Everything old is New again
The not-so-unlikely success of the Brand New Immortals
Inside a cavernous rehearsal hall, the Brand New Immortals are finishing a blazing version of "Kalifornia," a track from their just-released EP. The song seems a fitting prelude to an upcoming trip planned to the Left Coast to play the infamous Viper Room. "I'm gonna go there and just punch somebody," jokes David Ryan Harris, the soft-spoken front man for the band. Harris and company, however, won't have to pick a fight with anyone to make their big dent.
Harris, the former leader of Follow For Now, is joined by former Black Crowes' bassist Johnny Colt, drummer Kenny Cresswell, of the now-defunct blues-rockers Gracie Moon, and Mac Carter, guitarist for the recently reunited Kathleen Turner Overdrive. Individually, the members have been making a name for themselves since the '80s.
Today, this locally bred supergroup is currently making their presence felt beyond Atlanta. After being thrown into regular rotation at local modern-rock station 99X their song "Reasons Why" has been subsequently added to playlists across the country, bringing major label reps with begging pens. But the band has actually been working on their overnight success for over two years now.
"I liken all this to how Michael Jordan refers to things as 'going in slow motion,'" says Harris as he calmly takes a sip of coffee.
The Immortals' growing fame is somewhat amusing, considering the fact Colt and Harris started it as a salute to Atlanta producer Nick Didia's love of Bruce Springsteen. "He [Didia] always teased me that I look like Bruce," says bassist Colt. "So I called Dave and asked him to come be Clarence Clemmons as a joke."
Colt had left the Black Crowes in '97 and was eager to try his hand as a songwriter. In Didia's house is the 2-inch tape machine that the Black Crowes recorded their Southern Harmony And Musical Companion album on. "So I just went to work in his basement, teaching myself to engineer and sing," Colt explains.
The plan was to do only one song, "but we all got in a room — with Phil Zone, Joey Huffman and Harold Sellers — and wound up writing songs." "We had more rehearsals than shows," Harris says.
The makeshift Springsteen tribute band was dubbed the New Immortals. "I told David, obviously you need to be singing. I will get back on the bass and we will do this right. That's when it really locked."
"See, we all were slightly shell-shocked," says Colt. "David was leaving Sony after his solo record and I had just left my family, basically. The Crowes were the people I had been with since I was just a kid."
As the leaders' nerves calmed, they began to enjoy the process more. "We walked in with a really good idea of what we wanted the Immortals to be sonically and structurally and I think we hit it."
Harris and Colt went through an intensive period of writing; then the band started playing live last year.
"They know how to handle it and they don't have to rush into anything," says 99X Program Director Leslie Fram. "All that has to happen is for anyone to come see this band live. Johnny has got the look and the moves and David is such a star and has one of the best voices out there." After seeing the band at this years' Music Midtown, Fram decided to add their song "Reasons Why" to regular rotation then asked the Immortals to headline the "Locals Only" stage at this years' Big Day Out.
Harris is excited about playing to the big crowds at the event. "It will be one of the first shows we've done since 99X has been playing us," he says. "It's actually generated a Brand New Immortals crowd. We have only played maybe 20 shows total and it's difficult to build an audience without airplay. Now the album is out, it will be good to interact with people familiar with the material."
All the Immortals agree that Music Midtown was the turning point for the band. Though it was more or less their debut as a band, the big stage performance was old hat for the members.
"They looked like they'd been playing together live for 10 years," Fram recalls. "To really make it in this business you have to have the whole package and these guys have it all."
"The next few shows coming up are going to be definitive statements by us to set the record straight as to where we are coming from," promises Colt. "The unknown should be known around the time of Big Day Out."
The Brand New Immortals headline the Locals Only stage at Big Day Out, Lakewood Amphitheatre Oct. 1.