Rockers on a Roll

After critical acclaim and sold-out shows, Alabama Shakes still values the simpler things


Alabama Shakes guitarist Heath Fogg (far left) longs for his sweet home.

It’s been a little more than a year since Alabama Shakes released its first album, Boys & Girls. With a sound that recalls the soulful rock ’n’ roll of a past era, the record earned the Athens, Alabama, group three Grammy nominations—including Best New Artist and Best Rock Performance. Before they play Las Vegas on July 19, the band is taking a brief break, writing material with the plans to record a follow-up album in the fall. Recently, guitarist Heath Fogg stepped out of a hometown jam session to discuss their humble approach to newfound stardom.

Boys & Girls sent you on a whirlwind of success. What’s been the greatest challenge you’ve faced since its release?

This may not be a challenge for some people, but just getting time at home. We’ve spent so much time on the road in the last year, the last two years really, we haven’t had time to write as many songs as we’d like to and get in the studio as often as we’d like to, and just be home with family and friends and get our heads on straight. If you would have asked me that two years ago, I wouldn’t have said that, because I wouldn’t have known any better. Now I know how touring really takes it out of you.

Any particularly frustrating moments from being on tour?

When we played the Glastonbury Festival [in London] the sun was just beaming on us. For England it was hot. It wasn’t that hot but it was making our guitars all out of tune. There’s a video of us playing “Hang Loose,” it was like the second song in the set. BBC was broadcasting it, and it’s already on YouTube. I watched it, and it was like nails on a chalkboard to me.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve experienced?

We’ve gotten to play our songs, our little rock ’n’ roll songs, in front of so many people. It’s been pretty special how many people like to tell us how our songs affect them. Some people really hold [our] songs to heart. It means more to them than just coming out to see a rock ’n’ roll show and having a beer. It’s a really important experience. They’re glad to let us know that, and I’m glad because it means a lot to us.

Do you feel pressure because of the positive response you received from the first album?

We never expected most of the things that have happened to us. I think we’re just trying to get back to zero and start from scratch as the same band. We’re not thinking about topping what has already happened.

That’s a really cool attitude to have.

We’re trying to have that. We’re practicing at my parents’ house right now, and there’s a gold record hanging on the wall. [Laughs.] But I think a lot of other people feel the pressure more than us. Everybody wants to know when the [next] record is coming out, and we don’t really have an answer for that. We’re just trying to get back to being us.

Alabama Shakes

With Fly Golden Eagle and Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Pearl at the Palms, 8 p.m. July 19, $45, 944-3200,

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