“A picture is hanging, it’s dancing to some rhythm and blues/A candle is swaying, it says that you got nothing to lose/I don’t want to be another broken-hearted fool.”
Blount Floyd and Andrew Nelson of Great Peacock harmonized in blackout darkness on the new deck at Manci’s Antique Supper Club to a crowd that they could not see. When the power returned, Great Peacock became the first band to play an electric guitar in the recently re-opened Manci’s.
Great Peacock is a Southern indie-rock band based in Nashville with Alabama roots. They played at Callaghan’s in Mobile on June 5 and Manci’s in Daphne on June 6 (John Thompson is a partner in Callaghan’s and Manci’s). Blount Floyd (vocals, guitar) grew up in Dothan and attended Auburn; Andrew Nelson (vocals, guitar) lived in Helena; Nick Recio (drummer) grew up in Huntsville and graduated from UAB; and Ben Cunningham (bass) is from Louisiana. Their new album, Making Ghosts, came out May 12.
The Southern Rambler interviewed Great Peacock before their show at Callaghan’s in the green room that is barely big enough for a poker table, a couch and stacks of framed show posters. The last time Great Peacock played at Callaghan’s, they borrowed a picture of Jessica Lee Mayfield and took it on the road, posting Instagram pictures of Recio holding Mayfield’s picture at the Isaac Hayes, Tina Turner, Booker T. & The MB’s rest area in Jackson, Tennessee, the Vulcan in Birmingham, and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
TSR: Before we talk about your music, Andrew, why did you let someone shoot you in the leg with a BB gun?
Andrew: I told my friend it wouldn’t hurt to be shot by a BB gun, so he shot me in the back of the leg with a Red Rider from thirty feet away. It didn’t hurt too much. I was wearing blue jeans and it didn’t break the skin. I wouldn’t let someone shoot me with a compressed air cartridge. However, my brother once shot me between the eyes with a bb gun from 100 yards away with a pump-action C02.
Blount: Nick shot a cup off my head. He shot from the back because I couldn’t watch it.
TSR: Were you scared?
Nick: I wasn’t scared. I was pretty confident.
Blount: He is a good shot. I once watched him shoot a cup without looking at it. This was after a few Miller High Lifes.
TSR: In a recent interview, you said Callaghan’s is your favorite place to play and that it feels like home.
Blount: Callaghan’s was one of the first places we played on the road three years ago and we played with El Cantador. Mobile takes a band and champions them and supports the hell out of them. It is not just us. Other bands that have played at Callaghan’s say the same thing.
Andrew: It’s a win, win, win, win. They treat us so well here that it makes us play better. And then there is alcohol involved.
John Thompson walks in.
Andrew: Look at that smile. That’s a $100 smile right there. You should have been a politician.
JT: I have the teeth for it. I’m like a Kennedy.
TSR: You live in Nashville and are often described as a Nashville band, but most of you grew up in Alabama. Where do you say you are from?
Blount: I have lived in Nashville for 10 years but I always have a problem saying I am a Tennessean. I say I live in Nashville, but I am from Alabama.
Andrew: For me, Nashville is where you move to achieve a goal, not to find a home. I love Nashville, but it is not home for me, but there is no place that feels like home to me. When we play Alabama we get excited because as a group it feels like home.
TSR: When did you record Making Ghosts?
Blount: Christmas of 2013. We were going to release it in August of last year but our label, This American Life, pushed it back to put a bigger effort into it. We also wanted to get our ducks in a row before we released it, but we didn’t plan for it to take this long.
Andrew: I still don’t think every duck is in a row, and I don’t know if we will totally get there, but we have great people on the team who are professional and know how to do this. Letting go of control of some things has been hard for us. In the past if things didn’t happen, I could blame myself. Now, if I get angry I can’t place blame on people who don’t deserve it. We love the people we are working with and are excited to be with them. They are working their rear ends off and sometimes things don’t happen or not as fast as we wish they would. We are a relatively unknown band, which is a scary and exciting thing. There is nowhere to go but up from here.
TSR: What is the story behind “Gulf Dreams” and the lyric “Down by the water you can’t barter with your mind?”
Andrew: I always liked that lyric. It means you can’t worry when you are by the water. You can’t be going back and forth about what you have to give or take. You are just happy.
Blount: I grew up close to the water and Panama City, then I moved to Nashville, which is land-locked. It is a weird feeling to be away from the beach and the mindset that the beach is where your worries go away. My dad was a big fisherman and we swam in Port St. Joe Bay. I feel at home on the beach.
Andrew: I was eight or nine years old when I saw the ocean for the first time. I ran head first into the water. That was one of the happiest moments of my life.
TSR: The new album just came out a few weeks ago, but you are already writing again?
Blount: We have pretty much written the next record. We just need a few more songs.
Andrew: We write music quickly now, but we are trying to be better lyricists and it is the lyrics that will keep us arguing until we find the right fit. We write together or by ourselves, but we finish together and then arrange with the band.
I think the things you have to think the least about are the best. Songwriting is like that. Songs that come in five minutes or less are the best ones. Sometimes songwriting can be a pain in the ass. The ones that are good come fast and it’s not like you really wrote it. The melody existed before you got lucky enough to discover it and make money off of it before anyone else did. “Making Ghosts” was like that. It took about three minutes to write “Desert Lark.”
I write in stream of consciousness. I start singing it and it becomes therapy and soon I’m telling everyone my secrets. Other than being on stage, when I come up with something really good is when I am happiest. Then it goes away like a drug and I have to start it again over and over and over.
TSR: How did you know that playing together would be a good fit for both of you?
Blount: We were in a rock band and joked around playing country songs. Our voices fit well together in the harmonies. It was one of those weird ideas that you have when you are drunk and this was the one we followed through with.
Andrew: It was a fluke accident and unplanned, but it is so natural playing together. We would go to parties and people would ask us to play and tell us we need to record, so we started playing together. Our first gig was at the Twin Kegs dive bar in Nashville with Hurray for the Riff Raff when no one knew who they were.
Blount: They were awesome and we were terrible.
Andrew: I thought we were decent.
TSR: Where did the song “Making Ghosts” come from?
Andrew: I don’t know, but the lyrics came out and made sense. The idea is when someone moves in and out of your life, they leave an imprint on you, an impression that is always there. It’s like our actions, I chose to do this and that and now this person is not in my life any more. I won’t see them again but their memory is like a ghost and I can’t stop thinking about them.
TSR: Where do you go when you sing “Go Back?”
Andrew: I grew up in the suburbs. The idea is to go back to a place that I am not from. My family is from Goss, Mississippi, a small place in the country and some of my relatives are buried at the oldest active Baptist church in Mississippi. I think of that—a guy who always wanted to be a country boy but wasn’t.
Blount: To be so far removed from your roots, especially living in a city like we do, is a juxtaposition of feeling like you are a country boy and wanting to know where you are from and having a connection with it. I always think of the shack that was abandoned and falling down on the way to my grandparents place in Tumbleton, Alabama. It was my visual when we wrote the song.
TSR: Have you had a lucky break?
Andrew: No. We have had to work our asses off. The lucky break has been finding Ben and Nick. As hard as it is to make it, it is even harder to find the right people to play with. We learned that firsthand when playing with other people. You don’t know until you get into it if you are going to get along. You can only learn that when times get hard and at the end of the night on the nice long drive from one town to another.
Blount: There are so many musicians in Nashville and everyone is busy, but it is hard to find someone to be committed to a band that tours like us and not make a lot of money, even if you are going to have a great time. You have to love this.
Andrew: You lose so much stuff that everyone else is going through. I am 31 and most of my friends are married and have kids and houses. I have $75 in my pocket right now. You lose girlfriends, you lose potential wives you thought you were going to have. Seeing what I’ve seen, I don’t think I could stay with me or any other musician. Everyone who gets into this thinks they are going to be successful and make money. Then you realize the ideas of the future you thought would exist but aren’t going to. That is the hard part.
TSR: What do you want to be the story of Making Ghosts?
Blount: We want the album to give us a chance to keep making music. It is a feeling unlike anything else when someone cares and listens deeply to your music. It can be a weird thing when people come up and talk about your songs. Sometimes you don’t know what to say.
Andrew: It is intense and intimate, like locking eyes with a stranger. Sometimes I want to get the hell out of the room and sometimes I can’t look away. We want to be able to connect with people because when you work hard on something like this, it is meant to be shared with people. We want them to be songs that help people through bad days.