After years being indie rock’s greatest utility player, Mark Watrous is stepping up to front his own band. Beginning his career as a member of Gosling/Loudermilk, Watrous would go on to become a touring member for the likes of The Raconteurs and The Shins. Now, he’s set to release No Love for the Drowning, the first record from his Earl Burrows project, on September 18th.
Though it may be Watrous’ big coming out show, Earl Burrows isn’t a one-man band. Watrous’ brother Joel Watrous and fellow sibling pair Will and Carson Medders join him in the Nashville indie rock outfit. What’s more, his Raconteurs bandmate Brendan Benson tagged along to produce the LP.
Tapping into a lifetime of industry involvement, brotherly love, and the talent of Benson, No Love for the Drowning is a massive debut that proves Watrous is more than the man in the background. The album mixes big indie sounds (“Our Kind“) with the playful attitude of pre-’90s rock (“I Live in the Walls”). While roots styles drip off of everything (from opener “Delicate Ribbon” to closer “Infinite Space”), “Go Home Girl” shares as much with Spoon as it does the bands twanging down in Nashville dives. The whole thing acts like a testament to the talent that served Watrous so wells during his years as a musical journeyman.
Listen to the whole thing ahead of its official release date below.
In celebration of Earl Burrows’ debut, Watrous talked with Consequence of Sound about going “solo,” playing with his sibling, and working with Benson on a project all his own. Read the Q&A below.
From The Shins to The Raconteurs, you’ve spent over a decade of your career as a true working musician, a utility player for other bands. Even when you were with Loudermilk/Gosling, you weren’t the frontman. How does it feel getting to really put yourself forward as the center piece of a band, and how long have you been preparing for this/writing these songs?
It’s a welcome addition. I’ve absolutely loved all of the experiences I’ve been given playing with different groups over the last number of years, but I was ready to have a creative space that felt personal again. It had always been in the back of my mind that eventually I’d put some of my own songs out there and then Gosling split and I got really busy with other opportunities. I was always working on ideas, but the bulk of this record was written within the span of this lineup being together.
Was it always the plan to do Earl Burrows with your brother, Joel, or how did that come about? What is it like to be making music with him now?
A few of the recordings on the record I’d made before the band actually came together and Joel played bass on those, so it kind of was and it wasn’t. He and I started our first bands together and grew up listening to all the same music so it’s very rare that one of us starts an idea that the other one doesn’t know how to finish. It’s great getting to play with him again.
You moved from New York City to Nashville prior to recording this album. What spurred that transition, and how did it affect the formation of the band and the songs you ended up writing/recording?
My wife, Jaime, and I came to Nashville because we’d both been spending a lot of time down there. We had a good group of friends and were ready for a change. I met Carson on a tour with Brendan Benson shortly thereafter. He was our guitar tech and we hit it off pretty much instantly. We both knew we had similar taste in music and it just became an unspoken thing that we’d eventually work on something together.
What was it like to go from working with Brendan on the road with his band to working with him in studio with yours?
It was really natural. Brendan’s called me in to work on a handful of different things in the studio and it’s always been fun. I think I was worried in the beginning that he’d want to strip all the eccentricities from the songs, and he did in some places, but almost always it ended up serving the song better.
Was there a conscious decision to try to sound different from the other bands you’re known for working with? Working with Brendan, did you ever find yourself slipping into old habits, or getting caught up in sounds you’d previously played with together? How did you get out of that?
Absolutely. I’d be really uncomfortable if I thought we were skating too closely to anything else that already existed or relying on anyone’s work as a template. We’ve routinely talked from the beginning about not steering things into familiar territory for too long. I think we all knew the record we were making to a degree and that it needed to feel like a stranger you know you’ve met before but can’t place.