Interview by patchen
On The Road with a.c. cotton
This is not a tour diary. Think of it more like a semi-literate stopover on a cross-country tour by a band that knows its and America's heart in ways both sad and sublime. Alan Charing doesn't mind his band, a.c. cotton, being compared with the likes of Dylan, The Band, and Neil Young. In fact, he feels that if you are going to invite comparison, aiming for the top is the way to go. Plus, says Charing, "People always to compare you to what they can relate to." That kind of honesty and wry humor characterizes a.c.cotton, as well as Charing's other efforts. Band's one can relate to is a scarce commodity these days; if you're not eleven, can you relate to My Chemical Romance, or does Green Day speak to your political depths? Hell, would you want to drink with Toby Keith? Charing's literate songwriting and basic, plug it and let it rip guitar make for the kind of ragged glory that marked the great ones, as well as some nearly great ones. Like the sadly-defunct Slobberbone, a.c. cotton is poised to be raw company for lonely bookish drinkers for years to come.
a.c. cotton evolved out of the ashes of The Alan Charing Conspiracy, which was a band formed after Charing's 1999 solo effort Seconds West. That record was mostly stripped down acoustic song-stories that, while forming a big influence of his writing, Charing was eager to abandon and form a band to "give the songs the necessary power." While on tour in the South, Charing says, the band woke up one morning and looked at a Mississippi cotton field "and felt that was where they belonged." Picture a band in the middle of a field, absorbing its history while wondering at the same time what the fuck they are doing there, and you have the sound that America produces best: big, loud, longing, and slightly pissed off.
The Conspiracy was more of a bridge for Charing's evolving writing, and was an opportunity both "kill off his former solo self" and to tear it up with a band. a.c. cotton both buries the past and gives him enough fire power for the future. 2001's half way down was a consolidation of that sound. While still retaining the literate bite of his solo work, half way buzzed with loud guitars, solid drumming, and with the timelessness of sound present in the best American bands. This year's notes for the conversation only extends the band's sound and ambition.
"I've only written short personal stories, sketches of events from a messed up family meeting or a twisted relationship. I usually try to make them pretty funny, a side that only has come out here and there on our records," Charing says. While there is certainly a touch of the southern gothic in his lyrics, his favorite book is Moby Dick. Many of his lyrics were influenced by quotes or lines which were meaningful to him and sparked his writing. He has put his English Degree to good use without "so many big words to show it off."
What Charing does show off is an absorption of the best of his influences, and an ability to reach across both wise and drunken lines to take a stab at certain truths in ways that resonate. While the category into which they will most likely be placed--"Americana"-is a dead boar in a ditch, a.c. cotton is alive and well, and Alan Charing and company will be making their listeners feel the same for, hopefully, many years to come.