Future Elevators

Michael Shackelford first wrote down the words “FUTURE” and “ELEVATORS” a few years ago on a rough instrumental demo. Recorded at his home studio outside of Birmingham, Alabama, the music never grew into a finished song, but that simple, surprisingly evocative phrase stuck with the multi-instrumentalist. “I liked the phrase so much that I thought I would name the band that,” Shackelford explains. “It’s about trying to rise above and be the best possible version of yourself, and for some reason I kept thinking about the glass elevator in Willy Wonka as a visual metaphor for this band I was putting together. We try to achieve this feeling of elevation.”

It’s an apt phrase for one of Birmingham’s most original musical acts. Like Roald Dahl’s fictional creation, Shackelford—the group’s founder, mainstay, and guiding creative force—is something of a pop confectioner who thinks up impossible sounds and makes them a reality. His self-titled debut as Future Elevators expertly mixes whimsy and gravity, the fantastical with the everyday. Even as he grounds his lyrics in real-world issues, Shackelford fills his songs with new and improbable combinations of familiar sounds: the jagged pastoral folk of “Alabama Song,” the Rube Goldberg blues riffs of “Machine Maker,” the retro-futuristic r&b of “Modern World,” the warm drone of the ten-minute instrumental closer “Aphrodite.”

Adron, named Best Songwriter of 2012 by Atlanta's Creative Loafing, is rapidly being recognized as one of the most uniquely gifted songwriters and vocalists of this generation. Her music seamlessly blends Classical harmony with the playfulness of '60s Brazilian Tropicàlia, the earnestness and sentiment of songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Harry Nilsson, and the cerebral sincerity of the hymn song. In 2011, her newest album Organismo was voted by Atlanta's Creative Loafing magazine as #1 Album of the Year.
With her own 4-piece band she tours the eastern and southern regions of the US, playing alongside artists like Toubab Krewe, Reggie Watts, Reptar, Space Trucks (Of Montreal side project), Cate Le Bon, and Bright Black Morning Light. She is also a mainstay at the 30A Songwriters Festival. Outside her own creative endeavors, Adron has collaborated with artists such as Prefuse 73, Helado Negro, Francis & The Lights, The Shadowboxers, The Selmanaires, Little Tybee, and visual/sound artist Michael Alan. Recently, she produced a music video for her song "Pyramids" with director Barry Alexander Brown, video editor for Spike Lee. For the video, Adron and her bandmates constructed a ten-foot real-life pyramid, covered in found treasures, funded by fans via Kickstarter. She is currently recording material for her next two full-length records; one a concept album about death, mazes and the Amazon called Thanatrópica, the other a follow-up to Organismo titled Water Music.

"My favorite band ever." -Eddie Owen (Eddie Owen Presents, The Red Clay Theater, Eddie's Attic)

Timber is a collaboration between Janet Simpson and Will Stewart — two veteran musicians who came together in that most natural of ways: In a pinch.

Stewart, an Alabama native currently based in Nashville along with the rest of the band, Willie and the Giant, was working on hisCoosa EP when it was suggested that Simpson — a multi-faceted, Birmingham, Alabama based musician known for her work in Wooden Wand, Delicate Cutters, and Teen Getaway — to lend her talents to the proceedings. Pressed for time, Simpson came to the studio that day, spent an hour adding keys and her sumptuous voice to a few of Stewart’s songs, and left to catch a plane for a European tour with Wooden Wand.

Last summer, out of the blue, Stewart e-mailed Simpson about writing together. Impressed by Stewart’s melodic gifts and easy demeanor, Simpson accepted the offer. Soon they began trading songs via e-mail, giving each other notes along the way. Once a small batch of similarly-themed compositions made itself apparent, the two met at 2734 Central Recording Studio in Birmingham, AL — working, once again, with producer Lester Nuby — to record their self-titled debut.

Though the two had been exchanging songs online, Simpson and Stewart did not know much about each other, much less how to go about recording their new compositions. Over coffee they talked about productions they were currently enamored with, including albums by Teenage Fanclub, Yo La Tengo, D’Angelo, and Neil Young — particularly After The Gold Rush. Caffeinated and invigorated, the two began crafting the album — splitting the instrumental duties, keeping things simple, and embracing spontaneous moments. Per Stewart’s suggestion, they drafted Nashville musician Scott Murray to add pedal steel, utilizing the instrument’s gorgeous washes of sound for atmosphere rather than staid, Americana twang.

As a result, Timber’s self-titled EP is a study in gorgeous economy. Each of these five tracks feels like a frozen moment — its protagonists on the cusp of either liberating revelations or freezing paranoia… Maybe both. The lush instrumentation travels splendidly though each song, luxuriating in the open spaces while providing a counterpoint to the dramatic tension coiled within the lyrics. The listener never learns too much, but it's enough to want to hear the brief program on repeat — an urge that pays in dividends.

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