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Shaking All Over
As they prep for an Electric Picnic headline slot Alabama Shakes talk life, death and being the year's biggest buzz band.
Ed Power, 28 Aug 2012
“We hadn’t realised it was as big a deal as it was,” recalls Cockrell. “We’re from the South. CMJ isn’t the sort of thing you know about or go to. It was new to me. After we played, it felt weird to start attracting so much attention, especially intentionally.”
They started out performing in small college towns around Alabama. Being in a band in this part of the US isn’t easy. There aren’t many venues, much less ones people under the age of 21 can gain entry to. You end up with two choices: hit the same rooms over and over or go further and further afield in your quest for a fanbase. Without having sat down and planned it, Alabama Shakes found themselves taking the second option.
“We got a pretty big following early on,” says Cockrell. “We’ve played all over. We did a tour with Drive By Truckers. And we have a following in Huntsville. That’s a pretty big place. They have an military arsenal there, so there’s some employment.”
The South, they will allow, is god fearing and conservative. But it isn’t as redneck or racially divided as outsiders assume. In Alabama nobody blinks twice at Alabama Shakes, a multi-racial rock band fronted by a black woman. They’re asked about this a lot, even in other parts of the United States. Some people can’t get Mississippi Burning and all that boilerplate out of their heads. Believe it or not, says Howard, some folks in Alabama might even consider voting Obama in the Presidential election.
“People have a lot of stereotypes in their head,” he reflects. “I think they haven’t checked in with the South in a long time. Things aren’t like they imagine. Not by a long way.”