Inside Kenneth Pattengale and Joe Pug’s New Album Collaboration

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Inside Kenneth Pattengale and Joe Pug’s New Album Collaboration

By Kenneth Pattengale

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In many ways Joe Pug feels like my older brother.  Truth be told, technically I am his senior.  That said, by 2011—when my band The Milk Carton Kids came into being—Joe had solidified a vaunted place amongst our peers, and beyond, with his enviable debut album Nation of Heat.

 

In the wake of the music industry’s decimation by that lethal one-two punch of Napster & broadband, then iTunes & mobile data—Hymn #101 and I Do My Father’s Drugs were ubiquitous on the CD-r mixtapes exchanging hands in the small corner of our would-be LA songwriters scene.  Beyond the singular lyrics and the attitude of his recorded work, Joe impressed with his scrappiness.  He turned a buck the inspired way…gave away free CDs in exchange for email addresses…Priceline’d hotels and spent what he saved on Facebook ads. As an upstart at the outset of the twenty-teens—the dawn of a new era in the music hustle—Joe saw the system for what it was and he was gaming it. Joe was showing many of us the way.

 

We became friends over the years. The way that musicians do.  Unexpectedly sharing a beer at a music festival while criss-crossing the country.  Aimlessly talking about Tom Petty and streaming over serendipitous last-minute dinner-dates in unknown cities.  I’m not entirely sure when Joe became aware of what I do as a musician or a producer.  It may not be important.  I know he rang me around Christmas of 2016 to ask if I would like to produce an album for him—a request that I eagerly accepted.

 

And so we embraced a thoroughly modern relationship between artist and producer—an endless stream of voice-memos filling our iMessage thread alongside the ambitions for how we planned to record, the collaborators we dreamt of snaring.  (Live band and live vocals, no flashy production—as lean as can be.)

 

The writing process, as it so often does, proved elusive and fleeting.  Incremental gains felt overshadowed by significant losses; a process every writer knows and dreads. Yet Joe’s resolve as a technician never ceased to impress. It became increasingly clear that still burning was what existed during the conjuring of Nation of Heat those many years ago. The same embers aglow, steady and true, waiting for the right spark to bring forth a most magnificent flame.

 

So we took those embers, and built a new fire.  We gathered friends in a studio in Nashville, Tennessee and—over the course of a week—recorded songs live in front of microphones. The old-fashioned way.  (We’d later find this was the final record to be made in the iconic House of Blues studio under Gary Belz’ magical watch, as it would soon sell to Capitol Records—ushering in yet another of seemingly endless eras.)

 

As I listen back, I am awed by the songs that Joe wrote—and we recorded—here.  To me it sounds like his most intimate writing in years.  And while it does feel like new ground, uncharted territory for Joe’s singular point of view; there remains what lit me up when I first heard Joe’s voice cry out
will you recognize my face when God’s awful grace 
strips me of my jacket and my vest 
and reveals all the treasure in my chest?
Now ten years later Joe sings
listen close now, I was dead wrong.  
To think that things could work themselves out in the long run…  
The flood is coming, the flood in color.

Though the flood is coming, the fire still burns bright. I’m most happy to recognize that face.

The Flood in Color is out July 19th via Nation of Heat Records. Order a copy at the Official Joe Pug Merch Store.

House Concert Tour

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As a part of the push to support the new album, we are also going to do a limited tour of solo house-shows. Lots of you have emailed over the years asking about this idea, and we figured this would be a perfect opportunity to connect with all of you, while also helping fund the label and album.

The cost and logistics involved, along with the fact that we are using this tour to support both the new album and the new record label mean that it’s certainly not a low-dollar experience. We’ve spent the last nine-years doing everything in our power to keep ticket prices down, so we totally understand that this won’t be for everybody. But enough of you have written to us that we know that for some of you this is something that you’d love to be a part of.  So we’re going to give it a shot. And everyone else rest assured that with a new album comes new tours so we’ll be right back out to a club near you very soon.

If you’re interested in hosting a show, here’s how it’s going to work:

  • Visit this link and answer a few questions about where you’re at, ideal time frames, etc.
  • Once we have an idea of interest level in each region we’ll email with info on money, details and scheduling.
  • We’ll schedule a mutually agreeable date.
  • You can expect a 60-75 minute performance.
  • You can invite up to 25 people. [update: invite as many as comfortably fit in your space]
  • Fee includes travel, so there won’t be any extra fees.
  • 50% is due to confirm a show, with the balance due 30 days prior.
  • Routing and logistics mean that not every show will be able to be on a weekend. We’ll do our best to accommodate requests, but ultimately it will come down to scheduling.
  • Note that non-US shows will be a higher fee to account for additional travel, logistics, and time.

I’m really excited for these shows. The last time we did anything like this was 9 years ago when we ran around Chicago doing 5 shows in 5 hours to mark the release of Messenger. It will make for some really fun and unique nights of music, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Thanks for supporting this record, and for listening.

 

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Tour Update–Supporting Brandon Flowers, Ben Howard, and Sturgill Simpson

 

Things are happening quickly as summer approaches, so we wanted to pass along an update on summer tour plans.  We’re excited to announce that Joe has been invited to support Brandon Flowers on some of his European dates next month! Then later in the summer he will be back in the UK for dates supporting Ben Howard and Sturgill Simpson.  Unfortunately all the changes necessitated postponing a few of our headline shows, including those in Germany, and a few of the UK dates.  The current schedule is below, along with a list of the dates that are being rescheduled.  We’ll have more detailed info on the makeup dates over the next few days, and other detailed info for anyone who has booked tickets to a show that has been postponed.

 

May 31 Berlin, Germany–Huxley’s #
June 1   Amsterdam, Netherlands–Paradiso #
June 2  Brussels, Belgium–Ancienne Belguique #
June 3  Cologne, Germany–E-Work #
June 5  Milan, Italy–Fabrique #
June 6 London, UK–Hoxton Bar
June 9  Borger, NL–Cultuurpodium Vanslag
June 10  Amsterdam, NL–Paradiso Upstairs
June 12  Richmond, VA–Friday Cheers at Brown’s Island
June 18  Dover, DE–Firefly Music Festival
July 12  Greenfield, MA–Green River Festival
July 17  Cornwall UK–Eden Sessions *
July 19  London, UK–Citadel Festival
July 24  Newport, RI–Newport Folk Festival
July 31  DesMoines, IA–Hinterland Music Festival
Aug 18  Edinburgh, UK–Liquid Room @
Aug 19  Leeds, UK–Brudenell Social Club @

# Supporting Brandon Flowers
*  Supporting Ben Howard
@ Supporting Sturgill Simpson

 

And here are the dates we are rescheduling:

May 31 Berlin, Germany–Monarch Club  (POSTPONED)
June 1  Hamburg, Germany–Prinzenbar  (POSTPONED)
June 2  Koln, Germany–Blue Shell  (POSTPONED)
June 3  London, UK–St. Pancras Old Church  (Rescheduled to 12 Nov, all tickets honored)
June 4  Manchester, UK–Gulliver’s  (POSTPONED)
June 5  Glasgow, UK–Broadcast  (POSTPONED)

Information about rescheduled dates, refunds, etc will follow shortly.

 

The Slacker’s Guide to “Windfall”

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While we’re sure that everyone is just GLUED to their screens following our social media posts, we’ve been sharing songs from “Windfall” at a furious pace, so we’re going to assemble them here in one place for your listening convenience.  The album is out March 10th and if you want to get a couple of the songs early, you can preorder it via iTunes at http://smarturl.it/Windfall and get two songs for immediate download.  For those of you in Australia and New Zealand the album will be released on April 3rd!

“If Still It Can’t Be Found” via Rolling Stone

“Bright Beginnings” via Consequence of Sound

“Stay and Dance” via Lightning Rod Records

“Burn and Shine” via The Bluegrass Situation

“The Measure” via Folk Alley

 

Joe Pug News–Winter Edition

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Hi everyone-

It’s been a quiet autumn off the road for me and the gang, just setting the table to release our new album this winter. (Look for more news on that front in the next week or two) We’ll kick things off again in January when we support the entire US tour for the excellent Devil Makes Three. We’re thrilled for that run of shows and we have our fingers crossed that we don’t run into the same snow-pocalypse that we did this past winter on the road. Then later in the spring we’ll be back out for a full run of headline shows.

Also, the good folks over at OurVinyl captured a cool live version of the “Downbound Train” cover I contributed to “Dead Man’s Town: Tribute to Born in the USA”. You can check that out here.

I’ve missed playing shows and seeing all of you, thanks as always for your unwavering support. See you very soon.

-Joe

Pug Recommends

Nirvana live in 1989: The electric guitar sounds like garbage, there’s an audience of about 20 people, the camera work is shoddy- and yet this is still one of the greatest concert films I’ve ever seen. Kurt Cobain’s voice is what pulled me into music in the first place and all of it’s reedy pathos is on display here. In this video we see the band- that’s Chad Channing on drums- playing behind it’s first album, Bleach. It’s an hour long set though, so a good chunk of the set is material from Nevermind (including a compelling, electric version of “Polly”). If you’re a Nirvana devotee like myself and you have yet to see this video, do not click on this link if you plan on accomplishing anything in the next hour.

“You’ve Got The Wrong Man” by Joe Fletcher: The new album by this Providence by way of Nashville singer-songwriter is instrumentally sparse compared to earlier records with his band The Wrong Reasons, but it is teeming lyrically. Joe has got a wry way of looking at the world that, by the end of this record, you can’t help but adopt as your own.

“The Islamic State” by VICE News: This documentary on ISIS or ISIL is absolutely engrossing. VICE News sends a few monumentally brave journalists into the heart of this extremist movement in Northern Syria. To watch the mechanics of religious law replacing secular law is chilling. For example, lieutenants driving around neighborhoods “suggesting” to a passerby that his wife should further cover herself. I don’t recommend this to further frighten you or to justify the military action we’re now engaged in, but I do think it’s an important portrait for American citizens to see.

The Big Ask

Vinyl Package

Happy to report that the new pressing of Nation of Heat on vinyl has arrived. To celebrate we’ve chopped 5 bucks off the vinyl package and the CD package as well. All of our vinyl also includes a copy of the CD, and both of these packages include instant downloads as well! Discounted prices good through 12/2/14.

Haunts

Pike Street Fish Fry, Seattle WA: The guitar player in our band, Greg Tuohey, is a native of New Zealand- that stunning island paradise of oceanic vistas, legally recognized gay marriage, and the world’s best fish and chips. No matter where we are on tour- be it Manchester UK or Birmingham Alabama- if Greg sees a “chipper” he dutifully samples it’s fried gold to see how it stacks up to home. It never has… save once. When we first walked into this little hole in the wall in Seattle a few years ago, I expected Greg to end the meal with his usual stoic disappointment. Pike Street Fish Fry, though, met his rigorous standards and it has now become a regular pilgrimage for us when we’re in Seattle.

Winter Tour

For a full list of dates visit the tour page.