DBT’s Hood announces follow-up record plans, possible relocation to Caribbean
By Kevin Broughton
Portland, Ore. – Patterson Hood is jittery, and not just from the third vegan latte at Habas Frescas, a hip coffee shop nestled on a busy intersection here in the City of Roses. He’s flustered, too. “I mean, you pour your soul into making music that really means something, just to see it all flushed away on a Tuesday in November,” laments Hood, longtime front man of the Drive By Truckers. “And just a couple weeks later, we lose a universally beloved and adored human rights icon? Makes you wonder what it all means, or if any of this means anything at all.”
The fifty-something musician can be forgiven for waxing philosophical. DBT’s eleventh studio album, American Band, was hastily written and released just two months before the most contentious U.S. election in memory – and all, it would seem, for naught. Hood and 30-year collaborator Mike Cooley set out to make an exclusively, overtly political record, and proceeded brashly to air their election-year grievances. He is genuinely stunned at the notion his band’s ideology failed to carry the day.
“We hit all the bases, and hit them hard, man,” Hood says, spittle collecting on his lower lip as he grows progressively agitated. “Gun ownership, sovereign borders, Mexicans, blacks, gays and women. Police brutality, for [expletive]’s sake! How could people listen to this album and still vote [expletive] Trump into the White House?”
A record label official familiar with internal market-charting metrics described sales as “less than brisk, to put it kindly.”
But the Truckers have never been driven or defined by record sales, and pride themselves on expanding their fervent grassroots audience one show at a time. “And we’re gonna keep branching out, too. You have to keep plowing new ground to stay organic, musically,” Hood says. “Geographically, politically, whatever. And especially right now…” Here the singer trails off momentarily, a slight quiver in his jaw muscles. “What’s happened in the universe when America elects a tyrant capitalist and a true progressive leader dies, in a matter of weeks?
“Everybody in Cuba can read, man. Think about that,” Hood continues. “And who’s the only democratically elected leader in the Western Hemisphere who guaranteed free health care? Fidel [expletive] Castro, that’s who!” The native (yet reluctant) Alabamian gathers himself and continues. “They’ve achieved close to 100% gun control down there, with zero white cops riding around in Cuba shooting young black kids for sport.”
Which is why the singer – who relocated here from Athens, Ga. just one year ago – is moving his musical base of operations yet again. “The Wednesday after the election, I was already writing songs for a follow-up record, lots of Woody Guthrie-type, anti-capitalist stuff. Hang on,” Hood says, scanning a text message on his iPhone 7. “When Commandante passed, I knew we had to get in the studio like, now, and do it in [expletive] Havana.”
Not only did he book a week in the prestigious and state-run Muerte a America recording studios; Hood, his wife and two young children will also take up residence in the romantic Caribbean capital. “She found us a 1 ½ bedroom flat a quarter mile walk from the bread store,” he says. “Eight bucks a week! And I’ve shipped a couple pallets of bottled water, and we’re all taking Cipro, so we’re set. Hang on. Gotta take this.”
He takes a moment to clarify a quote with a music critic from The Daily Kos. “Yeah, I said ‘Latin feel.’ That’s all I can say. No more hints. Can’t get into content right now, bro.” He winks and ends the call.
Hood is at first mum about how much of his plan he’s told his band mates. When pressed, he ‘fesses up. “Look, I haven’t told Cooley yet, okay? Marlboro Reds are $80 a pack there,” Hood says. “That’s almost double what they are here in Portland. It’s the cost of living in a free country, I guess.”