Everyone knows Patrick Hallahan as the driving heartbeat behind the kit in My Morning Jacket. This week Spanish Gold, Hallahan’s most recent non-Jacket project, releases their debut album South of Nowhere nationwide. The band will also be playing WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday this week, and appearing at Forecastle in July. Hallahan took time out of his busy schedule between both bands to talk to us about the new band and the new album.
Louisville.com: How did Dante, Adrien, and you all come together to form Spanish Gold?
Patrick Hallahan: To make a long story short, Dante and I met while backing up Dan Auerbach [leadsinger/guitarist for The Black Keys] on his solo album tour in 2009. We just built a strong friendship and stayed in contact with each other over the years. And then Dante and Adrien went to the same high school in Laredo, Texas. Dante was calling me, as a friend, telling me about what was going on with [his band] Hacienda, and [about these demos] he was working on with this guy Adrien. Personally, I was just happy that he was working and getting stuff out there, but about two weeks later he invited me down to Nashville to just see what happens. Now there’s an album and we’re going on tour…weird.
Louisville.com: This seems to be a different drumming style than we’ve seen from you in the past, almost funky or danceable.
PH: Ya’ know, honestly that’s a huge emphasis on how we were approaching the sound of this album. We wanted people to move to it. Even though some of the themes are serious, we definitely wanted to capture the sound, almost like a hip-hop album; where it hits really hard on the bottom end and makes people wanna move.
Louisville.com: Where does the name Spanish Gold come from?
PH: The name was the last thing to come, we couldn’t think of a name for this band forever. We had the name Spanish Bomb, but somebody had already named their management company that and wouldn’t let us use it. Then somebody down the line said Spanish Gold, and we loved it…and that’s how it came to be. There were about 700 band names before that.
Louisville.com: Was the writing process with Spanish Gold any different than what you’re used to with My Morning Jacket?
PH: It wasn’t done at all, some of the songs were well on their way – but this was largely collaborative, which definitely keeps people in it, and interested. Dante wrote a large portion of the starting material, then we started writing stuff on the floor, from scratch. The crazy thing about working with these guys is that we’re all very pipelined when we’re in the studio.
Louisville.com: How long did it take to record the album?
PH: It was over about six different sessions. We recorded it in Nashville, Austin, and Louisville; we wanted to make sure we hit every one of our towns that we’re living in now. So over the course of those three cities and six sessions…that’s how we got the album.
Louisville.com: Did each town leave a discernible influence on the material that was recorded there?
PH: Well yeah, I think we’re all products of our environment in one way or another. I don’t know that I could listen to it and tell you which city is which, but they definitely feel different in each town; and from those feelings come different sounds, for sure.
Louisville.com: “Day Drinkin’” is undoubtedly one of my favorite songs on the album, where did that one come from?
PH: We were all sitting at the studio during the first session when we all came together. We had a few just real hard hitting songs, and we were like: does anybody have anything that would be a wild card, something drastically different. And Dante was like, “Well, I’ve got this song about day drinking.” He played it and it had this beautiful melody, so we cut that one pretty quickly. He did it acoustically, then I build the drums around that, and then Adrien put guitars all over it.
Louisville.com: What’s it like going back to playing smaller venues with Spanish Gold?
PH: There are elements of smaller venues that, in my heart, I always wanna go back to. The intimacy level is so great, I miss being that close to people. I mean, it’s a beautiful problem to have, don’t get me wrong. I feel very blessed that My Morning Jacket has gone on to bigger stages, but there are things that I miss about touring that I get to go back to with Spanish Gold. A van tour, for instance; we’ll be driving ourselves around the country…I haven’t gotten to do that in years! That’s an element I really miss, the adventure, the challenge. I don’t know, seeing the country go by, instead of just waking up in the next town…it really is a difference.
Louisville.com: You all have two shows here in Louisville scheduled, one is Waterfront Wednesday and the other is Forecastle Festival. Are hometown shows different than other shows on a tour?
PH: Oh yeah…absolutely! Oh God, my grandmother will be in the crowd in Louisville, ya’ know what I mean? It’s funny, Louisville will call your bluff…I can get away with anything on a show in Laredo, Texas. When you’re playing in front of your hometown crowd, you’re in front of your loved ones, your best friends, everybody you’ve grown up with. There’s an added element of wanting to do the best that you can do…so I put a lot of added pressure on myself for those shows.
Louisville.com: What do you see in the future for Spanish Gold, another album perhaps or was this sort of a one-off collaboration?
PH: Well, we don’t know. Honestly, we didn’t know we were going to go on tour. We didn’t know we were going to make an album, we thought we were just going to record and be done with it, but this has really become a serious band. I sincerely hope this isn’t the last one, because I really enjoy playing with these guys. The likelihood of it happening any time soon is questionable; because My Morning Jacket will pick-up at some point in the not-too-distant future and I’ll have divert my energy to that. It’s just something we’ll have to keep up with over the years and as long as we’re having fun, we’ll keep doing it.
WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday begins at 6:00 PM tomorrow, May 28th. Spanish Gold will be headlining the show, Broken Spurs and Starbilly will also be performing. As always, it will be a free concert.