When I first saw that the Constellations’ string of tour dates this spring includes a few headlining shows, a series of opening dates with Hockey (March 11-April 8), a stop at SXSW (March 18-21), and a five night residency in London (March 1-5), but no shows in LA, I was just a wee bit devastated. While the songs on the Atlanta supergroup’s upcoming debut, Southern Gothic, might not have been constructed with the stage in mind, I have a hunch that their shady themes and steady beats will sound best in a setting where low lights, furtive glances, and moving hips are the norm. Thankfully, LA Music Blog’s interview with band frontman, Elijah Jones, has given me renewed hope that a Los Angeles show might become a reality before the June 8th release of the album. Read on to hear what Jones has to say about a possible visit to LA in April, the literary origins of the album title, and working with the man who’s bringing back reverb.

The Constellations

You guys are just recently signed to Virgin, and for the people who might have not heard of the Constellations yet, tell us a little bit about how the group got its start.

The group actually got started as a studio project. Me, Devin Donnelly, Curtis Harding, and a couple other musicians from Atlanta all went into Ben Allen’s studio. I met Ben through my last band, The Gates of Berlin. He was trying to mix the record and it didn’t work out, but he kept me in mind for this project. It was just kind of a studio project. We were just having some fun, all taking time off from working on our own personal stuff, and wanted to go in the studio and do something different. It just started from there. The more we got into it, the more we realized we wanted to do a solid, cohesive record and do it under the banner of the Constellations.

So originally you didn’t even plan on doing live shows? Why was that?

Like I said, it was a studio project, so we were adding like 50 handclaps and the organ and guitars and drums and percussion and an army of didgeridoos, [LAUGHS] so a lot of sound was going into it. We never really though about, “Hey, we might have to play this stuff live,” and that’s why we have such a big band.

You worked on this album for two years. Do you feel like it was important to take that time or was it just one of those projects that made you take that time to create it?

Ben Allen started doing a lot more production at that point in time, so he was taken away to New York and LA and so forth. That had a lot to do with why it took so long, and then we were all in other projects. It was good though ‘cause by not having a time frame where we needed to record the record, we were really able to take our time with stuff and really put together a record that we wanted to release.

Ben Allen has also worked with Gnarls Barkley, Animal Collective, Asher Roth, and tons of other artists. What was the experience like working with him?

He’s great man. I think I met him at a point in his career where he was really trying to do something different and get out of mixing and engineering and really make a name for himself in producing. He was really open to letting us go nuts in the studio, and we really pushed the envelope recording the record. [LAUGHS] We took a lot of chances as far as what to do next, and the amount of percussion that’s on that record [LAUGHS] if you break it apart, it’s probably pretty insane. Ben’s a mad man and a truly great guy to write with in the studio. He’s a great musician.

What do you feel that he brought to this album that might not have been there with another producer?

I really think that he’s bringing back reverb. If you listen to the records out right now, some of my favorites have definitely been drenched in reverb. I think that’s one of the things that he brought to the table. Everything kind of sounds like it’s underwater and just drenched in that echo and that thick reverb.

The album is titled Southern Gothic. What prompted that name?

It’s taken from a style of writing where the heroes of the story are not necessarily these clean-cut characters. They’re often flawed and not your stereotypical hero, and those are the characters that I like to write about. The hookers on the avenue, the drug addicts on the corner, and so forth.

Did you have any other names in mind previously?

We were thinking about releasing it as Love Is a Murder because that was a powerful statement in a song. I liked the imagery that brought up, but I think Southern Gothic was the way to go.

Speaking of “Love Is a Murder,” you got to work with one of your musical heroes on that song. What was it like when you found out that Cee-Lo was gonna be working on that track with you guys?

We were working right next to Cee-Lo’s studio for a long time, and he’s been a hero of mine since “Git Up, Get Out,” the song he did with Outkast on that record, Southernplayalisticadillacmusic. First time I heard it, I knew he was just gonna do great things, and with him doing Gnarls Barkley and all of that, he’s continued to grow over the years. He’s just an amazing musician and one of the great artists of my generation. When he got on the track, man, it was just a blessing, absolutely. I couldn’t have asked for better artists than those that have been involved with the record. That and with Tom Waits signing off on “Step Right Up,” it’s been amazing. My idols are Cee-Lo and Tom Waits, equally, and to have them both involved in the record somehow has just been amazing. Couldn’t ask for anything better.

How do you think Cee-Lo’s part on “Love Is a Murder” affected that song?

It absolutely changed it because originally the third verse was almost exactly like the other two verses musically. When he got on the song, we knew we had to make a dramatic change in the song and it really came out well, I think.

The Constellations start touring this week. Are there any cities that you’re particularly interested in?

I’d have to look at the dates. I honestly try not to pay too much attention to that. [LAUGHS] You kind of show up and go, but we’ve always been real big fans of Milwaukee. Milwaukee jumped on before we got signed to Virgin. They latched on to the record very early and have been like our home away from home, so I’m definitely looking forward to getting back there. Getting back to Austin for South by Southwest, that’s gonna be a blast. The UK’s gonna be a whole lot of fun. I’ve never been there, so I’m definitely looking forward to that.

Are you planning to hit up LA any time in the near future?

Yeah, I think after South by Southwest, we’re gonna continue the tour with Hockey, and I think the last date with the Hockey tour is in Portland. I think we’re gonna try and get down to LA after that. I’m not sure what the plan is specifically, but I was on the phone with my managers and was like, “You know, while we’re over there, why don’t we go down to LA?” So we’ll see. [LAUGHS]

Click here to get a free download of the Constellations’ “Set Back.”

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