Lee Bains’ southern-fried garage-country is like a legendary burger shack way off in the sticks. Part of what makes it amazing is how the grill’s been seasoned by generations of grease and grit.
Bains grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and takes cues from local legends Verbena’s extraordinary 1997 debut, Souls for Sale—the Stonesy swagger of which colors the edges of Bains’ sound. He also draws from the raw-boned rustic rumble of Drive-By Truckers and their Alabama spiritual kin, the Dexateens, for whom he later played.
“In college [the Dexateens’] Hardwire Healing and Red Dust Rising were two of my favorite albums,” Bains told the Current. When he got out of school and started playing in a band around Birmingham, he got Dexateens’ singer/guitarist Elliott McPherson to produce his band’s album. Around this time personnel changes were afoot for the Dexateens and Bains got an invitation. “I just said, ‘Hell yeah.’ You didn’t have to ask me twice.”
He learned a lot during his two years with them, from booking to songwriting, and contributed to a couple albums. Bains brought their twang-punk spirit over to his own act, cut with a bloody rawness reminiscent of Scott Biram or Bob Log. After debuting with 2012’s There Is a Bomb in Gilead for iconic LA garage label Alive Records, Bains moved up the coast and the ranks, signing with Seattle’s Sub Pop for the new Dereconstructed.
Enlisting producer Tim Kerr (Makers, Throw Rag) for a second time contributed to the record’s chaotic live sound. Bains & the Glory Fires had done demos for what became their first album with Kerr, and appreciated the vibrancy and crackle of those recordings.
Dereconstructed’s title track is a reference to Bains’ heritage, and sort of an anthem “about taking your own damn stand in spite of those who’d define and control you,” as he sings in the final verse. Bains takes his own advice on this album, trying to parse the uncomfortable realities of his heritage.
“It’s difficult for a progressive, white, Christian, Southern, relatively privileged male to constantly live down cultural responsibility for so many wrongs,” Bains said. “A lot of people I know have just sort of gotten the fuck out.”
But Bains returned after college. That idea of resilient self-determination resonates through the album and relates to his love of Lynyrd Skynyrd. “The sort of context I had for it was: These were guys who rejected the racist good old boy, honest haircut, kick-the-shit-out-of-the-weirdos mentality so prevalent in the South at one time. They were forging a new, or at least a different, Southern identity,” Bains said. “But then I get into high school and I’m around kids with short haircuts, waving rebel flags, dropping the n-bomb, calling people ‘faggot’ and talking about how they love Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
Bains continued: “But you get older and lay claim to your own experience and your own identity rather than allowing those objects to be defined for you.” The very definition of an anthem.
Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires, with Diarrhea Planet, The Rich Hands
8pm (doors) Thu, June 26
2718 N St. Mary’s