A bands first tour is a necessary evil. The drives are long; the rides uncomfortable. Its cheap beer and cheaper food with little to no sleep, just to play for maybe a couple of handfuls of people, returning home with not a dime in the members collective pockets.
Oklahoma City outfit The Wurly Birds managed to buck the trend on the strength of its new album, Mulberry Huff. While out on the road last fall, they expected to sell a dozen of the first pressing; instead, they sold out. Now that more copies have come in, home fans can hear it.
It was our first tour and we came back with money. Thats almost unheard of, front man Taylor Johnson said. It was a nice kick to want to do more.
This, however, marks the first without Johnsons longtime partner-in-crime, Chris Anderson (also of The Electric Primadonnas), who departed for Los Angeles a year ago, essentially taking half of The Wurly Birds catalog with him.
Johnson scrambled to replace the songs just to have a full set for shows, with the end product being Mulberry Huff.
It was like, Oh, shit! What are we going to do? Johnson said. This was the first time Id written a full album by myself. Theres still our old Motown shtick, but theres also some more jazzy songs and country-influenced stuff.
The challenge was a good thing; Johnson and his fellow Birds bassist Taylor Overholser, drummer Jerred Murphy, keyboardist Pilar Pueyo and multi-instrumentalist Matt Lester think rather highly of The Beatles-esque assortment of songs.
This is leaps and bounds better than anything weve done before. I know its a generic thing to say, but Im so proud of these songs, Johnson said. We really took a long time writing every piece to make it perfect.
Although Johnson and Anderson previously had recorded everything on their own, the band made the decision to go into Normans Blackwatch Studios for Mulberry Huff.
Wed never done anything in a studio before, and I think we had that in the back of our heads. It was inspiring to us to make our recordings better, Johnson said. [Engineer Jarod Evans] took it to another level. He set it on fire.
Long an obsessive songwriter, Johnson is trying to curtail that tendency to focus on giving Mulberry Huff its due time, eying a West Coast run next month that The Wurly Birds hope goes as good as its first.
Ive tried to keep myself from completely writing anything. We are so proud of this album if I were to start writing again, wed be here talking in a few months about a new, different record, Johnson said. This needs to have a little time for itself, so Im trying to hold it all down so that doesnt happen.