Augustines Open Up About Success and Music [INTERVIEW]
Everything is coming up roses for indie rock band Augustines. They locked down their original band name; they released an incredibly infectious new single; they have a sophomore album on next year’s horizon; and they’ve made a strong connection with their fan base, which is spreading like wildfire with every live show. We caught up with drummer Rob Allen to find out more about their success and what’s to come. We also received some sound music advice and were surprised at the live show that blew him away.
BOWERY BOOGIE: You were originally Augustines, but then had to change it to We Are Augustines. Now that you have your name back, how has the transition been? What made you return to the original band name?
ROB ALLEN: Well that’s the thing – it was the original name – we didn’t want to change it, but had to. So we added the “We Are” just prior to releasing Rise Ye Sunken Ships. We had an overwhelming run and were blessed to be able to go out and play in the UK and Europe and some US headlining shows. When we got back and were going to make the new record, it came to light that it would be possible to get our name back to how it was originally. There was no stopping us. It was something we always talked about, but there was never an opportunity to do it. We are very happy about that.
To answer your question, the transition has been fine. It’s not like we changed the whole name – people will call us ‘Augustines’ anyway, as in “Ah, no, no, it’s the Augustines” you know? There was not that much difference anyway – just dropping the prefix.
BB: You guys are from Brooklyn. Do you have any favorite spots on the Lower East Side?
RA: Well, I’ve been [in New York] for ten or eleven years now. Recently, I’ve been spending a little bit of time out in the Northwest, but it will be nice to be back – I haven’t been back in a few months. When I first got to New York, people I knew who had been there for a lot longer than I had were complaining about how much it was changing. And when I got there, for a while I thought, “Yeah, this place has still got some grit, it’s still cool.” I had a lot of fun, but then once I started living here as a full-on resident, over the years I could see what they were talking about. I don’t really go out on the Lower East Side or those spots anymore. I live in Brooklyn, so I hang out in Brooklyn, but to be honest, I’m on the road so much that I don’t spend that much time there anymore. If I do go back to New York, its usually just to sleep.
BB: What is the story behind your new single, “Cruel City?”
RA: Well, basically it touches on how cities can be tough to live in. For instance, we’ll use New York as an example. You go to New York, and you pay top dollar for your home, you pay top dollar for coffee, you pay top dollar for parking. Cities nowadays aren’t easy living – it’s always that you have to fight and struggle to get by to have a nice life. That’s kind of the inspiration for that song. People have been saying how it sounds “Africany” – we listen to a lot of African music in the van. Basically when you hear the new record and “Cruel City” in with the group of songs, you’ll see that that one is the only one that kind of pokes its head out with that kind of feel. People think it may be an African-inspired record – I hate to use the word ‘African’ but it’s easier for people to understand – that well-good feel, let’s say – the whole record isn’t so much like that.
[The new stuff] is still us, but we have gone forward in a slightly different way. We’ve tried to thicken everything up and we’ve really gone for it on this record. We recorded with Peter Katis – he did the Jonsi & Alex record, which was a big “yes” for us. He’s done stuff for The National and Mates of State and what have you. The guy is incredible – he has a great work ethic, and is a fantastic engineer.
BB: The drums on the new single have a bigger sound – how did you guys approach the beats on your second album?
RA: Well, the first album wasn’t me, but Tom from Pela [previous incarnation of the band], so basically when Augustines started, Tom put me forward and asked if I wanted to play. I met the guys, we hit it off, and within a couple of weeks we were out touring, and didn’t stop for two years. I was playing the first record and it was Tom’s part, which was actually really fun for me. But I was always looking forward to putting my style on the new stuff. Tom had a different background than me, so naturally it was going to be different. It’s funny – the drum beat [in “Cruel City”] came really easy to me; I didn’t really go over it – some of the songs on the record I went back and forth, wrote stuff down, changed it, and we’d go over it as a group; but on this song it was pretty much the first thing I played. I sat down and that beat was sort of the foundation. And they loved it; it fit so well that we went with it. We are all really proud of the new record.
BB: Who are your biggest drumming influences?
RA: When I grew up it was Steve Gadd and Stewart Copeland. Steve Gadd, you might not recognize his name, but you know him. You know the song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon? It has that cool little drumming bit in the beginning? That’s him. He played with anyone and everyone. He was a very iconic drummer, but was very groove-based. That’s why I liked him so much. He wasn’t fancy. And then you had Stewart Copeland from The Police, and I loved playing Police records when I was growing up. So really, those two were the big ones. Also David Garibaldi – I shouldn’t really say Tower of Power, because everyone is going to go “Oh my god you listen to Tower of Power,” but the thing is, I used to listen to anything. I was professionally taught from a young age, and the only advice I’d ever get was to “listen to anyone and everyone and everything, always.” I was lucky enough to go to university for music, and I went to conservatory in Norway, so I was always exposed to different types of music, different genres; whether it was Norwegian folk music, or rock n’ roll, or blues, or jazz, or whatever.