Watching two of the three members of Augustines, Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson, singing their hearts out in the middle of the crowd at Larimer Lounge in Denver, with only their two guitars and lots of smiles from the faces surrounding them, these musicians live and breath their connection with fans. Having seen them a few years ago at the Bluebird, my friend Jen and I enjoyed the after-show banter with the band members; the sumptuous dessert after a luscious meal of songs from that album at the time all the way to the beginning.
The guys, including drummer Rob Allen, cherish these moments to talk to the people that listen and drink in their personal tales of triumph and woe. As the double edge sword of popularity, relishing in the embrace of their fan base and growth, moments likes these are not always possible and may be even less so in the future, if all continues to grow and blossom.
As the paying-your-dues story goes, Augustines have the road rash and badges to show for it, including dealing with legal issues in regards to the use of their name. Having reclaimed their identity and arrived at this point in their journey, the overall feeling and embrace of the aptly named self-titled album is one of rebirth, where a level of self knowledge and a more worldly perspective has been taken even deeper than before. Billy responds, “It’s always funny with anything like art, painting, photography, poetry, whatever, you’re, ‘I feel this way. I wonder if it will come out in the work. We all really feel that way, and we’re constantly reinventing ourselves. So thank you for noticing.”
While Augustines’ musical legacy and catalogue is strung together with silk threads of deeply personal stories put to song, the tracks on the new album move into the realm of thriving and not just surviving, about getting out of your mind, literally, as on “Nothing to Lose But Your Head,” set to triumphant percussion and choruses, catapulting your soul past loss and ache. To get rid of the human penchant of living in the past and bring yourself into the present, turn to “Don’t You Look Back.”
“Well, we talk a lot, we think a lot, we reflect a lot on life,” Eric adds. “I think it’s only natural that it comes across in our music. We’ve talked about the ideas behind the record a lot now, and the truth is, we didn’t sit down and come up with a theme and then carry it out. We just carried on doing what we do; being present, being conscious, and trying to express what’s going on in our thoughts and our lives.”
According to Eric, this songwriting process involved a lot of soul searching, and “coming to terms with who you are, and coming to terms with the fact that you don’t know who you are. At the same time it was a really fascinating time not entirely knowing who we are. We had the opportunity to reflect on our lives and not be held back by unbelievable struggle. We had the opportunity to sit in some degree of comfort and look at ourselves and say, ‘Who are we?’”
At this point Billy looks at his bandmate with an expression of recognition of those moments, half laughing in a way of relief of those accomplishment emotional resolutions. Eric continues, “When you’re a struggling artist your entire life, you don’t have that luxury. All you have is this identity you form as the struggling artist…trying to prove that you’re worth something. then you finally get to the place that you always wanted to be, you have to ask yourself, ‘Where are you going to go from there?’, because that identity of a struggling artist no longer exists.”
While Augustines may not have the opportunity to huddle in the middle of the crowd at every show to perform in the way they did in Denver, Billy vows they will retain their sense of closeness to the people who take their music to heart.
“We’ve always liked the word ‘community’ rather than ‘fans.’ because these are people who have homes, and lives, and jobs, and they’re coming here to be with us,” said Jimmy, delving into the other side of that sword of success in the form of sold out shows and radio airplay, of their music being picked up by the mass populous. “It’s a little threatening. We had to work through a lot of those thoughts. What happens when the crowds are so much bigger and we don’t get to get out there?”
Already Billy admits that in some cities it turns out to be a circus if they all go out into the crowd after the show, like the sold out turning point for Augustines at Shepard’s Bush Empire.
On the anthemic love letter to London, “Now You Are Free,” the making of the video brought the two countries of America and Britain together, representing the cross-country roots of Augstines’ members. In fact, Rob’s father is in the video driving the taxi. “That kind of integrates a lot of our community, family ethos.”
Join the Augustine’s community gather taking place the first night of The Great Escape, 9:30pm at Concorde 2. Follow their tour at http://www.weareaugustines.com/tour/.