Alibi V.28 No.46 • Nov 14-20, 2019 

Music Interview

In The Neighborhood

August James and the Lovesick Symphony

August James and Peach Tauzer
August James and Peach Tauzer
photo by Corey Yazzie

It’s a small world, after all.

And everything is connected. Those were the thoughts of Alibi music critic August March when he found out that at least one member of an up-and-coming country-inflected American band was living right down the street from him. That would make it at least three rock musicians and five seminal members of Burque’s music scene, all within walking distance, March further cogitated while walking his pet Schnauzer Heidi up and down Lead Avenue.

The local musician March was thinking about in this case was none other than a fellow with the same first name as his, August James. He has a band called The Lovesick Symphony. Later on in the story, near the end, James would text March and tell him the reason for the name.

James told March that when he was in the UNM Symphony Orchestra as a viola player, he didn’t practice enough and so the gig didn’t last. But the experience inspired him to create an orchestra of his own, hence August James and The Lovesick Symphony.

March thought that was a pretty dang punk rock and decent way to build cred in a town with where dozens of locals have encountered similar cultural quandaries and tough experiential learning sessions.

Beyond that—which was probably starting to sound far away in March’s opinion because that’s the way college inevitably was: Fleeting—the music made by James and his cohorts sounds pretty dang good. It’s twangy and lonesome, but informed by a bigger sound, resonant completist harmonies, the twitch of pedal steel guitar backed up by a solid but transparent rhythm section. It’s all there.

And of course it would be great to tell you all about it. To make it simple, Weekly Alibi invited August James and drummer Peach Tauzer to our headquarters for a chat. It was a grand, wide ranging cross-generational kinda rocanrol language thing. Here are some of the highlights.

Weekly Alibi: Where do we start? How do you all want to begin?

August James: We are called August James and The Lovesick Symphony. Peach plays drums.

It’s a new band, right?

Yeah, we started about a year ago, a year and half ago. I actually started the band with my older sister playing the bass. My sister and I are from New England, from Rhode Island. I’ll get back to that in a moment, there’s a nice connection there.

Okay.

So I started the band with my sister and our friend Isaac. Then, my sister went to nursing school, Isaac moved to Maine and I got to play with some new people. Peach came along later. There have been a lot of people in the band, like 12 people in the last year and a half. That’s just Albuquerque.

How did you end up out here?

I came out here for college when I was 18. I grew up in Providence, R.I. I actually met Peach at that time, we were both playing in bands, part of the house scene. We didn’t really talk much then.

Peach Tauzer: Kinda weirdly enough, I thought August was older than I was and he thought I was older than him. But we’re pretty much the same age.

Tell me more about meeting up and working on a band together.

August James: It was Isaac actually, when he was moving away. He said to talk to Peach. And I thought, “Of course, Peach has been playing drums for years!”

I hear it’s hard to find a good drummer in Burque.

Peach: I always hear that, too!

What’s the music about?

August James: We call it country plus. Meaning that it’s definitely country, but there is more going on.

What do you mean? Is it twangy, rootsy and forlorn?

It’s definitely twangy with our instrumentation, my guitar tone. I don’t sing with an accent, so that’s not part of it, but I’ve always loved country music.

Peach: The way I approach it, country doesn’t have to be “country,” but it’s life music. It’s just a minimalist approach to truthful music.

August James: It’s a minimalist approach to songwriting.

So to me country has universal themes running through its narratives, but also impeccable playing by chopped-out players. Discuss.

Peach: But they make a conscious choice to play simply, they make a conscious choice to hew to certain traditions. But with our band there’s also a little bit of soul, some funk to what we’re doing.

August James: My intention, over the years, has been to make country the basis for the songs I’m writing. I want the themes, the lyrics, the melodies to be country. But I also love soul and punk rock and doo-wop. So between the three, [and country] I want to create some kind of a balance.

It’s a sort of hybridization, right? Last week I was talking about that with a fancy musicology guy over at UNM. People come out to the Southwest from the East Coast—this is something that’s been happening with artists for more than 100 years—and generation after generation come out here and are profoundly influenced by the wide variety of musical forms and traditions readily available for absorption in New Mexico.

Yeah, that’s awesome.

It’s also awesome that you’re starting to get some gigs here in the Burkes.

Well, we’re headlining a show at the Launchpad on Nov. 17 and hoping to make that a pretty big show. We’re playing with our good friends Eugene, John King Cave and The Cumberlands. Then, we’re playing at Sister bar for the first time on Dec. 1.

That’s cool, you’re hitting the heart of the music scene. It’s great to see and hear bands like you guys coming up. We’ve always had a lot of twangy outfits from Americana to cow-punk, hybrid forms are really big in Burque! What’s next?

You can find out more about what’s going on with me musically at augustjamesmusic.com. I’m working on another album, it doesn’t have a title but it’s almost done, with Greg Williams and Alex McMahon of Wildewood.

Oh, yeah? That’s a band from Burque’s American renaissance!

So when I moved out here when I was 18, my sister was dating Greg Williams at the time. And so I met those guys and started listening to Wildewood because of my sister. I would play at Scalo and shit.

Totally wow. The small town essence of Albuquerque reaches out to grab ya! But what would you say about your wider creative influences and concerns?

I love those country singer-songwriters. Willie Nelson is my hero. Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, those guys are what I aspire to, in terms of simplicity and storytelling power. They are really clear and to the point. I want to take that songwriting style and put it into a band setting that makes people want to dance, that gets people excited. It’s not boring, it’s not too slow; we’re a bit of a dance band but with a heart of strength, of solid songwriting.

How about the drumming, Peach?

Peach: I have a lot of influences. I think only recently though, have I made the move to really try to express some musicality that is country-focused, straight beats and swing beats. They’re not technically complicated but they are rhythms that are inherently danceable. I also have a lot 1960s and ’70s rock and shoegaze influences, too. One of my favorite genres is Krautrock, like Can. One of my favorite drummers is Philip Selway from Radiohead.

As a member of Gen X, I have to admit I’m grateful that the Radiohead is still being worshipped! What’s next for you guys?

The next step for us is merchandise, a bigger online presence and then we need to get out more. Out of state shows and stuff.

Peach: One of the things I love the most about this band—especially coming into it as a new member—is that there is a great rapport, so we’re really working on the momentum we have, really pushing people to come out to the shows.

August James: We are trying to push ourselves harder.

If an alien, a time traveler or a beautiful human came up to you after a show and asked, “What did I just hear, and why do I love it?” what would you tell them?

Peach: There’s a spirit to this music. But there’s also a simplicity to it that keeps us in focus. It’s the right size and you can dance while wearing it. It’s good, honest, simple music.

August James: I’m not trying to do anything that I don’t know how to do. I’m not trying to be anything that I am not. This is what I’ve always wanted my music to sound like and if anyone likes it, it must mean they like the vision I have.

Plus, they like to dance, que no?

Oh, yeah, they have to love dancing.

August James and The Lovesick Symphony
with Eugene, John King Cave and The Cumberlands
Launchpad • 618 Central Ave. SW
Sunday, Nov. 17 • 8pm • $8 • 21+.
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