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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Alabama Shakes: From High School Band To Touring With Jack White

(Facebook/Alabama Shakes)

While she worked as a U.S. postal worker out of school, Brittany Howard was preoccupied with thoughts of a career in music.

“I was just always delivering the mail but meanwhile my mind is dreaming about all these different things that I could be doing,” she told Here & Now‘s Robin Young. “Never in my whole life did I ever think I’d actually get to do some of them.”

But after her high school group started playing at bars, one of their performances was picked up on a music blog and the group that came to be known as “Alabama Shakes” was no longer just an after school hobby.

“It seemed like it was the very next day I had emails from management companies and smaller record labels,” she said. “But then again we weren’t so quick to run into that whole music industry world because we were fine doing what we were doing. But then we didn’t know much beyond that. What else is beyond performing and playing and writing.”

The group went on to sign a record deal, perform on the Conan O’Brien show and tour with Jack White of White Stripes fame.

Comparisons To Janis Joplin

And Howard’s vocals are being compared to Janis Joplin.

“I got a lot of respect for Joplin… but I can’t say I own any of her records or her cds,” she said. “It’s not really someone I grew up listening to. I was listening to like ACDC and Chuck Berry. That’s what really excited me.”

A Rougher Sound

Much has been made of the group’s unpolished sound, which they say is deliberate. They want to emulate the sound of their live performances.

“We would track everything live, we wanted the creaks in the room and to hear somebody talking in the background or a stick drop,” Shakes drummer Steve Johnson said.

Brittany Howard says the sound is rock and roll.

“I think that’s why people like rock and roll. It’s extremely human and it’s not perfect,” Howard said.

Guests:

  • Brittany Howard, lead singer for the Alabama Shakes
  • Steve Johnson, drummer for Alabama Shakes

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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