ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 26, 1998
Days of the New is different from most international recording acts in a couple of ways. First off, the average age of the Louisville, Kentucky–based quartet is 19. Then there’s the fact that it’s a full-on guitar band that doesn’t have much use for Les Pauls and Marshall stacks. According to guitarist Todd Whitener—phoning from Pomona, California, with his calling card nearly maxed—the band started off playing heavy, “Metallica-type” music before succumbing to the urge to unplug.
“I think all of us needed a change,” says Whitener, “ ’cause we were sick of just hearin’ the electric thing. We knew that not a lot of people were doing the acoustic thing, so we just kinda pursued it a little more aggressively than people have done in the past.”
Nowadays Whitener—whose band plays Richard’s on Richards on Tuesday (March 3), with guests By Divine Right—figures that he handles acoustic guitar 90 percent of the time he’s playing. The instrument certainly dominates the band’s self-titled debut CD, which blends the dark-tinged vocal stylings of Alice in Chains with a rootsy, strummin’-on-the-back-porch feel. The band started honing its evocative sound after Whitener ran into 17-year-old singer-songwriter Travis Meeks at a Louisville music shop shortly after Meeks had moved to Kentucky from Indiana with bassist Jesse Vest and drummer Matt Taul.
“Next thing I knew, I was in his basement jammin’,” says Whitener, “and we’ve been a band ever since.”
Days of the New—which has already reached gold status in Canada (50,000 copies sold)—was produced by hotshot knob-twiddler Scott Litt, whose credits include Nirvana, R.E.M., Patti Smith, and the Replacements. Litt discovered the band via a demo tape and shortly thereafter signed it to Outpost Recordings, the label he cofounded in early 1996.
“Our management sent the tapes out to anybody that they thought might want to hear the songs,” explains Whitener, “and it just so happened that a friend of a friend of a friend ended up giving Scott Litt the tape. He ended up taking the initiative to come out to Louisville and watch us play, so it was really cool. He is a great, good-hearted guy, so we are so fortunate to have him, of all people, on our side.”
Litt produced the CD in Nashville, and according to Whitener was the ideal guy for the job as far as making things comfortable in the studio. “It’s not like we felt like we had this big-time, million-dollar producer looking over us. He would just, like, light candles and incense, turn down the lights, and make sure that we had a good vibe goin’ on, and then he just used his master technique as far as runnin’ the soundboard, you know, and got all the right tones. Everything that needed to be done, he did.”