By John wirt
December 12, 2012
When Super Water Sympathy tours the greater United States, people in many places simply can’t believe that this smart, talented indie-rock band of singers, songwriters and musicians comes from Shreveport.
“When we tell people we’re from Louisiana, they’re minds are blown,” singer Ansley Hughes said. “It’s like, ‘Wait, there’s something intelligent and new coming from the South? This is weird.’ ”
Currently on its fourth national tour, Super Water Sympathy started the tour Oct. 12 in New Orleans. The band is appearing throughout the South, in the Northeast, the Southwest and the West.
Venues for the tour include The Bowery Electric in New York City and The Viper Room in Los Angeles. In the Northeast, especially, reactions to female-fronted Super Water Sympathy and its music include shock.
“I guess they’d understand if we said we’re from New York or Seattle,” Hughes said. “Weird stuff comes out of those places all the time. Nonetheless, if we were from Seattle, I’m confident that we would still be different from the other things that are coming out of Seattle.”
Super Water Sympathy’s non-Southern indie-rock sound was set when Hughes joined the band in August 2010. The other members are brothers Billy and Clyde Hargrove, drummer Ryan Robinson and keyboardist Jason Mills.
Hughes gives the band the emotional vocals and drama and projection she’d be using if she hadn’t switched from musical theater to rock. Musically, the group features Clyde Hargrove’s trebly, melodic guitar and Mills’ keyboard-produced waves of orchestral string sounds.
In the long shadow of New Orleans’ eclectic, historically rich music scene, musical talent elsewhere in Louisiana is inevitably obscured, especially in Shreveport.
“Shreveport isn’t seen as much of a music scene anyway,” Hughes said. “But there are so many good bands there. Most of them, they lack the means to get out, to drop everything and just go do it.”
Super Water Sympathy, she added, has been lucky, benefiting from the kindness of supporters. The band was given a van, for instance, and a private investor financed a flight to England. Working with producer Cam Blackwood (Florence + the Machine, Coldplay, Morrissey), the band recorded its second album in London in June.
“We’ve gotten so lucky,” Hughes said. “Yet it’s been hard and we pinch pennies. But it’s a matter of would I rather work in an office from 9 to 5 or be doing this.”
During one of the band’s tours, Hughes and her bandmates decided they didn’t want just anyone to produce the next Super Water Sympathy album.
“We wanted it to be a special album,” she said.
Clyde Hargrove, an LSU graduate and former member of the Terms, sought the services of a major producer via uninvited email messages. Most of them were far beyond the band’s price range.
A message to one of Coldplay’s producers, Ken Nelson, led to an unexpected break. Although Nelson was too expensive for Super Water Sympathy, his manager suggested the on-the-rise Blackwood. A Skype meeting was arranged.
“We loved him,” Hughes said. “And I love everything that he has done. He didn’t tune my voice in any way. There were times when I was hitting weird notes that I didn’t like it. I wanted to change it but Cam said, ‘No, this is perfect. The other vocal doesn’t have feeling.’ ”
Blackwood also captured Hargrove’s distinctive guitar sound. “Clyde is very picky about his guitar tone,” Hughes said.
Super Water Sympathy released a single, “Uh Oh!,” from its forthcoming album through iTunes in October. The song reached No. 58 on iTunes’ alternative new releases chart, thrilling the band.
“We were, like, ‘How is that even possible?’ It soon dropped off, but that initial rush was above and beyond anything that we expected.”
Inspired by the chart action “Uh Oh!” received, the band may release as many as five singles through iTunes. But Hughes can’t wait for the complete album’s debut. That’s planned for early 2013.
“I’m very excited about the album,” she said. “I wish that we didn’t have to keep it hidden. Every day I want to release it.”