Atlanta-based quartet Biters are getting ready to release the follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut album Electric Blood.
The band has recently been on the road with neighbours Blackberry Smoke on their extensive European tour. As the anticipation for the new Biters record builds, the band has been previewing tracks from the album including the incredibly infectious “Chasin’ The Feeling” and “Stone Cold Love” which have recently been championed by the likes of Planet Rock Radio.
National Rock Review recently caught up with the band’s frontman Tuk Smith to talk about life on the road, songwriting and their forthcoming new album The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review. I just wanted to catch up with you again as since the last time we spoke on the Kerrang tour you’ve got lots of new things on the agenda.
Firstly, you are out on the road with Blackberry Smoke. I know you guys both hail from Georgia and I know that you’ve featured in one of their videos, so there’s a good relationship between the two bands. I was just wondering what’s it been like sharing the road together on this tour?
Tuk: As far as those guys, we’ve done a lot of support tours but they are 100% the nicest and most accommodating human beings. On a lot of tours we got treated like shit, so yeah it’s been really great. If I was on this tour and they treated me bad, I couldn’t do it, it’s just too hard, it’s gruelling. Their tour manager is great, the band’s great, the merch guy is great, and the lighting guy is great. It’s crazy because we’ve never been taken care of, so all positive.
NRR: You’ve obviously played the UK many times, as I mentioned you were here last year on the Kerrang tour, and you had a headline tour prior to that. I was just wondering what do you like most about our little island?
Tuk: I don’t know, the people are cool, it’s good to get over here. It’s always great being here after you’ve been in mainland Europe for a couple of weeks, and everybody speaks English. So there’s some great record stores here and I don’t know, just cool culture.
NRR: I know that you worked with Dan Dixon on your new record, what was it like working with Dan and what did he bring to the table?
Tuk: Yeah, I’ve worked with Dan for the last five or six years, he’s one of my best friends and he’s one of my mentors, he’s taught me a lot about engineering. I produce a lot of bands with him together, so this one we co-produced the record together. I usually help a lot but now he’s just like you’ve earned it, so we kind of really attack it together. He’s more involved than the band members are like he’s basically another band member. So I write with him sometimes and shit like that, so it’s good, he’s great.
NRR: I remember the last time we chatted, you were telling me that you loved the storytelling that comes from country music with artists like David Alan Coe, Weylon Jennings, and Dolly Parton you mentioned. You said last time that you hoped that maybe some of that kind of country style of storytelling would feed into this record. I was just wondering did you get the opportunity to explore that at all?
Tuk: Well I do have like a country ballad, a kind of Americana ballad at the end. I didn’t do any storytelling stuff because they are just still three and a half minute pop songs. So no, it just didn’t work.
NRR: Have you had the opportunity to preview much of the new material live and if so what’s the response been like?
Tuk: Yeah, we’ve been doing a couple of songs. The way we recorded it, my band didn’t really get to play much, so it’s been hard for them live to do it, which is frustrating for me, but we did a couple of new songs live. It’s been going over well, I think we are playing three off the new record.
NRR: I have to ask you about “Dreams Don’t Die”, because that’s a song which always really hits me, and it really resonates with me, it’s such a great song. I just wondered how did that song come to fruition, it’s such a poignant song, what was going through your mind when you sat down and wrote that track?
Tuk: I wish it was more romantic, but usually it’s me spending hours and hours in my room, trying to fucking hammer out ideas. So I had the song title jotted in my notebook and I think I was just listening to some records. I mean you can ask most songwriters, it’s just work. When you listen to it, it feels like it was some divine inspiration, but really it’s just hammering away. So yeah, I think I was sitting there just singing like I do the lyric over chords (laughing).
NRR: To what extent do you find songwriting to be therapeutic?
Tuk: It’s more like an albatross around my neck, it’s therapeutic at some point, but I’m never happy with it, ever. I always want to be better and I’m always getting constant criticism from it, and judged, so there’s a lot going on, especially today with the internet when you are trying to write songs. I think it’s been more damaging than therapeutic, but the reviews have been really good on the new record.
But, I think writing songs at this point is definitely a job, it’s not art at this point. I have managers and I have fans that are judging. It’s just you’re not in a place to do a concept album or do something weird, if I try to stray away I’ll be called this ….but to be able to try to write the best songs possible that’s my goal, and yeah, I would like to be known as a songwriter more than a band.
NRR: What’s your favourite track to perform live and why?
Tuk: I like “Gypsy Rose” off the new record. I like it because I just wrote it … this is a good one, I was trying to write songs for the new record and I was sitting in my kitchen in the morning and I have a border collie and she was looking at me, her name is Gypsy Rose, so I just started singing to her with her name and then I thought god damn this is really good. So the song isn’t about my dog, it’s about this person or unobtainable love that you are always chasing, but yeah that was really cool. That is therapeutic to play live, definitely because it reminds me of home.
NRR: What’s the one album in your record collection you couldn’t live without?
Tuk: I don’t have one, I get asked this every single interview. Do you have one album? I have several.
NRR: Actually there is one.
Tuk: Which one is it?
NRR: And it’s not a rock album either, but it’s one that I turn to all of the time, but it’s “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis.
Tuk: Ok, that’s great, I have a big musical pallet, so I’m not just rock. I think as a human being, I’m so multifaceted and I have so many mood swings, that I would never be able to pick one album unless it was a double or triple record, and a bunch of different things, because sometimes I don’t want to rock and then other times I want to destroy things, I could never pick one it would have to be a lot.
NRR: Who was the first band you saw perform live and how did that first live experience effect you?
Tuk: I have no idea because I’ve been going to local shows since I was like 13/14, it was probably some local punk band, at I think like the Train Depot in Barnesville, Georgia next to the Big Chic. I didn’t really see any bigger bands until later on, it was just local shows, playing in the local scene. So I definitely started from that DIY punk rock scene.
NRR: What else have you got in store for the rest of this year?
Tuk: I have no idea, nothing is going. No tours yet, nothing is confirmed, I got this and I know they are working on things, I wish I could tell you more. It’s hard for us to find tours for our style or whatever. Hopefully, something good will happen.
NRR: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak us, we really appreciate it.
Tuk: Thank you brother, I appreciate it.
The Future Aint’ What It Used To Be by Biters will be released via Earache Records on the 19th May.
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