Wonderfully self-described "Ameripolitan" act the Whiskey Charmers just got back from one of their frequent mini-tours — this time to Omaha, Neb., and back. It's a lot of work hustling for shows while working day jobs, but Carrie Shepard and Lawrence Daversa, the core members of the band, make it happen. Set to release their sophomore studio album on Friday, April 14, they're opting to perform a free record release date on the same evening at Otus Supply in Ferndale.
The Valley is thoughtful, energetic, and improves on their thoughtful and well-crafted genre exercises. (It's better recorded too, as the band will tell you themselves). When Metro Times last spoke to the Charmers last year, it was to spread word about their crowdfunding efforts to fund the release of the album. That didn't go quite as planned, so let's pick up where we left off.
Metro Times: As we understand it, the Kickstarter didn't reach its funding goal, but then you tried Indiegogo and it worked out?
Lawrence Daversa: Yes, that's what we should have done in the first place.
Carrie Shepard: It worked out better. We ended up raising the same amount we did on Kickstarter, except we could keep it.
Metro Times: Were you worried that the album might not pan out?
Shepard: I think we were too panicked to think straight.
Daversa: I think I'm still too panicked to think straight.
Shepard: So we just went into emergency mode and did that; it worked out.
Daversa: It worked out perfect, and of course nothing went as we planned.
MT: What do you mean by that?
Daversa: We'd just kind of talked about how we would do things in the studio. Because we had a bunch of demo sessions we'd done that are live, like our first record. We'd listened to a bunch of them and thought we might keep a bunch of those. We went in and started re-recording a couple and it just got snowballed into a whole different record we didn't see coming.
MT: The first album was recorded live. But you did this one differently, right?
Daversa: We tracked this one because when we listened to the demos they were good. But we just wanted to get stuff right. I love live recording and I wanted to do it really bad. Certain songs like "Full Moon" would've never turned out like it did because I don't even know how many guitar parts I have on it. We just wanted everything to turn out right. We cut the first album like we did the demos. With mixing I think it took us 11 hours to do the whole thing.
Shepard: I sent the new record to my friend and he was saying how it was so much better than the first record. And he said, "That's what happens when you spend 14 months on a record instead of 11 hours."
MT: What were you listening to while you were working on the album?
Daversa: We listened to a lot of AC/DC and Black Sabbath.
Shepard: And Dio.
Daversa: Dio, our favorite.
Shepard: I've got my stations.
Daversa: She's got satellite radio in her car.
Shepard: I listen to Willie's Roadhouse, all classic country. And then I have Ozzy's Boneyard. So I have metal and classic country. And then we just found another station.
Daversa: The outlaw country station — kind of treads the territory in the middle.
Shepard: And sometimes the classic vinyl station.
Daversa: It's a lot of Black Sabbath, Dio, and AC/DC. And smatterings of Judas Priest, all that kind of good stuff.
Shepard: Judas Priest, George Jones.
MT: Why'd you decide to have the release show at Otus Supply?
Shepard: We couldn't think of a single room anywhere in Detroit where the sound is really great, so we were thinking of not really having one. And then our bass player played at Otus with his other band and kept talking about how great the sound was in there. So we actually haven't even been there, just based on that we decided to have it there. We've never set foot in there.
Daversa: No, we're taking a chance.
Shepard: People seem to be saying nice things about it.
Daversa: We were kind of looking for something in that central location too. There are places that we like that we thought of initially, but we wanted a place everyone would go.
Shepard: Yeah, Ferndale's a good central location. It's nice that they can eat, too, people who want to eat.
MT: Do you meet people in other states who are already familiar with your music?
Daversa: Every so often.
Shepard: Usually what happens is we play in a town, they'll see we're playing, and they'll check us out online or something. And they'll come because they like what they heard online. We played at this place in Omaha and there was this table of young people — youngsters — and I'm thinking, "Oh God, they're not going to like us."
Daversa: "They're here in spite of us."
Shepard: So we played for a couple hours, I'm thinking that the whole time. Afterward, the whole table comes up asking if they can take their picture with us, and it turns out they came on purpose to see us.
MT: Where did the album art come from?
Shepard: I was with my kids at the DIA and we saw that last summer. I took a picture of it and thought it was so cool. And at the time, we were thinking about using it for another song we had, which isn't on the album.
Daversa: Yeah, we demoed that one but it didn't make it on.
Shepard: It's about the grim reaper and as part of our Kickstarter we did this video and it was a total joke. We thought it was the funniest thing and then we posted it, but no one reacted to it at all and we freaked out and took it down. Anyway, that song's not on the record anymore but that's what we thought when we first saw it. And then we thought of it in relation to The Valley. Then we asked the DIA if we could use it, and they said just give them a credit. I expected it to be this whole legal process but I called her on the phone and she was like, "Oh, well I better connect you to the digital archivist if you're going to use it for something as important as an album."
MT: How would you two differentiate this album from your first?
Daversa: I think it has a wider range. The first record has a very consistent mood and tone throughout, because with me it was the same guitar and amp for the whole thing except for the steel guitar.
Shepard: I don't know if it's the production or the songs that make it different.
Daversa: I think it's a little of both, you go from "Melody" to "Full Moon." It almost could be two completely different bands and two different genres completely.
Shepard: Yeah, that's true.
Daversa: I've always been a fan of records that were somewhat schizophrenic.
Shepard: I also feel like there's a lot more energy on the second record than the first record. And some of it has to do with how it was recorded. With the first record there were things we didn't like about it, we didn't think it sounded like us. People liked it, but it didn't have the same energy as our live performance.
Daversa: It sounded like a much more mellow version of us, not to say we're like a hard rock band. But some of those songs do have a bit more energy.
Shepard: People seemed to like it, but it didn't really sound like us. Like, I wasn't happy with my vocals. I'm a lot happier with the way my vocals turned out on this record.
MT: You strike me as a group that focuses on music first and image later.
Shepard: We care about the songs.
Daversa: When I was a kid, it was always cool to see what the people I was listening to looked like.
Shepard: Plus, we're so uncool.
Daversa: "Hey there, we're old enough to be your parents, check us out!" Our next record will be called Get Off My Lawn.
Shepard: But yeah, we enjoy the music.
MT: Well, that comes across.
Daversa: It has to work out, because I am pretty unskilled. I got my eye on a nice refrigerator box in case the record doesn't take off.
The Whiskey Charmers play this Friday, April 14 at Otus Supply in Ferndale; Starts at 10 p.m.; 345 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; otussupply.com; free.