The band’s fifth and latest album, “Demolition Day,” is a follow up to the 2013 album “Cane Sugar.” All of the songs are written by Wilkinson and guitarist and vocalist, Mulé.
Wilkinson, vocalist and mandolin/guitar/harmonica player took time out to answer a few questions before the Honey Island Swamp Band performs at the Vinyl on Friday.
“Demolition Day” is the band’s latest album, released in 2016. Can you talk more about the songs?
It’s been a fun album to tour with because we actually play most of the songs in our set. That might sound strange but a lot of times on a record you have songs that don’t really make it into the live show for whatever reason. But with this album, we pretty much play all of them in the show so it’s been cool to see the songs come to life and evolve on stage.
There were a few years between this record and the band’s previous album, “Cane Sugar” (2013). Was “Demolition Day” a three-year process or was it something you worked on during a more condensed period of time?
We were touring pretty nonstop after the “Cane Sugar” album so we were writing songs on the road. But the “Demolition Day” recording was made pretty quickly, in the span of less than a week. Our producer Luther Dickinson is a strong believer in what he calls “the freedom of limitation” – so for this record that meant recording things live, moving through the songs fairly quickly. It was more about trying to capture a good vibe on each song, not about picking through each track with a fine tooth comb and trying to achieve perfection.
Had the band performed any of the songs live before recording the tracks for the album? Or did you leave a couple of surprises for the release?
I’d say we had done about half of them live, and the other half we developed in the studio. That’s been typical of how we’ve done all of our records. It’s nice to have that balance.
The mandolin is one of my favorite instruments. You’re a talented player. Granted there’s more to it, but since the tuning is the same on both instruments, do you ever play the violin/fiddle?
I tried to teach myself the violin and failed spectacularly. The tuning is the same but that’s about where the similarities end. I couldn’t master the bowing technique. Sounded like cats fighting. Not good.
Do you listen to a lot of music? Sometimes artists admit that they don’t, and there’s no wrong answer of course.
I go through phases. Certainly there are many days where I’d much rather listen to sports radio than music. But I do listen to a lot, usually old records. I’ve been pretty into the Allman Brothers’ “Win, Lose or Draw” album recently, and Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks.” It’s great to go back and rediscover songs on those old records that maybe didn’t catch your ear the first time you listened to the album.
Honey Island Swamp Band has performed at the Vinyl many times. What is one of the highlights of playing there?
Definitely the biggest highlight for me, being from Pensacola, is the chance to play for so many old friends and family that I don’t see often enough. Plus it’s just a great room – the sound is awesome and the staff there is really good to us.
What’s ahead for the band?
World domination! Really though, we tend to tour a little less in the winter months, so that’s usually when the gears start turning and we look to writing and recording new material. So we’ll be working on some new stuff and who knows, maybe planting the seeds of the next record.