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Five questions with Brantley Senn of Dead Confederate
Members of Dead Confederate include Hardy Morris (vocals, guitar), Brantley Senn (bass, vocals), John Watkins (keys, vocals), Jason Scarboro (drums) and Walker Howle (guitar). the band performs Friday night at AthFest in Athens. - photo by PAMELA LITTKY

AthFest 2009 schedule

Dead Confederate
When: 7:50 p.m. Friday
Where: AthFest main stage on Washington St., in front of the 40 Watt, Athens
How much: Free 

The members of the band have been kicking around Athens for more than 10 years now, but it’s their latest incarnation of the band, known as Dead Confederate, that’s gotten them the most attention.

Now with a record deal and music videos to boot, Dead Confederate is set to headline the main stage at AthFest Friday night before the band heads out for a tour across the Midwest. We spoke with bassist and vocalist Brantley Senn about the band’s recent rise to mentions in mainstream media, along with what it’s like to make a music video.

Question: You’ve gotten record reviews in The New York Times, Rolling Stone and NPR. Is this setting the stage for big things to come?

Answer: It’s definitely nice to get appreciation. We’ve been playing together as a band for about 10 years, since high school we’ve been a band in different forms. So to get attention is good. And we want people to hear music that involves who we are, so it’s great.

Q: I think I remember seeing you guys a couple of years ago at a neighborhood party. How would you characterize the band today versus just a couple of years ago?

A: We’re still playing those same songs and stuff. We’ve been touring over the last year and a half and we’ve tightened up a lot. I think we’re a little bit more professional now; we’re not kids, and we don’t handle things the same way.

Q: Is there any wisdom you’ve learned along the way you’d like to impart on other, newer musicians?

A: Stay focused, I guess. I’m not maybe the best person to give advice. If you’re going to make music, you have to make it the main thing. Get out of Athens, you have to tour. You have to get out and play as many cities as you can. Even if two people are going to show up, take that gig.

Q: You’ve been accused, by some media outlets, of creating a new genre — linking country and rock in a new way. What do you think about that?

A: that’s fine, I’d rather have that. Everybody’s going to pigeonhole you. I always say, ‘They sound like a mix of this and this;’ as long as they’re not saying, ‘They sound like this one band.’ You have to have a point of reference to describe things. But I do think we mix elements of music that haven’t been heard before.

Q: I see you’ve made some music videos, too? Are those part of a Web-based promotion or will they be used if we ever get an MTV that shows videos again? What do you think about the music video process?

A: We had to do a video. Anytime you sign a record deal they have certain things in mind for you. We were skeptical; we’d rather just make music and ride around the country doing it. We did it but we kind of tricked them — my friend Pamela took pictures ... We kind of manipulated the situation

Q: What influences you guys? Do you listen to anything when you’re on the road?

A: Everybody in our band’s all influenced by all kinds of stuff. We don’t listen to the same stuff. When I was growing up, stuff like Pearl Jam and Nirvana and Soundgarden, that whole range of music. “Ten” was like the album that got me into rock ‘n’ roll. Before that I was probably listening to whatever 10-year-old boys listen to, and then when I got into college we used to go see (Widespread) Panic play, and Phish, and once I graduated I started getting my own pace going and started seeking music more.
It has a lot to do with the Internet, too. I started listening to a lot of stuff, and that’s indie rock and all the ginormous amount of bands you can look up online. There’s so many good bands out there. a bit so it wasn’t too uncomfortable.