PLAYING ATLANTA: Death Mama Resurrect Rock with High Strangeness

If there’s anything Atlanta has in spades, it’s killer rock bands. But not just your good ol’ Southern Rock bands: pop-rock, metal, psychedelic… you name it, you can find it, played with soul on a dark stage in a sweaty, crowded room.

Blues rock quartet Death Mama is one of the newest – and loudest – players in the rock scene. Committed to a shroud of mystery that envelops the slinky, smoldering sound, the foursome have already made a name for themselves in the Atlanta area.

Following the release of two singles, the group dropped their debut album, High Strangeness, on Friday. I sat down with the band to talk all things Death Mama, including the origins of the eyebrow-raising name.

AF: Let’s start with the most obvious: Death Mama isn’t the kind of name you hear very often. How did you guys come up with it?

DM: We came up with it after going through many ideas. Then we found a Bob Dylan poem in a photography book that had “Death Mama” written in it. It sounded cool to us, and we thought there were some cool things we could do with it. 

AF: You’ve all been in bands before, and Death Mama is actually the second incarnation of a previous band you played in together. What made you decide to keep going when a lot of musicians would’ve hung it up?

DM: We have to keep making music. It’s something that we have to do for us, even when it seems that all odds are against us. We love the kind of music we make and we hope others will attach themselves to it, but we do it as a creative outlet for us. We’ll always make music, and will most likely always make music in some form or another with each other. 

AF: Why do you think think the musical connection is so strong between the four of you?

DM: We’ve been friends for a long time and we think it shows in our music. We have a deep understanding of where each one of us wants to go creatively and we feed off of each others energy.

AF: What’s your writing process like? Is it generally collaborative, or will one of you come in with a song and you’ll jam it together until it feels right?

DM: It is normally very collaborative. We use our studio and we’re constantly showing ideas to each other. We like to build off of each idea and try to finish the idea into a song together, even if it doesn’t make a release. We have a lot of ideas that get re-purposed or altered into ideas later. Generally no one comes in with a complete song and says, “This is how we’re going to do it.” That’s just not what we do. 

AF: You released your debut record, High Strangeness, last Friday, following the release of two singles, “Can You Dig It?” and “Whenever I’m With You.” What’s the been like? Has it felt like a long time coming?

DM: We always love to release new music. The support we’ve gotten since the singles and the album release has been amazing. It was really cool to debut a new sound and see how people react to it. We love the idea of catching people off guard. 

AF: What inspired the record? What was the recording process like for you guys?

DM: We wanted it to be a big, raw sound. We have our own full on analog recording studio and that gives us the ability to mess around with sounds and song ideas any time we want. We love to finish a song in a day. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, but maybe we get the basic tracking done and the overdubs done and do vocals another day. Then it typically takes about a day to mix a song. 

AF: You’ve been huge players in the Atlanta music scene for years, but you’ve reinvented yourselves with Death Mama. How do you think your fans and the scene will react?

DM: Our hope is that we bring something new to the table that people can sink their teeth into. A lot of music nowadays is so full of cookie cutter, snapped-to-the-grid stuff with the same sounds everyone does. We wanted to be completely different than that by spending a ton of time on the writing and the creation of certain sounds and FX that we used. No sound on each track is the same; they are all different. They may sound similar, but everything, even down to the vocal chains, are different on every track. We wanted it to all feel cohesive, but at the same time each track needed to be able to stand on its own. 

AF: What’s next for Death Mama?

DM: We plan to do some touring and continuing to release new music. We’re already writing and recording in the studio right now. Maybe we’ll release even more music by the end of the year. 

Follow Death Mama on Facebook and Instagram, and stream High Strangeness on Spotify now.

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