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Shortly after Suzanne Magnuson and Olivia Quintana formed Malas Semillas ("Bad Seeds" in Spanish) three years ago, they brought in Cyrus Greene, a naturally good blues guitarist who used to play in the punk band PBR Street Gang, and Curtis Wallach, who'd played drums in the Taints. When the group changed its name to the Legendary River Drifters about a year and a half ago, it brought drummer Darrick Jones and new bassist Matthew Lilley into the fold, and the group's backwoods alt-folk was injected with a bit more energy. It's taken them about two years to release their debut, Into the Darkness, but it was worth the wait, as it's a fine collection of foot-stomping tunes. We spoke with Wallach about the new album.
Westword: Can you sum up what Into the Darkness is all about?
Curtis Wallach: The album is a lot of things. There's some Denver historical stuff — like the "Soapy Rail Stomp" is about Soapy Smith. Half the band is from Denver, Aurora and other suburbs, and the rest of the band are transplants who have been here for a long time. We're pretty steeped in Denver tradition, so there's that. And then there's Suzanne's struggling with her Catholicism, and songs about her and, for a time, accepting her Catholicism; she was raised in a Catholic family. Cyrus has some songs in there about relationships and breakups. "Empty Lot," the last track on the album, was one of the first songs that Suzanne and I ever wrote together, while we were in Pillage My Village, and that was like four and a half years ago. That was about one of her breakups with a long-ago boyfriend.
Tell me about making the new record.
The record was a pain in the ass. We started recording it nearly two years ago in this guy Aaron Martinson's house; we were doing it in his basement. The recording process went on so long that our lineup changed. We added drums, got a new bass player, and the whole sound just kind of picked up. We scrapped that record after we were about eleven tracks in, I guess. About a month a later, we started recording again. We set up a soundproof room in our mandolin player's basement. He had some experience doing mixing and things like that. He got to get a lot better through this process.
Did you redo the whole thing, or were there different tunes?
There were some of the same tunes. Mostly the tempo had picked up all they way throughout. We ended up redoing everything.