be an entirely new experience.
As for Cusses ... one of Savannah’s loudest electric bands is making some serious adjustments for the Opry performance.
“That’s how I started off singing, years ago, with just a classical guitarist or a piano,” vocal Angel Bond explains. “It’s good for me because it keeps me in check, and it makes me even more nervous! Not that I need to be more nervous, but I don’t have two loud musicians behind me, where I can just do whatever I want and it’s OK.”
Bond won’t even have two flanking musicians at the mic. Cusses drummer Brian Lackey—her longtime paramour—has decided to sit this one out. “I don’t think he’ll be playing brushes on a box,” Bond laughs.
So it’ll just be her and guitarist Bryan Harder, who’ll be on acoustic guitar for the occasion.
“That’s one of the best things about music —it isn’t perfect, and you figure it out,” says Bond, who’s fretting more about what she’ll do with her hands while she’s singing (with no microphone to hold and swing). “You know, Bryan is an architect by day—and a rock star by night!—and I’m sure he’ll figure it out. We did something similar a while back, and I think we pulled it off OK.”
Despite her nerves, Bond is confident that this show will be good for Cusses. “I don’t want people to think we’re just this heavy band in one niche,” she explains. “We’re all pretty diverse, we all like all kinds of music. It’s a really great challenge, and a great experience, to share with other people in the community.
“And you get to see us at a decent hour—you don’t have to wait until midnight.”
The band’s second, as yet untitled, second album is being pressed (on vinyl and CD) as you read this. According to Bond, it’s not all slam-bam heavy rock ‘n’ roll. “It’s a much more diverse album and it shows all kinds of sides to us,” she says. “We tried to cover the gamut.”
There are three songwriters in American Hologram, and their somewhat diverse approaches to words, melodies and music make for a fascinating blend. For Britt, who may be best known for his lengthy stint in the band Hazel Virtue, collaborating with two equally strong talents has been both invigorating and humbling.
“I’ve either been the Billy Corgans of the bands I’ve played in, or just done all the singer/songwriter stuff myself,” Britt says. “But there’s two other people in the band that do the same thing, so we’re figuring out how to find each other’s strengths and collaborate in songwriting. And it’s been awesome—I didn’t think I could ever really enjoy it as much as I am.”
The trio’s immediate (post-Thursday Night Opry) future includes writing and recording, followed by more writing and recording.
“Craig Tanner,” says Britt, “is one of those guys who isn’t afraid to figure things out. He’s bought ProTools, sound cards, Plug Ins, we’ve got condenser mics, and we began with a live recording. That’s become his learning curve with recording and mixing. And the next step, all of July we’ll be working on a studio record.
“I’m excited about this new process. I have faith in Craig; he’s my friend, and my bandmate, and he’s smart. A lot smarter than I am. He’s gonna do a great job, I’m certain of it.”