Cusses, the local favorites whose edgy experimental rock has been at the forefront of the Savannah scene since their inception, are good at rolling with changes. A hiatus, followed by family and personal struggles, caused the band to drift apart before coming back together for Golden Rat — their long-awaited new album.
The album was a long time coming from the power trio, and was kickstarted by an unlikely opportunity — an opening slot for Bon Jovi. Now, the group is full steam ahead as they head off on tour in support of Golden Rat and get ready to start the next phase of their career in Nashville.
They’ll bring the Golden Rat tour to The Jinx on October 12 to celebrate the venue’s anniversary. We spoke to singer Angel Bond about relocating, the new album, and what’s kept the band going.
What prompted the move to Nashville, and what is it about experiencing different cities that appeals to you guys?
Angel: For myself personally, I had a few deaths in the family last year. I’ve moved so much in my life, and I haven’t lived near my family since I was 17. Half of my family is in Tennessee, so they’ve been trying to get me to Nashville, and I didn’t think it would happen this soon. Or ever [laughs].
With things changing, and losing people, you kind of just have a different outlook on life and quality time with family. Things like that were heavy on my mind this past year. I like to listen to the universe, and I do feel that I’ve been pushed in certain directions at different points in my life. I definitely felt a push to Nashville.
Do you think all of these changes played a role in what pushed the band forward? Did it influence what you were writing about?
We wrote this album a while ago, and it took us a while to get done. It took us a few years to get it together. Our drummer, Brian Lackey, had lost his mother very suddenly, and there’s another friend from the Savannah community that we lost, so there was a lot of change going on at the time. But this past year of us coming back together and wanting to put this album out was a huge push.
Our guitarist, Bryan Harder, took on a new job and he hasn’t been able to tour for a while. So we had to make the decision to look for a touring guitarist. It wasn’t an easy decision for us, because Bryan handles the guitar parts and bass parts live through both a guitar and bass rig.
We’d been on the fence a long time about finding someone to tour with, and considered putting the project to rest, but we also did put a lot of time and energy into it. And we do love the music, so it’s really hard to just walk away and not give it its due.
On the new album, was there a conscious effort to do anything different in the writing process? Was there a concept in writing or production?
I don’t think so. For us, it’s really about just pushing ourselves more and more. We have a ridiculous amount of songs in our catalog that aren’t finished, so when we get to the production process we pick our favorites and find the ones closest to being done. Even album number three, I think, is going to be very different than the first two, but hopefully in just an evolving sense. We all have such different backgrounds in music, too, so sometimes one personality is going to take the lead in a particular song.
We all love all different types of genres and make it work together, so I don’t think there’s a concept that we’ve gone for. I think it’s just what feels right.
What were the bands that you all bonded over?
Bryan and Brian, who met way before I met them, have a huge ‘90s influence. They bonded over Fugazi, The Melvins, and Nirvana, but also loved Led Zeppelin. My dad is a drummer, and he brought me up on classic rock and soul music. I was a sax player growing up and was really into Motown at a really young age, but was also really into ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s rock.
I try to bring a soul element at times, when I can. Some of the new stuff we have is almost like soul metal [laughs]. I want to do more ballads, like metal ballads, on the next record.
When you guys were based in Savannah, what was the scene like then? Have you seen a change in the way things happen with bands here?
It's really hard for me to gauge, especially in the last few years since I haven't been around as much, but I've noticed when I come back that it does seem very different. When we first started playing we lived in a studio that we turned into an all-ages venue because we knew all of these bands that had nowhere to play. So we just started hosting shows, and we called it No Control. It turned into way more than we could manage, but we really saw what a necessity it was.
There’s plenty of bands that I saw coming up who are now in New York or LA. Savannah is a great platform to figure out what you want to do. I moved to Savannah from LA, and I was able to bartend a couple of nights and afford to do music with the rest of my time. I loved it. Savannah’s community is so encouraging, and it really helped me come out my shell.
It was very hard to leave, but we needed a change. Nashville is full of creative jobs, too, so that was kind of another push.
Was there a lot of pre-production on the new record?
We did a little pre-production on song structures, but everything else was on the fly. But [producers] Billy [Hume] and Dan [Hannon] and their engineers were great with that. Brian got to go into this beautiful room with, like, 200 different snares and pick out which ones he wanted.
It’s nice to have that freedom of choice in the studio.
It was like Disneyland!