One of the biggest talking points surrounding Paste Magazine’s list of “30 Great Athens Bands” (besides the criminal absence of *insert band here*) was the inclusion of the Flat Duo Jets as an “Athens band”. You could argue for or against the case here. But whether or not you include FDJ as an Athens band, it does bring up the question “Just what is an Athens band?”
It’s a tricky question because the guidelines are very blurry. You can’t use city of residence as the be all end all, that’s for sure. What if half of the band resides elsewhere but calls Athens home base *cough REMWidespread cough*? Or what if none of them live here at all anymore (see B-52s)? What if they just have the misfortune to be from Winterville? *ducks incoming flying pots and pans*
Ok, so city of residence is a little tricky. But we certainly can’t put limits on the type of sound an Athens band makes. You’ve got pop like the Warm Fuzzies, songwriters like Don Chambers, hard rocking Hayride, and Mouser who… um…are Mouser. There’s no one quality that hooks all of these together.
Success level is out too. You’ve got top tier earners, steadily employed pickers, weekend rockers, and half-employed players out there in the mess, scrapping with each other to headline the 40 Watt on a Friday night.
So how exactly can you pick up a band and say “This is Athens and that other one is not”? It’s difficult. I try to think about where the band was located/associated with during the most important parts of its career. But I’d love to know, how do you define an “Athens band”?
Three or more people joined together by commonality to express their thoughts and feelings through music with originality, cleverness, artistic flair and drive.
There are several criteria in my mind, not all of which necessarily have to be met: origin or residence in Athens, a history of playing in Athens, an established fan base in Athens, ties to other Athens bands. Flat Duo Jets, absolutely. B-52s, no problem. I personally count Guadalcanal Diary (Marietta) and Indigo Girls (Decatur), even though they're arguably more “Atlanta bands” than “Athens bands”. Let's Active (North Carolina) makes my cut as well: Athens was, I believe, part of their touring circuit; Mitch Easter, obviously, worked closely with R.E.M.; and both their sound and their overall approach were in keeping with those of their Athenian contemporaries. Evidently not everyone will agree with my broadly inclusive definition, but it works for me.
Where the hell is The Jody Grind?!?
By that criteria the Dave Matthews Band and the Zac Brown Band could both be considered Athens bands. Each played in Athens regularly for years and established a strong Athens fan base before breaking nationally. Good God, Mark. Why not include The Jesus Lizard in that list? They certainly fit that criteria.
Neither The Jody Grind nor The Indigo Girls EVER wanted to be considered “an Athens Band”. Each was/is very proud of their Atlanta home. Furthermore, Mitch Easter's music had that “sound” years before R.E.M. was even formed. I mean, come on, man!
-Jordan knows who this is