Futurebirds' Johnny Lundock on Denver Music's Isolation From National Trends
Futurebirds drummer Johnny Lundock had been an active member of Denver's indie-rock world, with stints most prominently in shoegaze band Blue Million Mikes and in folk/psych outfit Houses. Over the years, Lundock had connected with Futurebirds when his bands opened for them in Denver. In 2013, Futurebirds was looking for a new percussionist, and Lundock got the call to step in. With more or less two days' notice, he moved out of his place, quit his job and put his belongings into storage for a handful of months, and did a six-week and then an eight-week tour with Futurebirds. Lundock hit the ground running and left town fast, but not because he thought there was a lack of quality in his hometown's music scene.
“Denver is so isolated, which is part of what makes Denver so cool,” Lundock says. “I think everybody has a unique style, and that people are less prone to trends in the music industry. They're not trying to do this Nashville thing or L.A. thing or whatever's happening. Part of that does seep into the culture of Denver music, but I don't think Denver music is defined by any kind of outside influence. It's its own beast. What I hope to see in the future is a greater infrastructure, and I see that happening a little. But I'd like there to be more of a push to get out of town to spread the word. Maybe there is, but I never came across it too much with the groups I associated with. I don't think there was a rush to get out of town.”
Futurebirds formed in Athens, Georgia in 2008, a city that along with Denver, co-birthed '90s indie pop. The band is now based out of Nashville, and its eclectic sound reflects that combination of geographic influences, drawing from country rock and modern psychedelia. Its latest album, 2015's Hotel Parties, captures the group's spirited performances coupled with a knack for emotionally expansive melodies.
As a band touring the country for six months out of the year, Futurebirds, like most groups, is hardly raking in millions of dollars. But its career has afforded Lundock the ability to earn the bulk of his income from doing something he loves: playing live music. While it's the dream of many musicians who have yet to break out of their home market, the reality of rising to the middle of the national and international touring circuit is hardly glamorous. Futurebirds stays with friends and family whenever possible in order to take some money home to sustain itself between tours.
For Lundock, his new home in Nashville is not the same as the music community he had in Denver.
“As accommodating as it can be, it's still not home, and I don't have strong ties or relationships down there yet,” says Lundock. “We have our own thing going on and play once or twice a year in Nashville, so it's kind of weird living in a city and not being part of the scene in any way, really. And I don't really do studio work. There's all these great players and cool things happening, but I'm an outsider waiting between tours and get to enjoy the music scene as I can. [I especially enjoy] Diarrhea Planet, Jeff the Brotherhood and Hans Condor.”
For now, Lundock and Futurebirds will keep up their steady momentum. Yet he doesn't rule out a return to Denver sometime in the future.
“I don't feel like I got a chance to make a proper goodbye to Denver, and I feel like I'll be back there eventually,” he concludes.
Futurebirds performs two shows at Larimer Lounge in Denver this weekend on Friday, February 12, with Susto and Rowboat, and on Saturday, February 13, with Susto and Lola Rising.