The Weeks have been doing this longer than you think. Even now, after six years and hundreds of shows, the band is still likely to be youngest ones to take the stage whenever they perform. A lot of musicians get their start early, but few begin hitting bars at the age of 12 as the members of the Weeks did while growing up in their hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. By the time they were 16, the group was already playing out every weekend, cutting their teeth in local clubs such as the Joint and WC Dons. Amazingly, the band estimates that between 2006 and 2008 they played close to 200 shows in Jackson alone. But while the members were earning valuable experience and developing an intimate cohesiveness as a band, they weren’t always taken seriously by those watching them.
“Because we were so young, we were a very polarizing band,” explains guitarist Sam Williams, who also goes by the stage name, Uel Dee. “You either loved us or hated us. We were young and reckless back then, so it wasn’t a real concern. Our agenda has always been write the songs we think need to exist. We definitely have a chip on our shoulder from that. Even after six years we’re still the youngest band everywhere we go, so we’ve embraced the idea that we’re the younger brother that wants to be better than everyone else. Your ambition has to have a genesis, and that’s ours.”
But while ambition may fuel their desire to prove their doubters wrong, the Weeks temper that passion by exhibiting a remarkable amount of musical prudence in their songwriting. Sure, the band attacks their songs with all the intensity and enthusiasm you might expect from a young band, but they also display a solid knack for framing their music in classic pop structures. With their abiding love for big hooks and their feet firmly planted in Southern rock soil, the group has rightfully been compared to bands like Kings of Leon and My Morning Jacket. It’s all there: the stadium-sized guitars; the boozy, beer-soaked energy; the monster melodies.
But being young also often allows for a greater level of experimentation than those ostensibly more mature and established acts are willing to engage in. What sets the Weeks apart from their arena-minded contemporaries is their eager embrace of punk and progressive rock. It’s not always immediate, but listen to any one of their records and you’ll soon start stumbling across passages that will have you thinking of groups like At the Drive-In or their more adventurous progeny, the Mars Volta. Put together, it makes for a dynamic, punk-infused Southern rock sound that the band likes to label “sludge-pop.”
“Hooks are what bring people in,” explains Williams, “but the sludge keeps them there. At the Drive-In has always been a huge influence for us. The way they combine catchy hooks with that aggression is unreal. Superchunk and Dinosaur Jr. also do a great job of that. We’ve always relied on a glossy veneer of pop melodies with an underworking of layers of loud guitars. We want to sound like your favorite pop record being played at the bottom of a swamp. We all had pretty big punk phases growing up, and that tends to shine through sometimes.”
That swampy pop aesthetic is certainly apparent on the band’s latest record, Gutter Gaunt Gangster, due out next month via their longtime label, Esperanza Plantation. According to Williams, the six-song effort consists of a handful of songs they collected over the last year and half of being a four-piece (new guitarist Ben McLeod only joined the band just recently), and that they wanted to get out before concerning themselves with their next record. But while Gutter Gaunt Gangster may only be a stopgap between albums, it deftly captures much of what the band does best; namely, churning and twisting the classic Southern rock of their Lynard Skynard and Allman Brothers forebears into something much more manic, fierce and hard-hitting. Or as Williams aptly describes it: “It’s sludge-pop that resides in left field.”
In support of this upcoming release, the Weeks are currently on tour with SST legends, the Meat Puppets. With only ten dates scheduled, it’s a fairly short stint, but the band is reveling in the opportunity to watch and learn from one of independent rock’s most influential artists. After all, with more than a quarter century invested in the game, the Meat Puppets may just have a thing or two to teach the young up-and-comers about performing and life on the road. For his part, Williams is soaking in as much as he possibly can.
“Those dudes are legends to us. Any time you tour with a band that’s been around for 25 years, you’re going to learn so much about how to tour efficiently. As a guitar player, it’s awesome to watch Curt [Kirkwood] play every night. One of the most underrated guitar players ever in rock and roll, in my opinion. The dude slays.”
After completing the tour, the band will likely take the remainder of the year off and head back to their Mississippi stomping grounds to write their next record. The group also plans to shoot videos for lead Gutter single, “Stigmata,” as well as for a new version of “The House We Grew Up In,” which first appeared on their 2008 full-length, Comeback Cadillac. From the looks of things, 2012 is already shaping up to what could be the Weeks’ busiest and most productive year ever. Which suits Williams just fine.
“We’re shooting the “Stigmata” video ourselves in one of the most beautiful, crazy homes we’re ever been in, complete with a four-story teepee party. We’re preparing ourselves for a big 2012. With the end of world coming we’ve got a lot of shit we need to accomplish in a very big way.”