The Baptist Generals :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

The word “essential,” when tossed around by those who talk and write about music, usually means that someone thinks this record or that must be a part of your collection. When it comes to the Baptist Generals of Denton, Texas, the word itself takes on its (ahem) essential meaning.

General General Chris Flemmons has spent at least some of the 10 years between the release of his last record -- cult-favorite “No Silver/No Gold” -- and his latest, Jackleg Devotionals to the Heart, literally studying what makes us tick.   Trading the lo-fi, last-days ethos of “No Silver” for more robust production and arrangements, and less-enigmatic -- even hopeful -- words, “Jackleg” is a rock record that feels wise beyond its years without ever being too clever for its own good.

AD recently caught up with Flemmons by phone as he prepped for the Generals West Coast tour.

Aquarium Drunkard: Your first record, “No Silver/No Gold” kind of flew under the radar. I discovered it on a trip to the Gulf Coast right as Hurricane Katrina was hitting and it seemed like an oddly appropriate soundtrack at the time. Where was your head when you were writing it, and what were your expectations as far as audience and critical response?

Chris Flemmons: Well, we’d released it in Europe before we ever signed to Sub Pop. No, that’s not right. We hadn’t released it in Europe, but we were already on a label in Europe and then we signed with Sub Pop. The Europe label put the record out and then Sub Pop put it out, like, five months later.

The place I was is, I was recovering from dealing with a serious amount of grief over my dad dying of cancer -- he’d been sick for many years -- and I started writing songs during the last parts of his life, then I wrote those songs after his death. I was drinking historic amounts of alcohol. It was cathartic for me. It was a healthier way for me to deal with this grief. I knew what the record was going to do. I knew it wasn’t a commercial album. Critically, I was pretty happy with the response to it, but I also knew it wasn’t one on those things that was, like, a repeat listen. I always kind of thought of it as -- or explain it as -- you know, you might see a really great disturbing documentary film that you love, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to go watch it again. Ever.

We did quite a bit of touring around it for two-and-a-half years. I’m real proud of it. I had a love/hate relationship with it for a while. Sometimes I thought it was a little too revealing and a little too, um, vitriolic at points. The thing I love about it is its honesty, because I think it’s real.

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