While The Old Ceremony (Yep Roc Records) has been honing its self-described “Southern gothic pop” sound for over a decade, their new album Sprinter (out July 14) features some of their most eclectic and cinematic songwriting to date. Check out their exclusive NoiseTrade sampler New Stream For The Old Ceremony to hear the first single from Sprinter (“Ghosts of Ferriday”), along with six other favorites from the band’s back catalog.
I spoke with The Old Ceremony frontman Django Haskins to chat about his band, new album Sprinter, and his exciting work with super group collective Big Star Third.
NoiseTrade: The Old Ceremony released its self-titled debut album back in 2005. Did you celebrate the decade milestone in any way this year and does it even feel like it’s been 10 years since its release?
Django Haskins: It’s bizarre to think that first TOC record was a decade ago (and my first solo record was two decades ago). But then again, being in a band is a bit like dog years, so we have been through a lot since then. We had a big decade celebration show at the time but we are more interested in what we are going to do with the next ten years.
NT: Your new album Sprinter is your second album with Yep Roc Records, but it’s actually your sixth album overall. What’s been some of the biggest differences the band has felt between your non-label and label releases?
Haskins: Having a label means that there are other people who are thinking about how to get the music out there, which is a massive luxury for an indie band.
NT: Your cinematic brand of songwriting is usually based around the acoustic guitar, but then you always seem to add some really interesting and non-traditional instrumental coloring to the finished product. Do you hear these other instrumental parts in your head during the writing process or do they just come out once you guys are in the studio?
Haskins: I wrote mostly on acoustic at home, but the band arrangements are built around electric guitar. The sounds are definitely the creation of the band. I don’t come in with a finished product in mind. Over the years we’ve developed a shared language of sounds, so the challenge for each of us is to expand the vocabulary with new arrangements.
NT: Over the last few years you’ve been a part of the super group collective Big Star Third (featuring Jody Stephens of Big Star, along with members of The dB’s, R.E.M., Let’s Active, The Posies, and more) that’s been playing Big Star’s Third album at various concerts and live events. How’d you get hooked up with this inspiring project and what has it been like playing with such an eclectic cast of musicians?
Haskins: Our local impresario friend (and label mate) Chris Stamey knew that I was a Big Star fan, and I can’t express how lucky I feel to get to play with all these amazing musicians. I’ve even made some good friends out of it, like Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks), with whom I’ve got a side project called Au Pair. And Skylar Gudasz and Brett Harris, who sing in all of the Big Star Third shows, have always been great traveling companions on these outings.
NT: Three of your fellow Big Star Third bandmates got involved on Sprinter, including Mitch Easter (Let’s Active) producing the record, Mike Mills (R.E.M.) performing as a guest musician, and Chris Stamey (The dB’s) adding arrangements. Were there any big differences in collaborating with them outside of the Big Star material or was it just a continuation of what you were already doing with them?
Haskins: It was very different, mostly because these were my songs, not someone else’s. But Mitch brought the same unflappable charm and depth of musicality as always, Mills played and sang his ass off, and Stamey did the arrangement with the same meticulous dedication as he would with the Big Star stuff. This was definitely the album of collaborations and it made sense to bring in the larger Big Star family to help.