PLAYING ATLANTA: Stop, Rock & Roll with The Ides of June

Atlanta’s music is as varied as the people who call the city home, blending the sounds of pop, rock, alternative, R&B, hip-hop, and singer-songwriter to create a constantly moving, evolving scene. Even so, there’s no mistaking the history of music in the region… or the city’s proximity to Southern Rock’s hometown, just two hours south in Macon, Georgia.

No Atlanta band is as inspired by that Southern Rock history than The Ides of June. The quartet – made up of Dusty Huggins, Clay McConnell, Justin Nelson, and Alex Gannon – blend heart-thumping rhythm sections with soaring guitars and a heavy blues influence to create a sound that’s equally impactful when witnessed live or through speakers.

Despite a busy schedule promoting their latest record, Stop, Rock & Roll, the guys sat down with us to tell their story and talk all things music, writing, and rock ‘n roll.

AF: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me! Let’s jump right in. How did you guys come together as a group, and where did you get your band name?

Dusty and Clay got together and decided they wanted to form a band, so they simultaneously learned to play their instruments and began writing songs. They began playing with different people until they found a core group on board with the project’s sound. The band has gone through a few lineup changes over the years, but is currently a four-piece band consisting of bass, drums, and two guitars.

The name “The Ides of June” is derived from Roman folklore – the Ides of March is a day in the Roman calendar signifying March 15th. Caesar was told by a seer that he would not survive the Ides of March. He was stabbed to death that very day by members of the Senate at an official meeting that the seer warned he should not attend.

The modern day version for the Ides of June is the tale of a curse. On June 15th of 2012, front man Dusty Huggins’ mother was taken off of life support due to a suicide attempt that left her with zero brain activity. In the following years, his group of friends would endure car crashes, motorcycle wrecks, and many other oddly occurring events on The Ides of June. When the date was approaching, Huggins would exclaim, “Beware The Ides of June!” After a year of searching for a band name, Huggins said the phrase per usual, and McConnell was stricken with the idea for a band name. That night the two agreed that their future name would be The Ides of June. 

AF: You guys released your last album, Stop, Rock & Roll, a few months ago; what was the creative process like?

Usually, one member comes up with a riff as a starting point, then we would jam on it as a group for about 25 minutes until it started to take shape. We throw ideas out for structure; sometimes lyrics are already in place, sometimes they come later. In the case of “Face in the Mirror,” Clay came up with the riff and Alex put lyrics to it later.

AF: What inspires the songwriting for you guys?

The first album was bursting with fuzzy tones and dark, angry lyrics. The songs on this album are mostly songs with lessons and learning, but many end with despair, such as the song entitled “The Ides of June.” Today, its meaning is positive and uplifting to the band members. The group talks about itself with the simple nickname “The Ides.” The music has also gained a more refined sound with uplifting overtones. This is due in part to the changes and progressions in the music and lives of the original members, and largely in part to Gannon’s addition to the band.

The Ides is no longer a curse. It is a cause for celebration of life and what a group of people can do together, whether it be pulling together to help a friend through his mother’s death or spending two years grinding through practices, on the road, and in the studio in order to make an album that we’re proud to call our own.

AF: Who would you cite as your greatest influences when creating your sound?

Each member kind of pulls from different influences. Dusty is without a doubt infatuated with The Black Keys, especially the lead singer Dan Auerbach. There is a definite blues element to the music we play, but also an obvious taste of southern rock. The Allman Brothers are also a major influence on the general style of the band. 

AF: How do you blend that iconic Southern Rock sound with more modern influences and styles to create something unique to you?

We think that is what makes our music stand out – there is an obvious blend of backgrounds. Dusty’s vocals pull a lot from more modern rock artists, while Alex’s multi-faceted background brings the blues, as well as a more technical approach to creating music. We don’t actually try to produce any particular sound. When we get together to play, our sound is just the unplanned result of multiple backgrounds coming together.

AF: What’s it like being a part of the Atlanta music scene? How has it impacted you as a band?

It is very rewarding to be a part of such an awesome group of people. We have met many great bands that, over the course of time, have turned into great friends. It has let us know that there is amazing support out there in what can be a very intimidating career. We have seen friends in the Atlanta rock scene start to make a name for themselves, and we are both proud of their achievements and honored to get to play alongside them. It is very inspiring for us as a still relatively young band in the area to see such successes.

AF: What’s next for The Ides of June?

We plan to continue promoting the new album, Stop, Rock & Roll. We are lining up quite a few shows between now and the end of summer to do so. We are very excited to see what this new year has to bring us and looking forward to meeting new people/bands and making new friends. 

We are considering what our next music video will be as well. We have already begun throwing around ideas for new songs that will ultimately go on the third album. However, that is a ways in the future.  

Follow The Ides of June on Facebook and Instagram, and stay tuned for their upcoming tour dates. 

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Adia Victoria “Stuck In The South”

Adia Victoria

Adia Victoria

“Stuck In The South,” the debut single from the little-advertised shadow figure Adia Victoria (along with her band: Mason Hickman, Tiffany Minton and Ruby Rogers), is a curious matrix, at once single-mindedly powerful and also complex, made up of conflicting impulses.

Adia Victoria’s is not a voice that sidles in politely. Rather, it slams open the door with one callused fist, stalks into the joint, elbows you off your barstool, and orders a whiskey neat. The 28-year old South Carolina native has clearly practiced making herself heard, both in the crowded Nashville bar and honky-tonk circuit where she made her bones as a performer, and also as a means of escape from the American Gothic nightmare she describes in “Stuck In The South.”

“Yeah, I been thinkin’ about makin’ tracks,” Victoria sneers in the first verse of the song, “but the only road I know, it’s going to lead me back.” She sings with an animalistic glare, conjuring not only a clear picture of her stagnant,  claustrophobic, sinister environment but also of herself as a character within it. Every twang on her guitar cuts like barbed wire, and it’s this anger, haunting and predatory, that makes the single so goddamned good. But in “Stuck In The South,” Victoria’s prowess as a storyteller is impressive too, and the track evokes the drawl and swagger of Southern rock and roll as colorfully as it does the “Southern hell” she’s trying to get away from. She seems to turn her fear of becoming a product of the South on its head, becoming unstuck not by running from her demons but by dominating them. The song immerses a listener in a three-dimensional environment, cinematically evocative and all the richer for its details and complexities.

Produced by Roger Moutenot (known for his work with Yo La Tengo), “Stuck In The South” is Victoria’s first foray into relative Internet mainstream. Her minimalist approach to releasing music–even now, after her single’s release resulted in a resounding critical chorus demanding more–makes a powerful song even punchier. Dig into “Stuck In The South” below, via Soundcloud.



Despite the open bar and the allure of attending a “private party,” I could not convince a single one of my friends to come to this damn show with me. The conversation would go something like this: I’d say hey, there’s this concert, and it’s both super secret and free, and the band is a handsome group of fellas from South Carolina, and they play rock music, and a lot of it is about God. And whoever I was talking to would say ha, right, maybe next time, or make a joke about how, since the Lord was with me, I must not need a plus one. Even my church-going roommate wasn’t hip to Jesus rock.

Given all that, I’m not surprised NEEDTOBREATHE has worked their way out of the Christian music media circuit. Though they came of age in it, the niche has always been, in a sense, a limitation. Even as far back as their mainstream debut, 2006’s Daylight, the group has straddled the barrier between secular and sacred, pushing their image not as a devotional band per se but as a group of guys who are really passionate about a lot of things–the South, flashy classic rock, toothy smiles–and that one of those things happens to be God. Then there’s the trio’s personality to contend with–brothers Bo and Bear (yes, really) Rinehart are the sons of an Assembly of God pastor who grew up in the superbly named town of Possum Kingdom, South Carolina and have been playing tunes together since Bear was a high school football star. In college, they added bassist Seth Bolt, who looked very brooding and iconically boy-bandish, on stage at The Slipper Room, with his chin-length locks, v-neck, and many necklaces.  The trio came of age together, both as musicians and as people. As they took the stage, all smiles and electric guitar flourish, I immediately got the sense that playing music is as much an expression of the love these guys have for each other as it is anything else.

It was that ruthless warm-and-fuzziness, not any lyrical preaching, that set off my allergies. The space was small and weirdly dainty, and the decor–floral wallpaper and heavy red velvet curtains–was fully committed to the cabaret aesthetic that is associated with The Slipper Room’s name. I’d never been there for one of the burlesque performances the venue is better known for, but I was sure that any members of the audience who had ever attended a more typical Slipper Room performance were now getting a kick out of seeing a trio of Kings of Leon-ish southern dudes, with arena-friendly power chords and an earnestness so potent you’d go blind if you looked at it directly, take the stage.

The set gained momentum, and the warm-and-fuzzies ensued on two fronts. The whole event was a release party for NEEDTOBREATHE’s latest album Rivers In The Wasteland, which came out on April 15th, and most of the show’s invitees seemed to be industry folks who worked in PR or for the band’s record label, Atlantic. Nearly everyone in the room had had a hand in putting out Rivers In The Wasteland, and the camaraderie was heartwarming. As an outsider, the vibe felt a little like walking into a bunk of teenagers at the end of six weeks of summer camp: everyone was emotional, and seemed to have inside jokes with everyone else–the only thing missing were team t-shirts.

Then, maybe five or six songs into the set, Bear paused and turned to look at Bo. The next song they were going to play, he told the crowd, sounding a little choked up, was called “Brother.” In the early stages of the recording process, he explained, the group had experienced some setbacks, even taking a break to return home and think about whether or not they wanted NEEDTOBREATHE to continue. Joe Stillwell, who’d been playing with the band for over a decade, decided to leave. But the way Bear described it, his biggest goal for Rivers In The Wasteland was to rearrange the group’s priorities, and bring its three members back to their love of God and of each other. Thus, “Brother” – a love song Bo wrote for Bear.

Look, I’m a skeptic, too. I know all that sounds a little cheesy. And often, it was: like in the first verse of NEEDTOBREATHE’s incredibly anthemic single “The Heart, when Bear sang the lyrics “Ain’t no gift like the present tense, ain’t no love like an old romance / Got’sta make hay when the sun is shinin’, can’t waste time when it comes time to dance.” However, the trio’s strength–which keeps their music from being instrumentally bland and lyrically over-sweetened–is their totally endearing energy. By the time they closed out the evening with “Oh Carolina” I was sold– if not on NEEDTOBREATHE’s individuality, then certainly on their earnestness.


NEEDTOBREATHE’s forthcoming project Rivers In The Wasteland is Southern rock at its most handclappingly jubilant, and brand new track “Where The Money Is” stands out as one of the album’s catchiest. “Ain’t no gift like the present tense,” the song opens, with bubbling cheerfulness and an energy that grabs you from the get-go. With its epic hooks and smooth, buttery vocal harmony, this track will take you home to sunny Carolina in a pickup truck. But NEEDTOBREATHE have never settled for the easy-going party folk endemic to their genre–the pop is always balanced with complicated rhythms and swinging guitar lines that evoke love of a home and strong, introspective storytelling.

The group began as a brother duo between Bear and Bo Rinehart, who started playing together in their gloriously named hometown of Possum Kingdom, South Carolina before teaming up with bassist Seth Bolt in college at Furman University in 2002. NEEDTOBREATHE gained traction first in the Christian Southern rock circuit, and their 2006 label debut Daylight was seen mostly as a devotional album. In the four releases that followed, though, NEEDTOBREATHE began a shift beyond the Christian rock niche into the larger tradition of back porch power folk. To be sure, their blend is hybridized with indie pop, laced with choruses of oohs and whoas. But NEEDTOBREATHE have never dropped their music’s devotional slant, as Rivers In The Wasteland confirms in track after track. The shift isn’t a slackening of religious themes in the lyrics, but rather an incorporation of those themes into the larger experience of love for the south, for storytelling, and for feel-good music.

NEEDTOBREATHE is not a band composed of preachers brandishing guitars; in fact, the anthemic singing slyly disguises a lot of less in-your-face introspection. “Where The Money Is” is one of the album’s loudest, hardest rocking tracks, but still contains a glimmer of how ponderous the album can be. Rather than relegate them to niche status, the band’s complexity deepens their music, making Rivers In The Wasteland an album that will surprise you, bringing a new flavor to every track.

 Rivers In The Wasteland dropped  on April 15th. To order the album, and to take a listen to what else these smooth-harmonizing gentlemen have in store, go here, and check out  “Where The Money Is” right here!

INTERVIEW: The Wild Feathers on musical process and their US tour


The Wild Feathers kicked off their 2014 tour in Texas. But they’ll soon be making their way up the East Coast to Washington D.C., New York, Boston and even Montreal. This “four-headed monster” of a southern rock band takes inspiration from all across the musical spectrum. They released their debut album The Wild Feathers in 2013. With four musicians who all at one time fronted their own bands, we were curious about The Wild Feathers’ musical process. We caught up with Joel King to discuss collaborating, tradition and the most interesting cities to perform in.

AF: I’ve heard your band described as very “American” – what does that mean to you? Is that something you strive for? Or is it an expectation you have to live up to?

JK: Well, it just really means the music, the style – blues, country, folk, these all started in America. I guess it’s just the style of music that we come from. It’s the way we were raised. It’s taking emotion from every style in America and putting it all together. We take from country songs with great stories and lyrics and from blues songs with great rhythm and feeling. I think that’s what American music is: the story of cultures coming together.

We’re just a product of where we come from. We didn’t really choose it or set out to write this kind of music. This is what came naturally to us and what feels good.

We have different voices, we each do our own thing in the band, and this is really the only way of bringing them together. I love a good blues song, but I also love a good, sad country song. So, we try to do a little bit of everything. Maybe that’s why it’s such “American” rock and roll.

AF: What’s the process behind the songwriting? Is it always combination effort or do you each get your “own” song on occasion?

JK: It comes together in a whole bunch of different ways. We really try to make the best sound possible. One of the best songs we have we all wrote together and that’s one of the real “Wild Feathers” songs. But there have been a few times where someone will bring a song and it’s totally done. That’s perfect. There’s nothing more to work on. Some of the best songs are also ones we come together with mutual feelings about. It’s always changing, though, always a little bit different.

We always try to go with what feels and sounds the best. We’re not like the Beach Boys, where we can do all these crazy harmonies, we’re more like the Beatles, you know, sometimes they’d just sing the same part, but it sounded really great.

The truth is we don’t sing harmonies very well at all. But we like singing together. If we actually land on a harmony then we’re real proud of it.

AF: Do you think that storytelling plays a part in your music? I know classic rock is an influence, but what about folk music?

JK: Lyrically, I would say it changes on a song by song basis. I still don’t know what “Free Falling” is about, but I fucking love that song. I mean there are songs like that, which are just images or overall premises where the words just fit with the music. Then, some are just straight up stories of heartbreak or something like that. But I really try to make the lyrics fit the song. If it’s really slow the words should make more obvious sense, but if it’s faster you can kind of say whatever you want. But most of the time we try to write to the music.

AF: Speaking of the classic rock influence, I’m really interested in this idea of “preservation” when it comes to the classic tradition. You guys mention it on facebook with the addendum of “evolution”. I definitely hear some contemporary quality to your music and I think that’s what makes it stand out. But the process of blending – preserving, while evolving – sounds really complicated..

JK: We don’t really know. We try to break it down for other people in interviews and things like this. But we love classic rock, we love jamming, and just doing what bands do. We have goals within the group to push ourselves, but as far as doing anything else I don’t know – we have to push ourselves to become better and anything, but we move wherever the music takes us. Who knows what the next record will sound like.

Right now, we sound the way we do because that’s who we are. We didn’t set out to bring anything back or set anything forward. But people say that all of the time. It’s just natural. We all play in certain ways and when it comes together it sounds different and new. We’ve all done our own solo projects and we knows what we can do on our own, not what we can do together.

AF: So maybe not that complicated. .  Four of you were lead singers before coming together as The Wild Feathers – I’m not asking about egos, I know that you guys get along really well – but do you think having the four of you ensures that you’re pulled in different directions? 

JK: Yeah. That’s why we did it. When we first played a few songs together we were like: “Oh my god, this is going to work out.” It was really new and none of us had ever done anything like it before. Sometimes you have to force it out when you’re working solo – I have to write a song, I have to do this or that. With the band it’s almost a sweet surprise. When you’re working on a tune and someone chimes in with something great, you’re always thoroughly excited and impressed.

After we first started jamming we realized this band might be fucking great! So, we just moved on it, trying to find a good label and management.

AF: I read that you got to hang out with Paul Simon a lot – that must have been really incredible!

JK: Yeah, that was our first really big tour. It was intimidating. But it was a blast. He sounds unbelievable. A lot of older guys sound different. We got to open for Bob Dylan which is a lifelong dream, but the difference between Dylan and Simon is Paul Simon always sounds spot on. Dylan is always morphing and evolving, I don’t know if he’s the same person he used to be, or even the same person he was two years ago. Paul Simon is pro all the way. His voice is amazing.

AF: What are some of your favorite contemporary artists?

JK: My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Ryan Adams, Jack White, the Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Band of Horses. I’m a big fan of just guitar, bass, and drum rock and roll. There’s also Foo Fighters. I still haven’t met Dave Grohl. That’s on the list.

AF: What are some of your favorite cities to play in? Do crowds receive you, specifically your music, differently in different parts of the US?

JK: In different parts of the country there are diverse crowds for us. As far as having fun: we’ve only played twice in the DC Area at the 930 Club, but that’s probably one of my favorite places. It’s great. DC is really a brand new one. I love that.

New York City’s always good, too. The shows are amazing. But just getting in and out of the city with all of our gear is a pain in the ass.

We’ve played Boston a few times. The whole East Coast is cool for us because we don’t get up there too often. Actually, both of the coasts are really fun. We’ve toured throughout the South and the Midwest, even with our old bands. So, when we get out West we love the scenery and the whole vibe out there. The East Coast is all new to us. We don’t know too many people on those coasts so we can really get involved, let loose, and have a good time.


The Wild Feathers are playing a sold out show, tonight at Mercury Lounge in NYC. Until then, Check out their video for “The Ceiling”, off their debut album: